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Dead Coins: How Many Cryptocurrencies Have Failed?

Despite the epic collapse of Terra Classic (LUNC, formerly LUNA) and Terra USD (UST) in 2022, cryptocurrencies are still being traded, and blockchain networks are still being used, even if in earnest. Even though neither the old Terra assets nor the new Terra (LUNA) coin are even close to as popular as they were during their epic run and collapse, they still aren’t famous dead coins, yet.

But how many cryptocurrencies have failed over the past decade? The number is likely higher than you realize, but the reasoning is pretty straightforward. Let’s jump in.

Futuristic photo

Dead Crypto Coins Per Year

Year Dead Coins % of Total Coins 
2013 84 66%
2014 304 77%
2015 253 68%
2016 183 61%
2017 292 57%
2018 751 28%
2019 329 5%
2020 105 1%
2021 74 <1%
2022 83 <1%
2023 289 <10%

Note: % of Total Coins is based upon data taken from CoinGecko and CoinKickoff and is in reference to the number of coins launched that year.

What Happens if a Cryptocurrency Fails?

If you’re wondering what happens if a cryptocurrency fails, well, it’s pretty simple: the price starts to spiral, it may get delisted, and in all likelihood, it will become a “dead coin”. A coin can be classified as dead for a number of reasons, including not being traded for over 30 days or being exposed as a scam.

However, the reality is that as long as someone is willing to run the blockchain network for that cryptocurrency, it can technically stay alive forever, but when there’s little to no financial incentive to run the network, no one will.

A project may not even fail and become a dead coin if there are motivated enough people within the community, such as the rebranding and relaunch that occurred with Terra (LUNA). But, if the project was a scam, or was irreparably damaged in some way, it will die and become a dead coin.

Famous Dead Coins

The biggest crypto failures in history tend to be scams, rug pulls, or overhyped projects. Below we’ll note three of the most famous dead coins and what happened.


OneCoin is perhaps the most famous Ponzi and pyramid scheme in crypto history. It launched in 2014, with the company secretly conducting database entry scams by simulating transactions not registered by an actual blockchain, and with no actual mining behind the apparent cryptocurrency emissions.

The scam is estimated to have brought in nearly $4 billion, with there being no actual coins or blockchain network. Users simply “exchanged” coins for euros and vice-versa on an exchange controlled by the creators, before it eventually was shut down by law enforcement. OneCoin was never delisted on major exchanges because it was never even listed on any of them.

BitConnect Coin (BCC)

BitConnect Coin, unlike OneCoin, was indeed actually a cryptocurrency, but it also turned out to be a ponzi scheme. BitConnect Coin was in the top 20 cryptocurrencies by market cap. BCC was $0.17 after its initial coin offering and rose to an all-time high of US$463 in December 2017.

The project was based on high yields, but it became clear in late 2017 to early 2018 that these yields were due to it being a Ponzi scheme. The UK government gave the company two months from November 2017 to prove legitimacy.

On January 3, 2018, the Texas State Securities Board issued a cease and desist to the company, calling it a Ponzi scheme, and citing a lack of transparency. BitConnect shut down two weeks later, causing the price to plummet to zero shortly after.


The DAO, the original Decentralized Autonomous Organization, launched in 2016, not too long after the successful launch of the Ethereum blockchain. The Ethereum Foundation was running low on funds, and The DAO became a way to crowdfund new projects that the community liked. Users could deposit ETH into the platform in order to join others in funding an ambitious project.

However, an issue with the code led to a hack, which drained The DAO of $60 million worth of Ether, around one-third of the funds contributed by users. The stolen funds would ultimately amount to around 5% of all the Ethereum tokens in existence at the time.

This hack led to the fork that created Ethereum Classic (ETC), where the funds are still missing, and Ethereum (ETH), where the hack never occurred. The DAO as it existed, became a dead project, but it helped spur the creation of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) which were seen in the following years and still occur today.

Will Most Cryptocurrencies Fail?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes, it’s simply a matter of when. Much like with the dotcom era of the Internet, only so many projects will rise from the thousands that exist to take market share.

Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) are likely your crypto versions of Microsoft, Apple, or Google, but there are certainly other digital assets that could become like them, or be like NVIDIA which took more time to grow.

What Happens if a Cryptocurrency Dies?

If a cryptocurrency dies, then it just ceases to function as a token or blockchain network. There are countless memecoins and NFT projects that popped up during the last bull run that have been abandoned or dropped in value to essentially nothing.

Depending on your position, you probably should have gotten whatever value back when you could have, but if you had no position in a cryptocurrency that dies, then it will have no effect on your portfolio.

It may take some time for a cryptocurrency to actually die once it loses its luster as an investment asset, meaning that the number of dead coins for the last few years will rise over time. Since 2013, over 2,500 cryptocurrencies have died, and that’s only going to rise too.

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About the Author

Evan Jones

Evan Jones was introduced to cryptocurrency by fellow CryptoVantage contributor Keegan Francis in 2017 and was immediately intrigued by the use cases of many Ethereum-based cryptos. He bought his first hardware wallet shortly thereafter. He has a keen and vested interest in cryptos involving decentralized backend exchanges, payment processing, and power-sharing.

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