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From Bitcoin and Ethereum to Dogecoin and Tether, there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies, making it overwhelming when you’re first getting started in the world of crypto. To help you get your bearings, these are the top 10 cryptocurrencies based on their market capitalization or the total value of all the coins currently in circulation.
What Are Cryptocurrencies?
A cryptocurrency is a digital asset that can circulate without the centralized authority of a bank or government. To date, there are 22,541 cryptocurrency projects out there that represent the entire $1 trillion crypto market.
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1. Bitcoin (BTC)
- Market cap: $426.9 billion
Created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin (BTC) is the original cryptocurrency. As with most cryptocurrencies, BTC runs on a blockchain, or a ledger logging transactions distributed across a network of thousands of computers. Because additions to the distributed ledgers must be verified by solving a cryptographic puzzle, a process called proof of work, Bitcoin is kept secure and safe from fraudsters.
Bitcoin’s price has skyrocketed as it’s become a household name. In May 2016, you could buy one Bitcoin for about $500. As of Feb. 14, 2023, a single Bitcoin’s price was around $22,128. That’s a growth of 4,326%.
Related: How To Buy Bitcoin
2. Ethereum (ETH)
- Market cap: $189.7 billion
Both a cryptocurrency and a blockchain platform, Ethereum is a favorite of program developers because of its potential applications, like so-called smart contracts that automatically execute when conditions are met and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Ethereum has also experienced tremendous growth. From April 2016 to the end of February 2023, its price went from about $11 to around $1,550, increasing 13,991%.
Related: How To Buy Ethereum
3. Tether (USDT)
- Market cap: $69.2 billion
Unlike some other forms of cryptocurrency, Tether (USDT) is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by fiat currencies like U.S. dollars and the Euro and hypothetically keeps a value equal to one of those denominations. In theory, this means Tether’s value is supposed to be more consistent than other cryptocurrencies, and it’s favored by investors who are wary of the extreme volatility of other coins.
4. Binance Coin (BNB)
- Market cap: $46.9 billion
Binance Coin (BNB) is a form of cryptocurrency that you can use to trade and pay fees on Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world. Since its launch in 2017, Binance Coin has expanded past merely facilitating trades on Binance’s exchange platform. Now, it can be used for trading, payment processing or even booking travel arrangements. It can also be traded or exchanged for other forms of cryptocurrency, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin.
BNB’s price in 2017 was just $0.10. By late February 2023, its price had risen to around $297, a gain of 296,645%.
Related: How To Buy Cryptocurrency
5. U.S. Dollar Coin (USDC)
- Market cap: $41.2 billion
Like Tether, USD Coin (USDC) is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by U.S. dollars and aims for a 1 USD to 1 USDC ratio. USDC is powered by Ethereum, and you can use USD Coin to complete global transactions.
6. XRP (XRP)
- Market cap: $19.1 billion
Created by some of the same founders as Ripple, a digital technology and payment processing company, XRP can be used on that network to facilitate exchanges of different currency types, including fiat currencies and other major cryptocurrencies.
At the beginning of 2017, the price of XRP was $0.006. As of Feb. 14, 2023, its price reached $0.38, equal to a rise of 6,181%.
7. Binance USD (BUSD)
- Market cap: $15.6 billion
Binance USD (BUSD) is a stablecoin that Paxos and Binance founded to create a cryptocurrency backed by the U.S. dollar. To maintain this value, Paxos holds an amount of U.S. dollars equal to the total supply of BUSD. As with other stablecoins, BUSD gives traders and crypto users the ability to engage in transactions with other crypto assets while minimizing the risk of volatility.
8. Cardano (ADA)
- Market cap: $13.3 billion
Somewhat later to the crypto scene, Cardano (ADA) is notable for its early embrace of proof-of-stake validation. This method expedites transaction time and decreases energy usage and environmental impact by removing the competitive, problem-solving aspect of transaction verification in platforms like Bitcoin. Cardano also works like Ethereum to enable smart contracts and decentralized applications, which ADA, its native coin, powers.
Cardano’s ADA token has had relatively modest growth compared to other major crypto coins. In 2017, ADA’s price was $0.02. As of Feb. 14, 2023, its price was at $0.38. This is an increase of 1,815%.
9. Dogecoin (DOGE)
- Market cap: $11.0 billion
Dogecoin was famously started as a joke in 2013 but rapidly evolved into a prominent cryptocurrency thanks to a dedicated community and creative memes. Unlike many other cryptos, there is no limit on the number of Dogecoins that can be created, which leaves the currency susceptible to devaluation as supply increases.
Dogecoin’s price in 2017 was $0.0002. By February 2023, its price was at $0.08, up 41,496%.
10. Polygon (MATIC)
- Market cap: $10.8 billion
Founded in 2017, Polygon—formerly known as Matic Network—is a relatively popular crypto. It’s dubbed “Ethereum’s internet of blockchains.” Maybe that’s why MATIC supports more than 7,000 decentralized applications (dApps).
Polygon has also experienced tremendous growth since its first launch. The initial price of MATIC when it first launched was $0.00263. Today MATIC trades at $1.24, a 46,875% gain.
Related: What Is Polygon
*Market caps and pricing sourced from coinmarketcap.com, current as of 6:34 p.m. UTC on Feb. 14, 2023.
What are cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrency is a form of currency that exists solely in digital form. Cryptocurrency can be used to pay for purchases online without going through an intermediary, such as a bank, or it can be held as an investment.
How does trading cryptocurrencies differ from trading stocks?
While you can invest in cryptocurrencies, they differ a great deal from traditional investments, like stocks. When you buy stock, you are buying a share of ownership of a company, which means you’re entitled to do things like vote on the direction of the company. If that company goes bankrupt, you also may receive some compensation once its creditors have been paid from its liquidated assets.
Buying cryptocurrency doesn’t grant you ownership over anything except the token itself; it’s more like exchanging one form of currency for another. If the crypto loses its value, you won’t receive anything after the fact.
There are several other key differences to keep in mind:
- Trading hours: Stocks are only traded during stock exchange hours, typically 9:30 am to 4:30 pm ET, Monday through Friday. Cryptocurrency markets never close, so you can trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Regulation: Stocks are regulated financial products, meaning a governing body verifies their credentials and their finances are matters of public record. By contrast, cryptocurrencies are not regulated investment vehicles, so you may not be aware of the inner dynamics of your crypto or the developers working on it.
- Volatility: Both stocks and cryptocurrency involve risk; the money you invest can lose value. However, stocks are directly linked to companies and generally rise and fall based on those companies’ performance. Cryptocurrency prices are more speculative—no one is quite sure of their value yet. That makes them much more volatile and affected by something as small as a celebrity’s tweet.
Do you have to pay taxes on cryptocurrency?
If you buy and sell coins, it’s important to pay attention to cryptocurrency tax rules. Cryptocurrency is treated as a capital asset, like stocks, rather than cash. That means if you sell cryptocurrency at a profit, you’ll have to pay capital gains taxes. This is the case even if you use your crypto to pay for a purchase. If you receive a greater value for it than you paid, you’ll owe taxes on the difference.
Are there cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETFs)?
Given the thousands of cryptocurrencies in existence (and the high volatility associated with most of them), it’s understandable you might want to take a diversified approach to investing in crypto to minimize the risk you lose money.
Multiple companies have proposed crypto ETFs, including Fidelity, but regulatory hurdles have slowed the launch of any consumer products. As of June 2021, there are no ETFs available to average investors on the market.
How do you buy crypto?
You can buy cryptocurrencies through crypto exchanges, such as Coinbase, Kraken or Gemini. In addition, some brokerages, such as WeBull and Robinhood, also allow consumers to buy cryptocurrencies.
Why are there so many cryptocurrencies?
Cryptocurrency is an emerging area with more than 19,000 crypto projects in existence, with very few barriers to entry. Last year, in particular, witnessed a crypto market boom, with thousands of new crypto projects added.
While some crypto function as currencies, others are used to develop infrastructure. For instance, in the case of Ethereum or Solana, developers are building other cryptos on top of these platform currencies, and that creates even more possibilities (and cryptos).
What are altcoins?
When we first think of crypto, we usually think of Bitcoin first. That’s because Bitcoin represents more than 45% of the total cryptocurrency market. So when we talk about any cryptos outside of Bitcoin, all of those cryptos are considered altcoins.
Ethereum, for instance, is regarded as the most popular altcoin.
Why is bitcoin valuable?
Part of what makes Bitcoin so valuable is its scarcity. Bitcoin’s maximum supply is limited to 21 million coins. Currently, there are 19 million coins in circulation.
To create supply, Bitcoin rewards crypto miners with a set Bitcoin amount. (To be exact, 6.25 BTC is issued when a miner has successfully mined a single block.). To keep the process in check, the rewards given for mining Bitcoin are cut in half almost every four years.
Why are cryptocurrencies important?
Cryptocurrencies are rising in importance and not going away anytime soon. While the initial premise of cryptocurrency was to fix the problems with traditional currencies, there are now a whole host of utility cryptocurrencies that have sprung up, thanks to the creation of the blockchain.