Bitcoin Annual Total Returns (1


From its humble beginnings in 2008 to today, Bitcoin’s history has been relatively short but very eventful. The original protocol for this popular digital currency was created in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, believed to be a pseudonym for an unknown developer or group of developers. 

Nakamoto launched the Bitcoin network just a year later and began mining the currency— an estimated 1 million bitcoins were mined in the early years. The creator(s) of this first-of-its-kind asset developed the cryptocurrency in response to the Great Recession of 2007-2009, spurred by a distrust of the traditional banking system and concerns about its stability. 

Given the recent values of Bitcoin, it’s hard to believe the currency first started trading on exchanges in 2010 at under $0.10. Since then, it’s experienced astronomical growth and some pretty wild price swings. At its most recent high, one bitcoin was worth over $64,000—a far cry from trading for pennies in its earliest days. 

Whether you’re thinking of investing in Bitcoin or you’ve held this cryptocurrency for several years, it’s fun to look back at this groundbreaking asset’s history. Read on for insights on Bitcoin milestones, historical returns, and how its returns compare to those of other assets.

Bitcoin Performance Milestones

Since being created, Bitcoin has experienced several milestones. Here’s a look back at some of the most significant moments in the short history of this cryptocurrency:

  • In March 2010, Bitcoin began trading on the now-defunct Bitcoin Market, one of the first-ever cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • A Florida man named Laszlo Hanyecz bought pizza with 10,000 bitcoin in May 2010, making it the first time anyone used the currency to purchase something.
  • In June 2011, Bitcoin saw its first significant price spike, climbing to a value of $29.60 (up from just $0.30 in January) before declining again later that year.
  • The second half of 2013 marked another major spike—from $68 on July 4th to $1,237 on December 3rd before declining again.
  • One of Bitcoin’s most significant increases happened in 2017, with its value surging from around $1,000 at the start of the year to $19,345 by mid-December. 
  • The Bitcoin hype cooled in 2018, resulting in significant declines—its lowest value was around $3,232 in December of that year.
  • In 2019, Bitcoin saw another spike, hitting $13,813 on June 26th before declining.
  • After seeing modest ups and downs through October 2020, Bitcoin’s value began to surge again. It hit an astronomical high of over $66,000 in November 2021.

Bitcoin Total Return (10 Year, 5 Year, 3 Years, 1 Year)

While Bitcoin isn’t exempt from the volatility cryptocurrencies often experience, it’s delivered some impressive returns over the years. Here’s a look at Bitcoin’s annual returns from 2010 to 2021:

Bitcoin 10-Year Return Chart
Year Return (%)
2011 1,473
2012 186
2013 5,507
2014 -58
2015 35
2016 125
2017 1,331
2018 -73
2019 95
2020 301
2021 90

And here’s a look at monthly returns, if you feel like getting a deeper dive:

Bitcoin Monthly Returns
Year Jan. Feb. Mar. April May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2010 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 210.99% N/A 44.09%
2011 73.33% 65.38% -8.77% 346.09% 149.71% 84.21% -17.08% -38.58% -37.32% -36.77% -8.62% 58.92%
2012 16.10% -11.31% N/A N/A 4.65% 29.15% 39.76% 8.66% 22.05% -9.68% 12.23% 7.48%
2013 51.07% 63.55% 178.70% 49.66% -7.48% -24.31% 8.92% 32.76% 0.64% 48.82% 470.94% -33.15%
2014 16.49% -38.87% -22.53% 0.22% 10.90% 1.15% -7.18% -18.28% -19.43% -12.96% 10.97 -15.12%
2015 -31.34% 16.27% -3.90% -3.43% -2.52% 14.91% 7.42% -19.12% 2.82% 31.92% 21.44% 13.75%
2016 -13.98% 17.95% -4.71% 7.91% 17.92% 26.68% -7.19% -7.72% 5.97% 14.89% 6.27% 29.75%
2017 0.22% 23.18% -9.26% 25.28% 70.38% 7.70% 16.23% 64.23% -7.91% 47.94% 54.18% 39.25%
2018 -25.88% 0.67% -32.86% 33.25% -18.85% -14.71% 20.79% -9% -5.67% -4.06% -36.54% -8.18%
2019 -7.34% 11.04% 7.49% 29.70% 60.85% 36.41% -6.81% -4.84% -13.65% 10.48% -17.55% -4.64%
2020 29.91% -8.62% -24.94% 34.56% 9.57% -3.38% 24.06% 2.74% -7.46% 28.04% 42.77% 46.97%
2021 14.37% 36.41% 30.11% -1.78% -35.38% -6.09% 18.63% 13.42% -7.02% 39.90% -7.22% -18.75%
2022 -16.70% 12.18% 5.41%

While Bitcoin has experienced some wild monthly price swings and a couple years where its value has declined, you can see that its declines have been eclipsed by some incredible gains. Now let’s explore how Bitcoin’s value has changed over 10, 5, 3, and 1 years.

Bitcoin 10-year return

Let’s say you bought one bitcoin on December 31, 2011, for $5.27, its price at the time. If you held that one bitcoin until December 31, 2021, it would’ve been worth $46,197.31, and your total ROI for the 10 years would be 876,509%. To calculate the 10-year return on investment, we used the following formula:

ROI =  Latest value – initial value / total cost * 100

Now, let’s plug our numbers in:

876,509% = 46,197.31 – 5.27 / 5.27 * 100

Bitcoin 5-year return

We’ll also assume you purchased one bitcoin for this example. A single bitcoin was valued at $965.31 on December 31, 2016, and its value climbed to $46,197.31 by December 31, 2021. Using our calculation above, your total ROI for those five years would be 4,686%.

Bitcoin 3-year return

A single bitcoin was valued at $3,747.39 on December 31, 2018, and its value climbed to $46,197.31 at the end of 2021. Your total ROI for those three years would be 1,133%.

Bitcoin 1-year return

If you purchased a single bitcoin on December 31, 2020, you would’ve paid around $28,972.40. In one year, that value would’ve increased to $46,197.31. Your total returns for that year would be 59%.

Bitcoin multi-year returns compared

Initial value Final value ROI (%)
10 years (2011-2021) $5.27 $46,197.31 876,509%
5 years (2016-2021) $965.31 $46,197.31 4,686%
3 years (2018-2021) $3,747.39 $46,197.31 1,133%
1 year (2020-2021) $28, 972.40 $46,197.31 59%

How Much You’d Have If You Invested $1,000 in Bitcoin 10, 5, 3, or 1 Year Ago

Instead of buying one bitcoin, let’s say you decided to invest $1,000 into Bitcoin. Here’s a look at how this $1,000 investment would’ve performed if you bought and held your bitcoin for 10, 5, 3, and 1 years.

Initial Price Number of Bitcoins purchased Final Value
10 years (2011-2021) $5.27 189.8 $8,766,092.98
5 years (2016-2021) $965.31 1.04 $47,857.49
3 years (2018-2021) $3,747.39 0.27 $12,327.86
1 year (2020-2021) $28,972.40 0.03 $1,594.53

While Bitcoin’s earliest investors would have benefitted the most from buying and holding their bitcoin, those who’ve invested recently also fared well.

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How Does Bitcoin Compare to Other Asset Classes?

If you’re curious how Bitcoin returns compare to those of other asset classes, here’s how its annual and total returns compare to gold, real estate, and the S&P 500.

(Spoiler alert: Bitcoin outperformed all three assets by an enormous margin.)

Bitcoin vs. Gold

If you compare Bitcoin’s returns to gold’s returns, you’ll notice a stark difference. Bitcoin has an average annual return of 1,576% and a total return of 18,912% from 2010 to 2021, while SPDR Gold Shares had an average annual return of just 5.14% and a total return of 61.67% over the same period. 

Year Bitcoin
Return (%)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) Return (%)
2005 17.76
2006 22.55
2007 30.45
2008 4.92
2009 24.03
2010 9,900 29.27
2011 1,473 9.57
2012 186 6.6
2013 5,507 -28.33
2014 -58 -2.19
2015 35 -10.67
2016 125 8.03
2017 1,331 12.81
2018 -73 -1.94
2019 95 17.86
2020 301 24.81
2021 90 -4.15

Bitcoin vs. Real Estate

Let’s see if real estate fared any better compared to Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency delivered a whopping 1,576% average annual return and an 18,912% total return from 2010 to 2021, while the Vanguard Real Estate ETF had an average annual return of 13.49% and a total return of 161.91% over the same period. So, real estate saw slightly higher returns than gold, but it still didn’t come close to Bitcoin’s returns.

Year Bitcoin
Return (%)
Vanguard Real Estate ETF
Return (%)
2005 12
2006 35.2
2007 -16.38
2008 -36.98
2009 29.76
2010 9,900 28.44
2011 1,473 8.62
2012 186 17.67
2013 5,507 2.42
2014 -58 30.29
2015 35 2.37
2016 125 8.53
2017 1,331 4.95
2018 -73 -5.95
2019 95 28.91
2020 301 -4.72
2021 90 40.38

Bitcoin vs. S&P 500 (Stock Market)

The S&P 500 didn’t fare too much better in its head-to-head with Bitcoin. From 2011 to 2021, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF delivered an average annual return of 15.74% and a total return of 173.14%. While those numbers aren’t too shabby, Bitcoin’s average annual return for the same period was a whopping 819%, and its total return was 9,012%.

Year Bitcoin
Return (%)
VOO, Vanguard SP500 ETF
Return (%)
2011 1,473 2.09
2012 186 15.98
2013 5,507 32.33
2014 -58 13.63
2015 35 1.35
2016 125 11.93
2017 1,331 21.78
2018 -73 -4.42
2019 95 31.46
2020 301 18.35
2021 90 28.66

How Does Bitcoin Compare to The Best Performing Stocks?

We’ve analyzed how Bitcoin compares to gold, real estate, and the stock market, but how does it stack up against some of the best-performing stocks? Here’s how this popular cryptocurrency stacks up against major companies like Amazon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Visa, and Walmart.

We looked at the average annual and total returns for each asset. This data assumes you bought the asset in 2010 and held it until 2021. 

Asset Average annual return (%) Total return (%)
Bitcoin 1,576% 18,912%
Amazon 35.54% 426.48%
Apple 33.22% 398.61%
Berkshire Hathaway 14.31% 171.76%
JP Morgan 13.53% 162.40%
Microsoft 23.92% 287.04%
Visa 23.10% 277.37%
Walmart 10.08% 120.94%

The Bottom Line

While some investors may be skeptical about cryptocurrency, citing concerns over market volatility and a high risk of loss, Bitcoin’s performance over time paints a rosy picture. With its longevity and astronomically high returns, Bitcoin has been worth the risk for many investors—especially early adopters. 

Of course, historical performance doesn’t guarantee future returns. So if you’re considering investing in cryptocurrency, only invest what you can afford to lose.



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