Since its introduction in 2008, bitcoin has inspired an explosion of other cryptocurrencies. These ‘alternative’ cryptocurrency coins – altcoins – now number more than 5,000.
If you want to invest in cryptocurrency, one option is to diversify by holding a selection of coins beyond bitcoin, taking into account the functionalities they offer.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Market cap: Over $406.596B
Originally established in 2009 by someone under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin (BTC) is the first and most well-known cryptocurrency. Like many other cryptocurrencies, BTC runs on a blockchain, or a digital ledger which records transactions across a vast network of personal computers. Additions to the distributed ledgers in Bitcoin need to be verified by solving a cryptographic puzzle, and this is called proof of work. This is what keeps Bitcoin safe from fraudsters.
Bitcoin has exploded in price because of the sheer number of people involved in the network. In May 2016, it cost $500 to buy a Bitcoin. Starting on March 1, 2022, the price of a single Bitcoin has skyrocketed to over $44,000, a growth of about 7,800%.
Market cap: Over $148.345B
Not only a cryptocurrency, Ethereum is also a platform for program developers with endless possibilities such as executing contracts automatically when the right conditions are met, or making custom tokens called Non-Fungible Tokens.
The price of Ethereum went from about $11 to over $3,000, increasing over 27,000%.
3. Tether (USDT)
Market cap: Over $66.832B
Established in 2017, Tether is one of 200 stablecoins.
A stablecoin is anchored to the dollar, and for every one that is created, its creators maintain a dollar for it in reserve. For every dollar cashed out, one Tether coin is taken out of circulation.
On paper, Tether theoretically retains the value of around $1 (79p) at all times. This stability makes Tether a good option for transferring value between exchanges, as Tether holdings are more likely to retain a stable value than other, more volatile, coins.
However, stablecoins are not foolproof. As in May 2022 another stablecoin, Terra USD, crashed—going from $1 to a low point of just $0.30 a coin. They invested in other stablecoins as a response, withdrawing millions of dollars from other cryptocurrencies like Tether.
Over the course of the following weeks, Tether’s market capitalization declined from $83 million (£65.6 million) to $73 million (£57.7).
4. United States Dollar Coin (USDC)
Market cap: Over $55.877B
USDC is a stablecoin pegged to the US dollar initially minted on Ethereum. The coin is backed by a reserve of assets, including fiat and short-term US Treasuries. There is no public audit to verify the stablecoin’s collateral, but accounting services companies provide monthly attestations.
Currently, USDC is the second-largest stablecoin by market capitalization and has held this position for much of its history. You can directly mint USDC using US dollars without incurring any fee.
5. Binance Coin (BNB)
Market cap: Over $39.137B
The Binance Coin is a cryptocurrency that you can use to pay transaction fees on Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world.
Binance Coin is used to facilitate trades not just on the Binance platform, but also for any trades including to process payments and make travel arrangements. They can also be exchanged for other types of cryptocurrency like Ethereum or Bitcoin.
In 2017, the average price of a BNB was $0.10, while in March 2022 it was over $413, a 410,000% increase.
6. Ripple (XRP)
Market cap: Over $17.675B
XRP is a popular cryptocurrency which can be used for instantaneous, frictionless payments with close to zero transaction fees.
This cryptocurrency was first released in 2012 and doesn’t rely on a proof-of-work or proof-of-stake model like bitcoin. What is involved in transfers is, instead, processing by network participants called validators.
Sending a transaction through Ripple, even with the tiniest amount of XRP possible, will always incur a small fee, even if only to generate a cost or fee, rather than benefit the individual or company.
In May 2022, XRP had the sixth-highest market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies. As of June 2022, each coin is worth around 27p.
100 billion CRP tokens are all there ever will be in circulation.
7. Binance USD (BUSD)
Market cap: Over $17.36B
BUSD is a 1:1 USD-backed stablecoin approved by the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). It is issued by Paxos in partnership with Binance and can be issued and redeemed without any extra fee.
Paxos issues BUSD on the Ethereum blockchain. In addition, Binance offers a wrapped BUSD token (Binance-Peg) on the BNB Chain.
Please note: Binance-Peg BUSD is a Binance product; it is not issued by Paxos nor regulated by the New York State Department of Financial Services.
8. Cardano (ADA)
Market cap: Over $17.146B
Charles Hoskinson, Ethereum’s co-founder, created Cardano in 2017. It’s the native cryptocurrency of the Cardano blockchain platform, and it uses proof-of-stake, not proof-of-work, to verify and process transactions.
Blockchains powered by proof-of-stake algorithms require less energy to verify blocks than their proof-of-work counterparts, because they can just choose one device in the network, instead of all of them, every time.
One Cardano cost 41p in late June 2022. It’s all-time high of £2.45 was in September 2021.
9. Solana (SOL)
Market cap: Over $13.906B
Along with Ethereum and Avalanche, the Solana blockchain platform was created to host decentralized applications. It will be released in 2020 with its own cryptocurrency.
One key advantage of Solana is its lower transaction fees than competitors which have, among other features, the ability to process up to 65,000 transactions per second due to a ‘proof-of-history’ verification process.
With this process, each block gets a ‘time-stamp,’ making it easy to trace the progression of transactions from one block to the next.
As of June 2022, Solana is worth thirty pounds and eighty-seven pence.
10. Dogecoin (DOGE)
Market cap: Over $9.897B
Originally it was nothing more than a lighthearted joke. But soon it became a serious financial instrument.
Dogecoin was established in late 2013. Its currency, using blockchain technology derived from Litecoin, is meant to have a near unlimited supply and is accompanied by a Shiba Inu dog logo. The crypto coin has been adopted by those new to cryptocurrency because of its playful and cute origins.