Cryptocurrency is still new to a lot of people. As it begins to establish itself as a new type of commodity, however, it’s attracting investors at a steady pace. Rest assured, cryptocurrency is still an uncertain market and one that is still working to establish itself. But as more people begin to eye these new-age currencies for speculation, rather than spending, a whole new investment arena is emerging.
Part of the intrigue of this new arena is that there are now countless cryptocurrencies to buy into. New ones arise just about constantly, meaning there’s always an opportunity to make a cheap investment and hope that it will eventually pay off. That said, people who are exploring cryptocurrency investment would also do well to familiarize themselves with some of the most prominent assets. Not only are these the most busily traded cryptocurrencies, but they also tend to set the tone for other, less valuable options.
With this in mind, here’s our look at the five essential coins to know if you’re new to cryptocurrency and considering an investment.
The 5 Most Important Cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin is still the most expensive cryptocurrency by a significant margin, as well as the one that’s most widely known around the world. So, naturally, it also tends to be the first cryptocurrency most people think of when they consider investing. The temptation is always there for some folks to buy into Bitcoin in the hopes of catching it on a massive spike — like the one that saw it reach almost $20,000 in value a few years ago. However, there are also important mistakes to avoid when trading bitcoin, as we’ve discussed in the past. These include viewing Bitcoin as a traditional currency, expecting transactions to always process quickly, and investing cash you might need in a hurry — all of which have to do with general caution and understanding of the market. However, it’s also important to remember that Bitcoin isn’t the only option in crypto investment – which brings us to the rest of the list!
Always among the first cryptocurrencies to be mentioned next to Bitcoin, Ethereum has both high value and a high market cap. It’s set apart from the vast majority of altcoins in these respects and is thus viewed as a strong asset presently. But Ethereum’s value also comes down to the fact that it’s the “largest blockchain optimized for programmability.” While Bitcoin serves one primary, distinct purpose, Ethereum is a network that can be customized and configured for — in theory — unlimited purposes. This is where a lot of people see opportunity in Ethereum. It’s a network that appears likely to grow over time and a very important one for any crypto enthusiast to keep a close eye on.
If you’re new to cryptocurrency, and more specifically trading Ripple, it’s current price might lead you to dismiss it out of hand. The currency (technically the Ripple XRP token) is with less than $0.30 at the time of this writing and is not too far off from its typical range. However, its market cap exceeds $13 billion, placing it behind only Bitcoin and Ethereum in this category. That makes it interesting to investors, as does the idea of Ripple XRP’s functionality once it’s more widely adopted. As a blockchain network designed to simplify transfers from one asset or currency to another, it’s a potential revolution in financial services industries.
Tether emerged as a unique asset among cryptocurrencies, even if it has since been mimicked by countless new competitors. And what it does is right in the name: Tether is a functionally a cryptocurrency, but one whose value is “tethered” to the U.S. Dollar. The point of this is to introduce an asset that is much more stable than standard cryptocurrencies, but which operates in the same way. To some, this setup actually means that Tether is not technically a cryptocurrency. However, it’s still an investable asset that is very much related to the category, and it’s become one of the most noteworthy digital currencies around.
ZCash is respectable from both a value and a market cap standpoint — but not exceptional in either respect. However, Zcash’s zero-knowledge proofs make it one of the most intriguing cryptocurrencies around (at least to true enthusiasts and people who study these kinds of things). Zero-knowledge proofs are basically alternative processes for verifying blockchain transactions and are designed to preserve a greater degree of privacy. In a sense, ZCash is a more private Bitcoin alternative. This makes it interesting in the present, but also sets it up for potential widespread adoption. If and when cryptocurrency catches on as more of a useful form of money, many might seek an option just like ZCash in order to maintain digital anonymity.