The Different Types of Cryptocurrencies
Although there are technically over 1000 cryptocurrencies, only a handful are relevant. Of those, even less have a market cap above $1 million. Below is a list of important cryptocurrencies and additional resources you can use to learn more about all the different cryptocurrency types.
TIP: This site was created in 2015, but here in 2017 things have really evolved and change (and thus presenting a list of cryptocurrencies went from a reasonable thing to do, to an impossible task for a site that doesn’t have this as its main focus). For a list of essentially all current cryptocurrencies check out CoinMarketCap.com. The list below will focus only on some top coins that have made it through the years or that are particularly relevant today.
List of Top Cryptocurrencies 2015 – 2017
To start this page off, let’s first take a look at the top 10 or so cryptocurrencies of 2015 – 2017 to get a sense of which ones have stuck around and which ones are up-and-coming.
This list was created by us (cryptocurrencyfacts.com) and is based on familiarity, market cap (total coins that will ever be produced times current value), the ease with which a coin can be traded for fiat currency like the US dollar, and the coins potential to survive trends.
In other words, these are the coins that we think are the most valid to invest in (in general, not at a given moment) and explore for new coin users (not simply the coins with the highest market cap, value, or most relevance alone). With that said, any “best of list” is bound to have opinions in it, and this is true for this list as well. So do feel free to compare.
The most relevant cryptocurrencies are:
- Bitcoin: Bitcoin is an easy pick. It was the first major usable cryptocurrency, it has the highest market cap, its coins generally trade at the highest cost of all cryptocurrencies (about $225 USD as of June 2015… but as high as $5,000 during early September 2017). Despite the big increase in price, Bitcoin is the best choice for anyone entering the cryptocurrency space. It is the most familiar and invested-in coin, it’s a lot of things… primarily Bitcoin is the reason anyone is talking about cryptocurrency in the first place. You might not want to start a CPU-based Bitcoin mining company in 2017 or start buying coins for $5,000 a pop (which is fine since you can buy fractions of a coin)… but it’s still going to take 1st place on our list.
- Litecoin: Litecoin is probably the second most important digital coin. It had the third-highest market cap as of June 2015, but today it sits closer to 7. Despite the decline, CPU mining is still sort of possible, people know what a Litecoin is, it uses essentially the same technology of Bitcoin, and it costs about 1/50th – 1/100th of what Bitcoin does (depending on the day). Really, a Litecoin is a lot like a Bitcoin before the whole ‘Silk Road‘ controversy, or as some people would say “a Litecoin is like a Bitcoin except with a value closer to what a reasonable person would expect a digital coin to have in a rational market.”
- Ethereum: Is probably the third most important coin, if not the second. It doesn’t have the longevity at the top like Litecoin, but it is built on a system that other coins are built on. Most ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) use ethereum. It has a less intimidating cost that Bitcoin, and has the second highest market cap. On that note, Ethereum classic is also notable. Ethereum is actually a spin-off (aka “hard fork”) from what isn’t today called Ethereum classic (like how our next up coin, Bitcoin cash, is a spin-off of Bitcoin.)
- BitcoinCash and Bitcoin Gold: BitcoinCash is a spin-off of bitcoin, meant to have faster transactions, voted on and implemented by the Bitcoin community. Bitcoin Gold is also a spin-off, the goal with that coin is to have a coin that can be mined with a GPU (graphics processor, like the ones AMD and NVIDA make). It is too early to call, but these coins have a high market cap and could shape up to be a top players over the long run. Keep your eye on them, but don’t go treating them like they will have the staying power of BitCoin. They are interesting altcoins, but its unlikely either will ever truly challenge Bitcoin for the top spot.
- Ripple: Ripple tends to have a steady price due to its large supply. It has had staying power over time. Its a popular and speedy alternative to Bitcoin that often is less volatile than other coins toward the top of the list.
- IOTA: IOTA is a popular coin with a large supply (meaning there are many MIOTAs out there). With that said, it is has one of the highest market caps today due to the tech behind it being embraced by some big name companies like Cisco Systems Inc, Volkswagen AG, and Samsung Group. Any coin in the top 10 by market cap is worth keeping an eye on. IOTA is no exception.
- Darkcoin (Dash): Darkcoin, known as Dash as of March 25, 2015 (dash=digital cash), but previously known as XCoin, is the most unique (functionality-wise) of the coins we have discussed so far. XCoin was developed by Evan Duffield who wanted to improve on Bitcoin but didn’t have the pull to do so and thus developed his own coin. Essentially, it uses less power to mine Dash than most coins. Using less energy to mine is important because mining coins is one of the most wasteful processes you can imagine. The wasteful mining process key to security and stability of all coins that use a “proof-of-work” system (it prevents people from mining too fast), but environmentally, it’s kind of a nightmare. Anyway, people know what a Darkcoin is… hopefully this familiarity rolls over to Dash. Back in 2015 Dash was one of the higher valued coins. Today that is still true and it has preformed just as well competitors like Ethereum. That means there are some Dash millionaires out there for sure. UPDATE: Dash really broke out in 2017 to be a contender for the top cryptos. Buying high is never a good idea, but averaging into a position in Dash long term is likely to be a smart bet. If you are looking for Bitcoin alternatives without the word Bit in the title, you could do a lot worse than Dash.
- Tether: Tether is meant to reflect the price of the US dollar. There are some criticisms to consider. But if you want a stable coin for temporary use, Tether tends to be a good choice. It isn’t an investment, it is a place to park your value when you are in-between coins.
Below are coins that are no longer on our list of suggestions. They look great in 2015, but they didn’t necessarily stand up to the test of time. Consider we noted Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dash in 2015, and we noted the coins below. If you invested in all at the time you did very well. So don’t get the wrong idea. All that said, being off the list doesn’t make these coins a bad bet, it just means they aren’t as attractive as they one were:
- Namecoin: In 2015 Namecoin looked promising, here in 2017 there is a little less hype. Still Namecoin is notable. Namecoin is almost exactly the same is Bitcoin. It was the first “fork” of the Bitcoin software (ie. it’s based on Bitcoin and has the same unit cap, but has a few tweaks as to how data is stored). Namecoin was originally just going to be an upgrade to Bitcoin, but people were nervous that it would pose issues. So Namecoin is basically Bitcoin, but like everything not-Bitcoin is worth just a fraction of Bitcoin. It’s solid background and reasonable price point make it a relatively good coin to invest in. Of all the coins noted so far, Namecoin has preformed the most poorly so far. It is still priced very low in terms of USD.
- Nxt: Not only does this nifty coin sport the name of Steve Job’s other company (ish), it actually uses a really cool and totally different algorithm for producing coins. This algorithm – an implementation of a proof-of-stake scheme rather than proof-of-work – is arguably less burdensome on the environment and has long-term potential. It may be worth a tad less than the other coins we recommend being worth about a penny on the dollar on a good day, but less cost per coin means you have less to lose if the coin value deflates. Nxt is like Namecoin, super cool code, didn’t though preform at the same level as other cryptos (until late 2017 where it saw a notable price hike). It is still priced very low in terms of USD.
- Peercoin: Like Nxt, Peercoin (abbreviated PPC) uses a proof-of-stake system; in fact, it was the first proof-of-stake coin. It’s worth about $0.40 on the USD and has a market cap of almost ten million. This coin has everything going for it and is a fairly smart bet as far as cryptocurrency goes. As an added bonus to confidence and quality behind the coin Peercoin was developed by Sunny King. Sunny King is maybe-ish the guy who created Bitcoin, or this other coin, or maybe Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent or something… It’s hard to tell as the culture of cryptocurrency puts importance on peer-to-peer, code, and coin over developers. Still he is important and like-it-or-not little things like this could be the deciding factor between a coin sinking or swimming in the new market. Peercoin has a story like Nxt and Namecoin where they are long running coins.
- Dogecoin: Dogecoin (like the “Doge” internet meme about a dog and misspelling) had the 7th highest Market cap as of June 2015. In 2017 it is still a contender (sort of, this was more true early in the year). Individual coins aren’t worth as much as other coins on the list, but it’s value and popularity have remained relatively steady despite notable highs and lows. Dogecoin essentially uses the same technology as Bitcoin (with a few important technical distinctions to be fair). Like the failed Coinye West, Dogecoin was just in it for the lolz (ie it was created as a joke), but unlike Coinye, Dogecoin became inexplicably popular. Why do we suggest a joke coin? Because it’s a popular coin and today the only funny part about it is the name (and it’s mascot / backstory). Really, it’s a lot like Litecoin — a fairly priced coin with some degree consumer confidence. Dogecoin has, one might argue, turned their comedic origins into an excuse to make their coin “fun and friendly,” which was a smart long-term move. It’s also one of the only major cryptocurrencies with a .com Top-Level Domain name and is one of the few that attempts to reach an audience outside of techies and cryptography nerds. With that zany story in mind, as of September 2017 dodgecoin has really taken a beating in terms of value. One could argue that its roots as a joke coin wasn’t as great long term strategy as it had once seemed (although one could argue the volatility it has seen is just business as usual in the cryptocurrency space.)
Other honorable mentions: Cardano, Stellar Lumens, NEO, NEM, Monero, and a few others all have decent values, familiarity, and respectable market caps. Some even have better exchange rates currently then our top picks for coins. So, make sure not to dismiss the other forerunners (or even some odd altcoins with interesting code). We could easily see one a given existing altcoin or even a new coin spring up to the top of the list at any moment. The cryptocurrency market is young and volatile if you haven’t caught on to that already.
TIP: The top coins by market cap are generally the best bets. Most of the top coins today were toward the top of the list back in 2015. There are a few coins high on the list today that one should be weary of, for example Bitconnect. There are a few new ones, for example the Bitcoin forks Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold, that are new to the list. Meanwhile, there are a few that didn’t stand up to the test of time, like Peercoin. All that said, as a rule of thumb, historically speaking, the higher on the list, the more solid the coin is as an investment over time.
Note: In most cases, you’ll have a hard time trading anything other than Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum for actual fiat (centrally issued money of nations). You can trade most coins at online cryptocurrency exchanges and you can use some coins to buy certain things online, but converting an altcoin into fiat currency generally means converting to a major coin first (BTC or ETH generally). In other words, just because a coin has a value in USD doesn’t mean that anyone is going to give you USD or pay that rate for your coins. This is more like selling stocks (often like penny stocks) or trading one baseball card for another then actually having money on hand. So, keep that and the volatility of the markets and coins in mind when investing.
For those who want to dig deeper into the never-ending list of coins that are being created to capitalize on trends and sometimes improve the world of cryptocurrency, you can check out two of the most complete lists on the internet at coinmarketcap.com and cryptocoincharts.info.