Though we'd all love the opportunity to get rich quick, the odds of that happening, legally, are legitimately stacked against us. Short of being that lucky 1 in 300 million who wins the lottery, getting rich quickly is pretty much a myth, or the stuff that Nigerian Prince emails are made of.

Then cryptocurrencies came along and completely changed the game. It took the stock market, the greatest creator of long-term wealth, and tossed it aside like yesterday's news. Even though stocks essentially tripled their historic returns last year, the performance of the three major U.S. indexes looks like a flat line compared to the returns of multiple cryptocurrencies.

A physical gold bitcoin lying on a messy pile of hundred dollar bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

Cryptocurrencies probably delivered the single-greatest year of any asset class, ever

When 2017 began, the aggregate value of every single digital currency added together was just $17.7 billion. But by the end of the year, the combined market cap of more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies equaled $613 billion -- a more than 3,300% increase.

Don't think for a moment this was all about bitcoin. If anything, the world's most popular digital currency took a backseat to emerging virtual currencies. The combined market cap of all cryptocurrencies, excluding bitcoin, was just $2.24 billion at the beginning of 2017. By the end of the year, it was approximately $374 billion!

There were certainly no shortage of strong performers. For example, Ethereum, which was the second-largest cryptocurrency in terms of market cap behind bitcoin for much of the year, rose nearly 9,400%. The Ethereum blockchain -- the digital and decentralized ledger that logs all transactions -- which incorporates smart contract protocols that help with the facilitation, verification, or enforcement of a contract, is particularly attractive to businesses. There are currently 200 organizations from around the globe testing a version of Ethereum's blockchain technology across a variety of industries. 

Ripple performed marvelously, too. Ripple has been laser-focused on partnering with big banks to test its blockchain technology, and in November, landed a partnership with American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Banco Santander (NYSE:SAN). The deal will process non-card payments made over American Express's FX International Payment network to U.K. Santander accounts through Ripple's blockchain, potentially settling these transactions instantly.  Ripple rose by more than 35,500% for the year.

A businessman widely grinning at a messy pile of cash lying on his desk.

Image source: Getty Images.

This cryptocurrency turned $1 into $1.17 million last year

Even these charts look like veritable flat lines next to the performance of Verge and its coin, XVG. By year's end, Verge had risen by 1,171,479%, which was about 10 times better than the second-best large cryptocurrency ($200 million-plus market cap) performance last year. Assuming you bought $1 worth of XVG at the beginning of 2017, you'd have had $1.17 million by the end of the year.

How on Earth is this possible? Thank the recent interest in privacy coins for the monumental push higher in valuation.

The cryptocurrency revolution is all about fixing the flaws with the way money is currently transmitted from peer to peer, and is also designed to improve the privacy and anonymity of payments. Unfortunately, even with the use of encrypted blockchain technology, the anonymity and privacy that users crave isn't always there.

A recent case in point was a legal battle that cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase lost to the Internal Revenue Service, requiring the exchange to turn over information on 14,355 users who'd traded at least $20,000 worth of bitcoin between 2013 and 2015. Though the IRS was going after capital-gain tax evaders, the bigger story here is that these encrypted transactions were able to be traced back to the user.

Privacy coins, of which Verge is one of about a half dozen, beef up protocols designed to obscure the sender and receiver of funds so they can't be traced. This late-year push into privacy coins, which was aided by bullish tweets from MGT Capital Investments' John McAfee -- the same John McAfee who was behind McAfee antivirus software in the 1990s – is a big reason why Verge rallied 1,171,479%!

A man holding a sign with multiple question marks in front of his head.

Image source: Getty Images.

What makes Verge so unique?

What is Verge, exactly? According to its website, it's a "secure and anonymous cryptocurrency, built with a focus on privacy." This privacy is a result of its use of multiple anonymity-centric networks, such as Tor and I2P, which obscured IP address and transactions, making it impossible to trace transactions back to the sender. It's still possible with some privacy-focused blockchains to trace transactions back to the sender of funds -- but not with Verge.

Verge is ready for aggressive expansion, with a number of secure mobile wallets that can safely and securely execute transactions already available. This includes the Tor Android Wallet, which is probably its most advertised wallet. Remember, these wallets aren't designed just to store XVG coins -- they're also being pushed as a virtual, but secure, payment platform.

A relatively new update for Verge is the Wraith protocol. This new addition gives users the opportunity to alternate between public and private ledgers on Verge's blockchain network. Verge understands the importance of offering customizable privacy protections, which is why its coin has performed so well.

Lastly, Verge has benefited from having relatively quick settlement times on its blockchain. Yes, some of this is a function of popularity, and Verge is still relatively unknown next to a bitcoin or Ripple. However, offering average settlement times of five seconds is eventually going to turn some heads if its valuation continues to climb. 

While it's unclear if Verge can build on its incredible 2017 performance, it's the first investment I'm aware of that legally turned $1 into more than $1 million in one year's time.

Sean Williams has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.