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Forget bitcoin: Here are 12 cryptocurrencies you should be following

The Motley Fool Logo By Sean Williams of The Motley Fool | Slide 1 of 13: With 2017 now in the books, we can officially look back and dub it the "year of the cryptocurrency." Despite the stock market historically taking its seat at the head of the table in terms of wealth creation, it was cryptocurrencies that delivered what could be the single greatest year we've ever seen from an asset class.When the year began, the aggregate market cap of all cryptocurrencies was just $17.7 billion. However, by late December, this figure had topped $650 billion, representing a better than 3,500% increase in about a year's time.Bitcoin, the world's most popular and valuable virtual coin by market cap, is perceived to have led the charge higher in cryptocurrencies. It is, after all, the crypto coin most accepted by merchants, and easily the most-traded virtual currency of the nearly 1,400 that can be purchased by investors.However, truth be told, bitcoin was actually an underperformer last year. It took a backseat to many up-and-coming coins and blockchain players -- blockchain is the infrastructure that virtual coins are built on, and it is responsible for logging all transaction data in a digital ledger -- which wound up gaining a whole lot more on a percentage basis. Heading into 2018, the story is no longer about just bitcoin. Instead, it's about which cryptocurrency could become the next bitcoin, or the next thing to be better than bitcoin.With this in mind, I'd suggest forgetting all about the highly played-out bitcoin at this point and consider following these 12 cryptocurrencies instead.

The search for 'the next bitcoin' has begun

With 2017 now in the books, we can officially look back and dub it the "year of the cryptocurrency." Despite the stock market historically taking its seat at the head of the table in terms of wealth creation, it was cryptocurrencies that delivered what could be the single greatest year we've ever seen from an asset class.

When the year began, the aggregate market cap of all cryptocurrencies was just $17.7 billion. However, by late December, this figure had topped $650 billion, representing a better than 3,500% increase in about a year's time.

Bitcoin, the world's most popular and valuable virtual coin by market cap, is perceived to have led the charge higher in cryptocurrencies. It is, after all, the crypto coin most accepted by merchants, and easily the most-traded virtual currency of the nearly 1,400 that can be purchased by investors.

However, truth be told, bitcoin was actually an underperformer last year. It took a backseat to many up-and-coming coins and blockchain players -- blockchain is the infrastructure that virtual coins are built on, and it is responsible for logging all transaction data in a digital ledger -- which wound up gaining a whole lot more on a percentage basis. Heading into 2018, the story is no longer about just bitcoin. Instead, it's about which cryptocurrency could become the next bitcoin, or the next thing to be better than bitcoin.

With this in mind, I'd suggest forgetting all about the highly played-out bitcoin at this point and consider following these 12 cryptocurrencies instead. Click ahead to check them out.

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