In early October, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged this crypto exchange with illegally operating an unregistered trading platform.
A) Bittrex B) Binance C) Bitmex D) That other crypto exchange that starts with the letter “B” Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and October Winners and Losers
2019 Top Ten Ranking - 40% dropout rate After losing quite a bit of ground in the rankings in September, the 2019 Top Ten rebounded a bit in October. Only BSV finished down on the month, down two places (from #9 to #11) and dropping out of the Top Ten. The rest either held or climbed: EOS, Tron and Stellar each advanced one position each and Litecoin picked up four places and was able to rejoin the Top Ten. It’s good to have LTC back in the familiar confines of the Top Ten, as last month it found itself on the outside looking in, for the first time since the Experiments started back in January 2018. 40% of the crypotos that were in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2019 have dropped out: Tron, Stellar, BSV, and EOS have been replaced by BNB, DOT, ADA, and LINK. October Winners – Big PoppaBTC had a great month, finishing up +25%. Second place goes to LTC, up +17% in October, followed by BCH, up +14%. October Losers – The losses were moderate this month, but the L for October goes to BSV, which lost -7% and fell out of the Top Ten. EOS was second worst performing, down -5%. For overly competitive nerds, here is a tally of which coins have the most monthly wins and losses during the first 22 months of the 2019 Top Ten Experiment: 2019 Ws/Ls Because it's the default winner in down months, Tether is still far ahead in terms of monthly victories (7). That’s more than twice as much as second place BSV, BTC, and ETH. And although BSV is up 74% since January 2019, it dominates the monthly loss count: it has now finished last in nine out of twenty-two months (paying attention, swing traders?). And XRP is still the only crypto that has yet to notch a monthly win.
Overall update – BTC’s lead increases, XRP back to the basement, 2019 Top Ten pulls ahead of other Experiments.
BTC extended the lead it carved out last month over second place ETH in October. The top two are up +262% and +191% respectively, followed distantly by Litecoin, which is up +79% since January 2019. The initial $100 investment in BTC is currently worth $369. For the first time since April 2019, BSV has dropped out of the Top Ten. Twenty-two months into the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment, 70% of the 2019 Top Ten cryptos are either flat or in the green. After barely escaping the basement last month, XRP has once again sunk to the bottom of the pack, down -33% since January 2019. At +66%, the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio has pulled ahead of the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio’s +61% gain and both are far, far ahead of the 2018 group , which is down -74% (more on that below).
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
Total market cap since Jan 2019 is +215% Since January 2019, the total market cap for crypto is up +215%. The overall market gained about $50B in October, ending the month just over the psychologically important $400B mark. This is now the highest month-end level since the 2019 Top Ten Experiment began 22 months ago.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2019:
The 2019 Group gained $122 in October, so after the initial $1000 investment, the 2019 Top Ten Crypto Portfolio is worth $1,660. 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment ROI For some context, here’s a look at the ROI over the life of the first 22 months of the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund experiment, month by month: 2019 Top Ten ROI summary Unlike the completely red table you’ll see in the 2018 Top Ten Experiment, the 2019 crypto table is almost all green. The first month was the lowest point (-9%), and the highest point (+114%) was May 2019. At +66%, the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio is now the best performing out of the three Experiments but not by much: the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio is up +61%. Speaking of the other Experiments, let’s take a look at how the 2019 Top Ten Index Fund Portfolio compare to the parallel projects:
Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $3,537 ($264+ $1,660 +$1,613). That’s up about +18% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +11% last month. Here’s a table to help visualize the progress of the combined portfolios: 2018, 2019, 2020 Top Tens combined ROI To sum up: +18% gain by dropping $1k once a year on whichever cryptos happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2018, 2019, and 2020. But what if I’d gone all in on only one Top Ten crypto for the past three years? While many have come and gone over the life of the experiment, only five cryptos have started in Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC. Let’s take a look at those five: A tie: BTC catches up to ETH this month for leader of the Three Year Club Up until this month, Ethereum would have been your best bet. As of the end of October, it’s basically a tie between BTC and ETH. Both are up +121%, (although BTC is technically $21 ahead of ETH). On the other hand, if I had followed this world’s slowest dollar cost averaging approach with XRP, I’d be down -32%. With BCH I would have just about broken even. Alright, that’s crypto. How does crypto compare to the stock market?
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiments to have a comparison point with traditional markets. The S&P continued to fall from an all time high in the summer, and is now up +30% since January 2019. S&P since Jan 2019? +30% The initial $1k investment I put into crypto 22 months ago would be worth $1,300 had it been redirected to the S&P 500 in January 2019. +30% is not a bad return at all. But the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio is up more than double (+66)% over the same time period. That’s 2019. But what if I took the same world’s-slowest-dollar-cost-averaging $1,000-per-year-on-January-1st crypto approach with the S&P 500? It would yield the following:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018 = $1220 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019 = $1300 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020 = $1010 today
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,530. That is up +17.6%since January 2018. Compared to a +17.9% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. You can also compare against five individual coins (BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC) by using the table above if you want. It’s small, but that tiny 0.3% difference in favor of crypto. That’s now seven monthly victories for the S&P vs. three monthly victories for crypto, all clustered in the second half of the year. Crypto re-takes the lead in October....barely
Thanks mainly to Bitcoin, October was a good month for crypto and a good month for the 2019 Top Ten Portfolio. As traditional markets have struggled over the last few months, crypto seems to be headed in the opposite direction. I’m looking forward to seeing if those trends hold in the last few months of a crazy year. Take care of each other out there, stay safe. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for the original 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment and the 2020 Top Ten Experiment.
I'll give the first one to find the four hidden cultural references some moons.
What's this all about? I purchased $100 of each of Top Ten Cryptos in Jan. 2018, haven't sold or traded. Did the same in 2019 and 2020. Learn more about the history and rules of the Experimentshere.
October - BTC and Litecoin had a very good month and crypto as a whole did much better than traditional markets.
Overall since Jan. 2018 - Bitcoin still far ahead. And, for the first time since I started this experiment back in Jan. 2018, I'm happy to report: BITCOIN HAS BROKEN EVEN!!!
Combining all three three years, Top Ten cryptos is tied with the S&P if I'd taken a similar approach.
Month Thirty Four – Down 74%
2018 Top Ten Summary for October After an all-red September, it’s nice to see a bit of green this month. Thanks mainly to Bitcoin, the 2018 Top Ten Portfolio finished October with modest gains overall. But, STOP THE PRESS, what is that!??! Green in the “Total % Change” column!?!? Yes indeed: for the first time in 34 monthly updates, I’m happy to announce that BTC ended October worth more than the price I paid for it on the 31st of December, 2017. Although only up +4% overall, it’s been a long road: this small 2018 Top Ten victory is to be celebrated.
Question of the month:
In October, this global payment service announced it will support cryptocurrency buying, selling, and shopping through its platform.
A) Paypal B) Square C) Stripe D) Alipay Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and October Winners and Losers
Rank of 2018 Portfolio - 40% of cryptos are drop outs Not much movement this month, a bit strange for the 2018 Top Ten Portfolio. Only three cryptos shifted positions in October: NEM’s Top Twenty hopes seem to be fading fast (it dropped from #22 to #24); XLM picked up one spot (#18 to #17); and, much to the relief of long time crypto-ers with a soft spot for the silver to BTC’s gold, Litecoin was able to stop its freefall, rebounding back into the Top Ten nicely, picking up four spots (#12 to #8). Welcome back LTC. Drop outs: After thirty-four months of this experiment 40% of the cryptos that started 2018 in the Top Ten have dropped out. NEM, Dash, IOTA, and Stellar have been replaced by Binance Coin, Tether, LINK, and most recently, DOT. October Winners – For the second month in a row, this month’s W goes to Bitcoin, up +25% for the month. Litecoin finishes the month in second place, up 17% and climbing back into the Top Ten. October Losers – For the second month in a row, this month’s L goes to NEM, down -16%. IOTA finished down -11%, the second worst performer of the month. For the overly competitive nerds, below is a tally of the winners of the first 34 months of the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment. Bitcoin still has the most monthly wins (9) and Cardano in second place with 6 monthly wins. With another poor performance in October, NEM now has 8 monthly losses. Every crypto has at least one monthly win and Bitcoin is unique as the only cryptocurrency that hasn’t lost a month yet since January 2018. Ws and Ls - One coin to rule them all
Overall update – BTC far ahead and breaks even, ETH in distant second place. Dash in last place.
So here we are: point break even. On the 31st of December, 2017, I bought $100 worth of BTC (0.008) at $13,170. Nearly three years later that same 0.008 is worth $13,665. Although only 4%, it’s a symbolic victory and one that’s been a long time coming. The initial investment of $100 thirty-three months ago is now worth about $83. A distant second place, Ethereum is down -45% since January 2018. At this point in the 2018 Top Ten Experiment, Dash is at the bottom. It has lost -93%. The initial $100 invested in Dash 34 months ago is now worth $6.52. The 2018 Portfolio welcomed LTC back Top Ten in October. September 2020 was the first time since I started the experiment back in January 2018 that Litecoin had fallen out of the Top Ten.
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
BitDom - growing After a few months of dipping, BitDom shot back up to 63.1% in October. A big move, but for context, it was up over 68% earlier in 2020. For even more context: since the beginning of the experiment, the range of Bitcoin dominance has been quite wide: we saw a high of 70% BitDom in September 2019 and a low of 33% BitDom in February 2018.
Overall return on $1,000 investment since January 1st, 2018:
2018 Top Ten ROI The 2018 Top Ten Portfolio gained about $25 bucks in October. Despite BTC breaking even, the portfolio overall is still struggling: if I cashed out today, the $1000 initial investment would return about $264, down -74% from January 2018. Down -74% sounds bad (and it is), but the overall direction lately has been encouraging and a nice break from the negative eighties. Here’s a look at the ROI over the life of the experiment, month by month, for some context: 2018 Top Ten Monthly ROI - Red, red, red The absolute bottom was -88% back in January 2019. So the Top Ten Cryptos of 2018 are down -76%. What about the 2019 and 2020 Top Tens? Let’s take a look:
So overall? Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $3,537 ($264+ $1,660 +$1,613). That’s up about +18% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +11% last month. Here’s a table to help visualize: Combined 2018, 2019, 2020 ROI That’s a +18% (actually +17.9%) gain by investing $1k on whichever cryptos happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st for three straight years. But surely you’d do better if you went all in on one crypto, right? Depends on your choice. Let’s take a look: Three year club: BTC and ETH tied Only five cryptos have started in the Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC. Knowing what we know now, which one would have been best to go all in on? As of this month, it’s basically a tie between BTC and ETH. Both are up +121%, (although BTC is technically $21 ahead of ETH). So: with $3,000 USD, dropped in $1k chunks on January 1st three times in a row since New Year’s Day 2018, you would be up +121%, by going all in on either BTC or ETH. The worst choice? At this point in the experiment, that would be XRP, down -32%.
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. The S&P 500 Index continued its fall from an all time high in August. It ended October up +22% since January 2018. Monthly S&P since January 2018 The initial $1k investment into crypto on January 1st, 2018 would have been worth about $1220 had it been redirected to the S&P. But what if I took the same invest-$1,000-on-January-1st-of-each-year approach with the S&P 500 that I’ve been documenting through the Top Ten Crypto Experiments? Here are the numbers:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018 = $1220 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019 = $1300 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020 = $1010 today
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,530. That is up +17.6%since January 2018. Compared to a +17.9% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. You can compare against five individual coins (BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC) by using the table above if you want. Gentlemen and lady (hello lady, I see you back there) we have a tie. Well, not quite a tie, crypto is up .3% so crypto gets the win: Three year S&P vs. Top Ten Crypto Experiments Combined ROI That’s seven monthly victories for the S&P vs. three monthly victories for crypto. The largest gap so far was a 22% difference in favor of the S&P in June.
October saw a bit of divergence between crypto and the S&P: crypto up, S&P down. That separation is nice to see when it often seems that crypto moves in tandem with traditional markets. Two more months left in the year. What more will 2020 throw at us? And how will crypto and traditional markets respond? Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for my parallel projects where I repeat the experiment twice, purchasing another $1000 ($100 each) of two new sets of Top Ten cryptos as of January 1st, 2019 then again on January 1st, 2020.
And the Answer is…
A) Paypal Paypal announced in October that it will allow customers to buy, sell, and hold Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Customers will also be able to pay with crypto at 26 million merchants on its network starting in early 2021.
In September, this decentralized exchange (DEX) overtook Coinbase in trading volume:
A) UniswapB) AaveC) CompoundD) Both A and B Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and September Winners and Losers
2020 Top 10 Rank Lots of movement this month: six out of the Top Ten changed positions in September. BCH climbed one from #6 to #5 and BNB made a big move from #10 to #6. Going the opposite direction were BSV, EOS, and Tezos, dropping one, two, and four places respectively. The big story though, at least for anyone who’s been watching crypto for a while, was the ejection of Litecoin from the Top Ten. In just 30 days, LTC fell five places from #7 to #12. For some context, Litecoin’s absence from the Top Ten is a Top Ten Experiment first. It is also the first time since CoinMarketCap has tracked crypto rankings that Litecoin has not has not held a spot in the Top Ten. Drop outs: after nine months of the experiment, 30% of the cryptos that started 2020 in the Top Ten have dropped out. LTC, EOS, and Tezos have been replaced by ADA,LINK, and most recently, DOT. September Winners – Winner, singular: BNB was the only crypto to finish in the green, finished up +25% for the month, and gained four places in the rankings. A very good month for Binance Coin. September Losers – Tezos was the worst performing crypto of the 2020 Top Ten portfolio, losing nearly a third of its value, down -31% for the month. LTC also had a bad month, losing -24% and dropping out of the Top Ten. Since COVID-19 has hammered the sporting world, let’s be overly competitive and pit these cryptos against each other, shall we? Here’s a table showing which cryptos have the most monthly wins and losses nine months into the 2020 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment: Wins/Losses ETH is in the lead three monthly Ws, followed by Tether and Tezos with two wins each. Even though it is up +79% since January 1st, 2020, BSV has the most monthly losses: it has been the worst performing crypto of the group four out of the first nine months in 2020.
Overall update – ETH maintains strong lead, followed by BNB. 100% of Top Ten are in positive territory.
Ethereum remains firmly in the lead, up +187% on the year. Thanks to a strong month for BNB and a weak month for Tezos,Binance Coin has overtaken XTZ for second place, and is now up +109% in 2020. Discounting Tether (no offense Big-T), EOS (+4%) is the worst performing cryptocurrency of the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio. 100% of the cryptos in this group are in positive territory.
Total Market Cap for the cryptocurrency sector:
The overall crypto market lost about $35B in September, ending the month up +85% since the beginning of this year’s experiment in January 2020. Despite a rough month, this is the second highest month-end level since the 2020 Top Ten Experiment started nine months ago.
Monthly BitDom - 2020 BitDom ticked up slightly this month, but is still lower than it has been for most of the year. As always, a low BitDom reflects a greater appetite for altcoins. For context, the BitDom range since the beginning of the experiment in January 2020 has been roughly between 57% and 68%.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2020:
After an initial $1000 investment on January 1st, the 2020 Top Ten Portfolio is now worth $1,536, up +56%. This is the best performing of the three Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Portfolios, but not by much: the 2019 Top Ten came in at +54% in September. Here’s the month by month ROI of the 2020 Top Ten Experiment, hopefully helpful to maintain perspective and provide an overview as we go along: Monthly ROI - 2020 Top Ten Even during the zombie apocalypse blip in March, the 2020 Top Ten has managed to end every month so far in the green (for a mirror image, check out the all red table you’ll find in the 2018 experiment). The range of monthly ROI for the 2020 Top Ten has been between a low of +7% in March and high of +83% in August. So, how does the 2020 Top Ten Experiment compare to the parallel projects?
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for the three portfolios: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, the combined portfolios are worth $3,340 ($238+ $1,538 +$1,564). That’s up about +11% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +31% last month. Here’s a table to help visualize the progress of the combined portfolios: Combined ROI - UP +11% That’s a +11% gain by buying $1k of the cryptos that happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st, 2018, 2019, and 2020. But what if I’d gone all in on only one Top Ten crypto for the past three years? While many have come and gone over the life of the experiment, five cryptos have started in Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC (Big L, no pressure, but if you don’t claw yourself back in the Top Ten by January 2021, you’re out of the club). Let’s take a look: Three Year Club At this point in the Experiments, Ethereum (+104%) would have easily returned the most, followed by BTC (+77%). On the other hand, following this approach with XRP, I would have been down nearly a third at -31%. So that’s the Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiments snapshot. Let’s take a look at how traditional markets are doing.
Comparison to S&P 500
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of my experiment to have a comparison point to traditional markets. The S&P slipped a bit from an all time high in August and is now up just +5% in 2020. Over the same time period, the 2020 Top Ten Crypto Portfolio is returning about +56%. The initial $1k investment in crypto is now worth about $1,563. That same $1k I put into crypto in January 2020 would be worth $1050 had it been redirected to the S&P 500 instead. That’s a $513 difference on a $1k investment, one of the largest gaps in favor of crypto all year. But that’s just 2020. What about in the longer term? What if I invested in the S&P 500 the same way I did during the first three years of the Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiments? What I like to call the world’s slowest dollar cost averaging method? Here are the figures:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018 = $1260 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019 = $1350 today
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020 = $1050 today
So, taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,660. That $3,660 is up +22%since January 2018, compared to a +11% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios over the same period of time. That’s an 11% swing in favor of the S&P 500 and breaks a two month mini-streak of wins from the Top Ten crypto portfolios. For those keeping track or unable to see the table above: that’s seven monthly victories for the S&P vs. two monthly victories for crypto. The largest gap so far was a 22% difference in favor of the S&P back in June.
September saw losses for both traditional and crypto markets, but crypto got hit harder. What can we expect for the rest of 2020? The Neverending Year is entering the final quarter and is not finished with us yet: a lot can and will happen in the remaining months. More volatility is no doubt to come as we enter the final stretch of a truly unpredictable and exhausting year. Buckle up. Stay healthy and take care of yourselves out there. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for the original 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment and the 2019 Top Ten Experiment follow up experiment.
purchased $100 of each of Top Ten Cryptos in Jan. 2018, haven't sold or traded, repeated in 2019 and 2020, update y'all monthly. Learn more about the history and rules of the Experimentshere.
August - solid month for the 2018 Top Ten, led by, ladies and gentlemen (or lady singular, there in the back row, I see you) NEM!!!!! Up over +200% in August.
Overall - BTC still way ahead and approaching break-even point, ETH gaining ground, alone in the middle. NEM(!!!) finally escapes last place replaced by DASH.
Over three years, cryptos outperforming S&P if I'd taken a similar approach.
Month Thirty Two – Down 71%
2018 Top Ten Summary August was not quite as strong as all-green July, but still a solid month for the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment. The gains were led by (I hope you’re sitting down for this one) (drum roll please) (you’re not going to believe this): NEM(!) which finished the month up over +200%. Really!
Question of the month:
The US Justice Department announced in August that it had seized cryptocurrency from terror groups in the Middle East. How much did they confiscate?
A) $2 million B) $4 million C) $8 million D) $32 million Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and August Winners and Losers
Rank since January 2018 Lots of movement this month: all but three cryptos moved positions in August and all but one (NEM!) in the wrong direction. Despite gaining in value, Dash had the biggest slide, down four in the rankings from #24 to #28. ADA fell three and has dropped back out of the Top Ten. XRP, Bitcoin Cash, IOTA, and Stellar each lost one place in the rankings. The lone exception is a big one: XEM(!) climbed an unprecedented 9 spots in August. The last time NEM was in the Top Twenty was May 2019. After thirty-two months, 50% of the cryptos that started 2018 in the Top Ten have dropped out. NEM, ADA, Dash, IOTA, and Stellar have been replaced by Binance Coin, Tether,BSV, CRO, and most recently, LINK. August Winners – Don’t call it a comeback, NEM‘s been here for years. Up over +200% in August, NEM crushed the rest of the field. A distant second place was ETH, up +32% on the month. August Losers – Down -13%, ADA was the worst performing crypto of the month, followed by Bitcoin Cash, down -9%. For the overly competitive, below is a tally of the winners of the first 32 months of the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment. Bitcoin still has the most monthly wins (7). Cardano is a close second with 6 monthly wins. Despite its blockbuster August, NEM has the most monthly losses with 6. Every crypto has at least one monthly win and Bitcoin is unique as the only cryptocurrency that hasn’t lost a month in the 2.5+ years of the Experiment. Ws and Ls
Overall update – BTC in the lead and inching towards break-even point, followed by second place ETH. NEM escapes last place, replaced by Dash.
Although BTC didn’t make any major moves this month, it continued to slowly but surely approach its break-even point. It is down about -10% since my purchase in January 2018. The initial investment of $100 thirty-two months ago is now worth about $90. Ethereum is all alone in second place. It had a strong August, it picked up a lot of ground, but is still down -35% since January 2018. The big story this month is at the bottom: NEM(!) gained +200% in August, crushing its counterparts and leaping out of last place, where it was so comfortable for so, so long. Although still down -83% over the life of the experiment, it moved from 10th place to 6th place in just one month. The new king of the basement is Dash, down -91%. The initial $100 invested in Dash 32 months ago is now worth $8.50.
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
The crypto market added nearly $43B in August. The last time we saw a similar level in terms of overall crypto market cap was way back in the fifth month of the 2018 Top Ten Experiment: May 2018.
After being stuck in the mid-60s for most of 2020, BitDom dropped significantly this month, down to 57%. For context, the last time BitDom was this low was back in June 2019. For some more context: since the beginning of the experiment, the range of Bitcoin dominance has been quite wide: we saw a high of 70% BitDom in September 2019 and a low of 33% BitDom in February 2018.
Overall return on $1,000 investment since January 1st, 2018:
The 2018 Top Ten Portfolio gained about $17 this month. If I cashed out today, the $1000 initial investment would return about $287, down -71% from January 2018. While -71% isn’t something to brag about, the monthly trend is encouraging. Here, take a look at the ROI over the life of the experiment, month by month, for some context: 2018 Top Ten Monthly ROI Summary So, -71% from a bottom of -88% is moving in the right direction. Or that’s what I tell myself as I cry myself to sleep nightly. Hopefully the next stop will be in the -60% range, a level this experiment hasn’t seen in years. So the Top Ten Cryptos of 2018 are down -71%. What about the 2019 and 2020 Top Tens? Let’s take a look:
So overall? Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $3,937 ($287+ $1,825 +$1,825). That’s up about +31% for the three combined portfolios, compared to +23% last month. This marks the highest ROI of the three combined portfolios since I added the metric this year. Here’s a table to help visualize: Combined ROI on $3k over three years A +31% gain by investing $1k on whichever cryptos happened to be in the Top Ten on January 1st for three straight years, not bad. But surely you’d do better if you invested only in one crypto, right? Depends on your choice. Let’s take a look: Three year club: shoulda gone with ETH Only five cryptos have remained in the Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC. Knowing what we know now, which one would have been best to go all in on, at least at this point in the Experiment? Ethereum, easily: the initial $3k would be up +160%, worth over $7800 today. The worst performing at this point is XRP, down -17%.
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. Defying global gloom, the S&P 500 reached an all time high in August and is up +31% since the beginning of the Experiment. The initial $1k investment into crypto on January 1st, 2018 would have been worth about $1310 had it been redirected to the S&P. But what if I took the same invest-$1,000-on-January-1st-of-each-year approach with the S&P 500 that I’ve been documenting through the Top Ten Crypto Experiments? Here are the numbers:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018: +$310
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019: +$400
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020: +$90
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,800. That is up over+27%since January 2018, compared to a +31% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. That’s a 4% swing in favor of theTop Ten Crypto Portfolios! As you’ll see in the table below, this is only the second time since I started recording this metric that crypto has outperformed the S&P had I taken a similar investment approach: 3 x $1k crypto vs. S&P This is a big turnaround from the 22% difference in favor of the S&P just two months ago. Although it’s fun to see crypto is in the lead, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the heart condition you may develop by being in the cryptosphere is worth that +4% edge…
August was a bit mixed compared to July, but still a very solid month for the 2018 Top Ten. Some interesting developments this month: Bitcoin is now within 10% of the price I paid on January 1st, 2018. ETH had solid gains and NEM(!) had a crazy month, tripling in value and finally climbing out of the basement. At the same time, traditional markets are doing well too: the S&P reached an all time high in August. It will be interesting to see how both markets perform during the final third of a very crazy year. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for my parallel projects where I repeat the experiment twice, purchasing another $1000 ($100 each) of two new sets of Top Ten cryptos as of January 1st, 2019 then again on January 1st, 2020.
I bought $1k of the Top Ten Cryptos on January 1st, 2018. Result? -74%
EXPERIMENT - Tracking Top 10 Cryptos of 2018 - Month 31 -74% See the full blog post with all the tableshere. tl;dr: purchased $100 of Top Ten Cryptos in Jan. 2018, haven't sold or traded, repeated in 2019 and 2020, update y'all monthly. July was very strong for crypto. For 2018 Top Ten: ADA finished the month on top. ETH and XRP also very strong. Overall, BTC still waaaay in the lead and is approaching break even point. Three cryptos (IOTA,NEM, DASH) have lost over 90% of value. Over three years, cryptos outperforming S&P if I'd taken a similar approach.
A) Bitcoin B) Ethereum C) Bitcoin Cash D) XRP Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and July Winners and Losers
Not a ton of movement for the 2018 Top Ten group this month. Cardano and XRP both climbed one position while NEM gained two, clawing itself back into the Top Thirty. Dash headed in the other direction, dropping two places in the rankings. Considering all that has changed in the world of crypto since the beginning of 2018, it’s interesting to note that only four out of the ten cryptos that started 2018 in the Top Ten have dropped out. NEM, Dash, IOTA, and Stellar have been replaced by Binance Coin, Tether,BSV, and newcomer CRO. July Winners – It was a very strong month: all cryptos made significant gains in July. But for the third month in a row ADA outperformed the field, gaining +57% in July. ETH finished a close second, up +55% followed by XRP which gained +52%. July Losers – Even during a good month, NEM can’t catch a break. Its +23% gain made it the worst performer of the 2018 Top Ten. How has your favorite crypto fared over the first 31 months of the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment? Bitcoin still has the most monthly wins (7) but look at this: thanks to its strong 2020 including three straight monthly wins, Cardano is now right behind BTC with 6 monthly wins. Which project has the most monthly losses? NEM stands alone with 6. Every crypto has at least one monthly win and Bitcoin is unique as the only cryptocurrency that hasn’t lost a month. It came close this month, gaining “only” +26%.
Overall update – BTC approaching break even point, second place ETH in the lonely middle, NEM still worst performing.
Although it wasn’t able to keep pace with its peers in July, BTC continues to slowly but surely approach its break even point. It is down about $1,500 (-12%) since my purchase in January 2018. My initial investment of $100 thirty-one months ago is now worth about $88. Even though Ethereum has lost half of its value since the experiment began, it is all alone in second place: no other crypto is close. NEM seems comfortable in its usual place, down at the bottom. It has lost -94% over the life of the experiment. That initial $100 investment in NEM is now worth $5.78. Dash and IOTA join NEM as the only three cryptos in the Top Ten that have lost at least -90% of their value since January 2018.
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
Total market cap since Jan 2018 The crypto market added about $82B in July, making up a ton of ground. The last time we saw a similar level in terms of overall crypto market cap was way back in the fifth month of the 2018 Top Ten Experiment: May 2018.
Le Bitdom since January 2018 Since Bitcoin receives much of the attention in the press, it may surprise the casual observer to learn that Bitcoin Dominance dropped quite a bit in July, especially considering BitDom had been stuck at roughly the same level for most of 2020. This signals an interest in altcoins and a willingness to buy into riskier cryptos. Some context: since the beginning of the experiment, the range of Bitcoin dominance has been quite wide: we saw a high of 70% BitDom in September 2019 and a low of 33% BitDom in February 2018.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2018:
The 2018 Top Ten Portfolio gained over $70 in July 2020. If I cashed out today, my $1000 initial investment would return about $260, down -74% from January 2018. This sounds horrible but don’t hang yourself with a celibate rope: the 2018 return on investment is back where it was about a year ago. Take a look at the ROI over the life of the experiment, month by month, for some context: Yes, you may notice that the 2018 Top Ten portfolio has finished over half of the first thirty one months down at least -80%, but it’s nice to see the low -70s for a change. So the Top Ten Cryptos of 2018 are down -74%. What about the 2019 and 2020 Top Tens? Let’s take a look:
So overall? Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $3,6965 ($260+ $1,722 +$1,713). That’s up about +23% for the three combined portfolios, compared to -10% last month. It also marks the highest ROI of the three combined portfolios since I added this metric this year. The previous high was +13% back in January 2020. Having trouble visualizing? Don’t worry, I got what you need: Combined ROI So, a +23% gain by dropping $1k on whichever cryptos were in the Top Ten on January 1st for three straight years, fine. But what if I’d done the same with just one crypto? Bitcoin always wins, right? Thanks to Reddit user u/sebikun for the idea for a new metric and let’s take a look: 3-year club ROI As you can see, only five cryptos have remained in the Top Ten for all three years: BTC, ETH, XRP, BCH, and LTC. Best one to have gone all in on at this point in the Experiment? Ethereum, which would have nearly doubled. Worst choice? If I went with XRP, I would have been down -23%.
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. The US economy continued to recover in July: the S&P 500 is back up to pre-COVID levels. The initial $1k investment into crypto on January 1st, 2018 would have been worth about $220 had it been redirected to the S&P. But what if I took the same invest-$1,000-on-January-1st-of-each-year approach with the S&P 500 that I’ve been documenting through the Top Ten Crypto Experiments? Here are the numbers:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018: +$220
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019: +$310
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020: +$10
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,540. That is up over+18%since January 2018, compared to a +23% gain of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. That’s a 5% swing in favor of theTop Ten Crypto Portfolios! As you’ll see in the table below, this is the first time since I started recording this metric that crypto has outperformed the S&P had I taken a similar investment approach. This is a big turnaround from the 22% difference in favor of the S&P just last month. 3 x $1k crypto vs. S&P
The 2018 Top Ten Cryptos have consistently under-performed when compared to the overall crypto market. This month, for example, the total market cap is down -29% from January 2018 compared to the -74% loss for the cryptos that began 2018 in the Top Ten. At no point in the first 31 months of the Experiment has this investment strategy been successful: the 2018 Top Ten as a group have under-performed the overall market every single month. This of course suggests that I would have done a bit better if I’d picked every crypto, or different cryptos: throwing that $1k on January 1st, 2018 to Bitcoin, for example, would have lost me -12% instead of -74%. On the other hand, this bit of diversification has served me well compared to going all in on NEM, Dash, or IOTA, all of which are down at least -90%. The follow-on Top Ten experiments in 2019 and 2020 have seen similar, but not identical, results. There have been a few examples of the Top Ten approach outperforming the overall market in the first 19 months of the parallel 2019 Top Ten Crypto Experiment. And up until the last few months of the most recent 2020 Top Ten Index Fund group of cryptocurrencies, this approach had outperformed the overall market 100% of the time.
Crypto had an undoubtedly strong month in July, green across the board. Was this just a happy blip, are we in for some consolidation, or are we on the way up? Stay tuned. Final words: take care of each other, wear your mask, wash your hands. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for my parallel projects where I repeat the experiment twice, purchasing another $1000 ($100 each) of two new sets of Top Ten cryptos as of January 1st, 2019 then again on January 1st, 2020.
Brief Comments on Goguen: Q4 2020, Q1 2021, utility, Marlowe, DSL, Glow, Plutus, IELE, smart contracts, thanksgiving to you, sidechains and Hydra, Goguen rollout and additions to product update
Stakenet (XSN) - A DEX with interchain capabilities (BTC-ETH), Huge Potential [Full Writeup]
Preface Full disclosure here; I am heavily invested in this. I have picked up some real gems from here and was only in the position to buy so much of this because of you guys so I thought it was time to give back. I only invest in Utility Coins. These are coins that actually DO something, and provide new/build upon the crypto infrastructure to work towards the end goal that Bitcoin itself set out to achieve(financial independence from the fiat banking system). This way, I avoid 99% of the scams in crypto that are functionless vapourware, and if you only invest in things that have strong fundamentals in the long term you are much more likely to make money. Introduction
Stakenet is a Lightning Network-ready open-source platform for decentralized applications with its native cryptocurrency – XSN. It is powered by a Proof of Stake blockchain with trustless cold staking and Masternodes. Its use case is to provide a highly secure cross-chain infrastructure for these decentralized applications, where individuals can easily operate with any blockchain simply by using Stakenet and its native currency XSN.
Ok... but what does it actually do and solve? The moonshot here is the DEX (Decentralised Exchange) that they are building. This is a lightning-network DEX with interchain capabilities. That means you could trade BTC directly for ETH; securely, instantly, cheaply and privately. Right now, most crypto is traded to and from Centralised Exchanges like Binance. To buy and sell on these exchanges, you have to send your crypto wallets on that exchange. That means the exchanges have your private keys, and they have control over your funds. When you use a centralised exchange, you are no longer in control of your assets, and depend on the trustworthiness of middlemen. We have in the past of course seen infamous exit scams by centralised exchanges like Mt. Gox. The alternative? Decentralised Exchanges. DEX's have no central authority and most importantly, your private keys(your crypto) never leavesYOUR possession and are never in anyone else's possession. So you can trade peer-to-peer without any of the drawbacks of Centralised Exchanges. The problem is that this technology has not been perfected yet, and the DEX's that we have available to us now are not providing cheap, private, quick trading on a decentralised medium because of their technological inadequacies. Take Uniswap for example. This DEX accounts for over 60% of all DEX volume and facilitates trading of ERC-20 tokens, over the Ethereum blockchain. The problem? Because of the huge amount of transaction that are occurring over the Ethereum network, this has lead to congestion(too many transaction for the network to handle at one time) so the fees have increased dramatically. Another big problem? It's only for Ethereum. You cant for example, Buy LINK with BTC. You must use ETH. The solution? Layer 2 protocols. These are layers built ON TOP of existing blockchains, that are designed to solve the transaction and scaling difficulties that crypto as a whole is facing today(and ultimately stopping mass adoption) The developers at Stakenet have seen the big picture, and have decided to implement the lightning network(a layer 2 protocol) into its DEX from the ground up. This will facilitate the functionalities of a DEX without any of the drawbacks of the CEX's and the DEX's we have today. Heres someone much more qualified than me, Andreas Antonopoulos, to explain this https://streamable.com/kzpimj 'Once we have efficient, well designed DEX's on layer 2, there wont even be any DEX's on layer 1' Progress The Stakenet team were the first to envision this grand solution and have been working on it since its conception in June 2019. They have been making steady progress ever since and right now, the DEX is in an open beta stage where rigorous testing is constant by themselves and the public. For a project of this scale, stress testing is paramount. If the product were to launch with any bugs/errors that would result in the loss of a users funds, this would obviously be very damaging to Stakenet's reputation. So I believe that the developers conservative approach is wise. As of now the only pairs tradeable on the DEX are XSN/BTC and LTC/BTC. The DEX has only just launched as a public beta and is not in its full public release stage yet. As development moves forward more lightning network and atomic swap compatible coins will be added to the DEX, and of course, the team are hard at work on Raiden Integration - this will allow ETH and tokens on the Ethereum blockchain to be traded on the DEX between separate blockchains(instantly, cheaply, privately) This is where Stakenet enters top 50 territory on CMC if successful and is the true value here. Raiden Integration is well underway is being tested in a closed public group on Linux. The full public DEX with Raiden Integration is expected to release by the end of the year. Given the state of development so far and the rate of progress, this seems realistic. Tokenomics 2.6 Metrics overview (from whitepaper)
Ticker: XSN. Currency type: Coin.
Consensus: Minting Proof of Stake, Trustless Proof of Stake.
XSN is slightly inflationary, much like ETH as this is necessary for the economy to be adopted and work in the long term. There is however a deflationary mechanism in place - all trading fees on the DEX get converted to XSN and 10% of these fees are burned. This puts constant buying pressure on XSN and acts as a deflationary mechanism. XSN has inherent value because it makes up the infrastructure that the DEX will run off and as such Masternode operators and Stakers will see the fee's from the DEX. Conclusion We can clearly see that a layer 2 DEX is the future of crypto currency trading. It will facilitate secure, cheap, instant and private trading across all coins with lightning capabilities, thus solving the scaling and transaction issues that are holding back crypto today. I dont need to tell you the implications of this, and what it means for crypto as a whole. If Stakenet can launch a layer 2 DEX with Raiden Integration, It will become the primary DEX in terms of volume. Stakenet DEX will most likely be the first layer 2 DEX(first mover advantage) and its blockchain is the infrastructure that will host this DEX and subsequently receive it's trading fee's. It is not difficult to envision a time in the next year when Stakenet DEX is functional and hosting hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trading every single day. At $30 million market cap, I cant see any other potential investment right now with this much potential upside. This post has merely served as in introduction and a heads up for this project, there is MUCH more to cover like vortex liquidity, masternodes, TOR integration... for now, here is some additional reading. Resources
While not quite as strong as April, May was undeniably a strong month overall, especially with the last minute push that saw Bitcoin climb over the $10k mark. Although BTC (and the market overall) has fallen in the last few days while I’ve been compiling these updates, we saw almost every 2018 Top Ten crypto end the month of May higher than where it started.
A) One B) Three C) Five D) None of the above Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and May Winners and Losers
Half of our 2018 Top Ten group were on the move in May. Cardano made the most upward progress, climbing two positions to #11. IOTA picked up rose one spot in the standings to #24 as well. On the other side, NEM keeps slipping, losing three spots to #30. Dash and Stellar also dropped two positions each in May. The overall drop out rate remains at the 50% mark (meaning half of the cryptos that started 2018 in the Top Ten have dropped out). NEM, Dash, IOTA, Cardano, and Stellar have been replaced by EOS, Binance Coin, Tezos, Tether, and BSV. May Winners – Massive month for ADA, up an impressive +62%. That’s about what Cardano gained last month, so, yeah, Cardano is having a great spring. IOTA also had a solid month, up +28%. May Losers – XRP lost about -4% making it the worst performing of this group in May. How has your favorite crypto fared over the first 29 months of the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment? Most monthly wins (7): Bitcoin. Most monthly losses (5) is a now tie between Stellar and NEM. All cryptos have at least one monthly win and Bitcoin stands alone as the only crypto that hasn’t lost a month (although it came close in January 2020 when it gained “only” +31%).
Overall update – BTC still way ahead, ETH firmly in second place, NEM worst performing.
Bitcoin made up more ground in May, now down -23% since January 2018. The last time we saw this price level to end a month was August 2019. The initial $100 investment is now worth about $77. BTC is still well ahead of the field and Ethereum is firmly in second place. This may feel like a foregone conclusion at this point, but for context, long time 2018 Top Ten Experiment followers will note that this has not always been the case. Just a little over a year ago for example, BTC was second place behind Stellar. NEM (down -95%) is in last place. That initial $100 investment in NEM? Now worth $4.74.
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
The overall crypto market added about $35B in May 2020, back near August 2019 levels. This is down about half from January 2018 when the market was worth roughly $575B.
Another flat month for Bitcoin dominance, which hasn’t moved at all in the last three months. For context, the range since the beginning of the experiment in January 2018 has been wide: a high of 70% BitDom in September 2019 and a low of 33% BitDom in February 2018.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2018:
The 2018 Top Ten Portfolio gained about $20 bucks in May 2020, back near where it was at the end of February. If I cashed out today, my $1000 initial investment would return about $205, down -79% from January 2018. Here’s the ROI over the life of the experiment, month by month: The streak of nine consecutive months down at least -80% was finally broken in May. Just barely (at -79%), but hey, I’ll take it. July 2019 was the last time the 2018 Top Ten finished a month in the negative seventies. What about the negative sixties? That level hasn’t been seen in about two years. Painful stuff. What about the follow on Experiments? Let’s see:
So overall? Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my portfolios are worth $3,104. That’s up about +3.5% for the combined portfolios. Better than a few months ago (aka the zombie apocalypse) where it was down -24%, but not yet back at January (+13%) or February (+6%) levels.
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. The stock market (as measured by the S&P) continued to recover in May. It’s pretty amazing with all that’s going on in the world, but the market is already back up where it was in February 2020. The initial $1k investment into crypto on New Year’s Day 2018 would have gained about $140 had it been redirected to the S&P. This is where it gets interesting. Taking the same drop-$1,000-per-year-on-January-1st approach with the S&P 500 that I’ve been documenting through the Top Ten Crypto Experiments would yield the following:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018: +$140
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019: +$220
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020: -$50
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,310. That is up over+10%since January 2018, compared to the $3,104 value (+3.5%) of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. That’s about a 7% difference in favor of the stock market. Last month, there was only a 3% difference. The month before, the gap was 13%.
No news here: the 2018 Experiment’s focus of solely holding the Top Ten Cryptos has not and has never been a winning approach when compared to the overall market. The total market cap is down -51% from January 2018 compared to the -79% for the cryptos that began 2018 in the Top Ten. This of course implies that I would have done a bit better if I’d picked different cryptos – but much better than if I’d put all my eggs in NEM‘s -95% basket, for example. To reiterate, at no point in this experiment has this investment strategy been successful: the initial 2018 Top Ten have under-performed each of the twenty-nine months compared to the market overall. In the following two Top Ten experiments, it’s a slightly different story. There are a few examples of this approach outperforming the overall market in the parallel 2019 Top Ten Crypto Experiment. For the most recent 2020 group, this approach had outperformed the overall market 100% of the time…until this month.
The Bitcoin halving turned out to be a non event and markets continue to steadily rise despite riots in the US and a global pandemic. We’re almost half way through a very strange year. As the world changes, what will crypto’s place be in the new normal? Final word: Please take care of yourselves, your families, and your communities. Be excellent to each other. Thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for my parallel projects where I repeat the experiment twice, purchasing another $1000 ($100 each) of two new sets of Top Ten cryptos as of January 1st, 2019 then again on January 1st, 2020.
And the Answer is…
B) Three Bitcoin’s third halving event took place May 2020.
I bought $1k of the Top Ten Cryptos on January 1st, 2018. Result? Down -81%
EXPERIMENT - Tracking Top 10 Cryptos of 2018 - Month 30 - Down -81% See the full blog post with all the tableshere. Way too long/don't like words: Halfway through 2020 report: Cardano wins for second straight month, BTC still way ahead overall, ETH alone in second place. NEM (poor, poor, NEM) still in basement, down -95% since Jan 2018. Markets still going up despite world on fire. 3 x $1k investments in crypto in 2018, 2019, 2020 are down -10% total. Made a few new tables for your viewing enjoyment.
Month Thirty – Down 81%
After two consecutive strong months, the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Portfolio lost some ground in June. In a sea of red, there was one bright spot: Cardano finished the month up +9%. Only ADA in the green
Question of the month:
The 2018 Crypto Index Fund Experiment began January 1st, 2018. Which of the Top Ten cryptos performed best at the end of year one?
A) Bitcoin B) Ethereum C) Bitcoin Cash D) Stellar Scroll down for the answer.
Ranking and June Winners and Losers
There was a lot of movement with the 2018 Top Ten group this month. For the second month in a row, Cardano made the most upward progress, climbing two positions to reclaim its spot in the Top Ten at #9. By basically finishing the month flat, IOTA picked up one spot in the standings as well. Heading the other direction, XRP,NEM, Dash, and Stellar each fell one place in the rankings. Thanks to Cardano’s strong month, the overall drop out rate shrank to 40%. In other words, four out of the six cryptos that started 2018 in the Top Ten have dropped out. NEM, Dash, IOTA, and Stellar have been replaced by Binance Coin, Tether,BSV, and newcomer Crypto.com Coin (oh, helloCRO, where did you come from?). June Winners – Winner, singular: ADA, for the second month in a row, up +9% while the rest of the field sank or held ground. After a great spring, Cardano’s summer is off to a strong start. June Losers – For the second month in a row, XRP was the worst performer, down -15.9%. Close behind was Dash, down -15.6% in June. How has your favorite crypto fared over the first 30 months of the 2018 Top Ten Crypto Index Fund Experiment? Most monthly wins (7): Bitcoin followed by Cardano with 5 monthly wins. The most monthly losses? A tie between Stellar and NEM, both with 5. All cryptos have at least one monthly win and Bitcoin stands alone as the only crypto that hasn’t lost a month (although it came close in January 2020 when it gained “only” +31%).
Overall update – BTC returning twice as much second place ETH, NEM in basement.
Although down -30% since January 2018, BTC is still well ahead of the rest of the pack. My initial investment of $100 is now worth about $70. Ethereum is all alone in second place, down -68%, the initial $100 investment worth about $30. NEM (down -95%) is still in last place. That initial $100 investment in NEM? Now worth $4.71.
Total Market Cap for the entire cryptocurrency sector:
The crypto market as a whole lost about $21B in June. This is down over half from January 2018 when the market was worth roughly $575B.
After three months of zero movement, Bitcoin dominance finally declined, but not by much. It’s been stuck in the mid-60s to low-70s range for the past year. Since the beginning of the experiment, the range of Bitcoin dominance has been quite wide: we saw a high of 70% BitDom in September 2019 and a low of 33% BitDom in February 2018.
Overall return on investment since January 1st, 2018:
The 2018 Top Ten Portfolio lost about $20 bucks in June 2020. If I cashed out today, my $1000 initial investment would return about $187, down -81% from January 2018. Here’s the ROI over the life of the experiment, month by month: Ah, a sea of red After a brief dip last month into the negative seventies, we’re back down to the very familiar negative eighties. Fun fact: over the course of the 2.5 years since the beginning of the 2018 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment, the portfolio has finished over half of the first thirty months down at least -80%. Tracking the Top Ten cryptos from January 1st, 2018 has been an undoubtedly painful exercise so far. But what about 2019 and 2020 when I repeated the experiment? Let’s take a look:
So overall? Taking the three portfolios together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line: After a $3000 investment in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Top Ten Cryptocurrencies, my combined portfolios are worth $2,710. That’s down about -10% for the three combined portfolios. That’s compared to about +4% last month. Better than a few months ago (aka the zombie apocalypse) where it was down -24%, but not yet back at January (+13%) or February (+6%) levels. Having trouble keeping up? Yeah, me too. You know what that means?!?!?! NEW TABLE DROP!! Combined ROI of all three portfolios Ah, that’s better. Much better.
Comparison to S&P 500:
I’m also tracking the S&P 500 as part of the experiment to have a comparison point with other popular investments options. Even though the US economy is still reeling from the COVID shock, the stock market (as measured by the S&P) continued to recover in June. The initial $1k investment into crypto on New Year’s Day 2018 would have gained about $170 had it been redirected to the S&P. Alright, let’s compare all three years of the crypto investments to hypothetical US stock market investments. Taking the same drop-$1,000-per-year-on-January-1st-of-each-year approach with the S&P 500 that I’ve been documenting through the Top Ten Crypto Experiments would yield the following:
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2018: +$170
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2019: +$240
$1000 investment in S&P 500 on January 1st, 2020: -$40
Taken together, here’s the bottom bottom bottom line for a similar approach with the S&P: After three $1,000 investments into an S&P 500 index fund in January 2018, 2019, and 2020, my portfolio would be worth $3,370. That is up over+12%since January 2018, compared to -10% of the combined Top Ten Crypto Experiment Portfolios. That’s about a 22% swing in favor of the stock market, the widest so far this year. Last month, there was only a 6% difference in favor of the stock market. Here’s another new table that shows an emerging pattern: Three Top Ten Crypto Portfolios vs. hypothetical identical approach with S&P 500
The 2018 Experiment’s focus of solely holding the Top Ten Cryptos has not (and has never been) a winning approach when compared to the overall crypto market. The total market cap is down -54% from January 2018 compared to the -81% for the cryptos that began 2018 in the Top Ten. This of course implies that I would have done a bit better if I’d picked every crypto, or different cryptos: throwing that $1k to Bitcoin, for example, would have me down by -30% instead of -81%. On the other hand, this bit of diversification has served me well compared to putting all my eggs in NEM‘s -95% basket, for example. To reiterate, at no point in this experiment has this investment strategy been successful: the initial 2018 Top Ten have under-performed each of the first thirty months compared to the market overall. Repeating the Top Ten experiments in 2019 and 2020 has resulted in a slightly different story. There are a few examples of this approach outperforming the overall market in the parallel 2019 Top Ten Crypto Experiment. And for the most recent 2020 Top Ten Index Fund group of cryptocurrencies, this approach had outperformed the overall market 100% of the time…up until the last two months.
We’re half way through a very strange year, where it seems we’re playing Biblical Plague Bingo. The US market have more or less bounced back from the shock, crypto markets to a lesser degree. What’s next for crypto in an extremely unpredictable year? Final word: Be excellent to each other. If you made it this far, thanks for reading and for supporting the experiment. I hope you’ve found it helpful. I continue to be committed to seeing this process through and reporting along the way. Feel free to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for progress reports. Keep an eye out for my parallel projects where I repeat the experiment twice, purchasing another $1000 ($100 each) of two new sets of Top Ten cryptos as of January 1st, 2019 then again on January 1st, 2020.
And the Answer is…
D) Stellar Even though it finished the year down -66%, Stellar outperformed the rest of the 2018 Top Ten Index Fund Experiment Cryptos after the first 12 months. Second place on January 1st, 2019 was Bitcoin, down -71%.
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
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Is The Worst Over For Bitcoin? Is Now A Time To Buy?
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