Just how many cryptocurrencies are there to choose from? Believe it or not, tens of thousands according to some sources, and far less (well under 10K) according to others.
There is a fascinating upward trend over the years that crypto has been a going concern and for some investors the question isn’t really about “how many” but more about “what quality?” For others, the opposite applies–some invest for fun, others invest for profit, while still others look at Bitcoin, altcoins, and stablecoins as a curious experiment.
All of these investors learn a great deal about certain parts of crypto and find their interests and settle into them, while others choose to approach virtual currency like Ethereum on a more experimental basis. And as we’ll explore below, there is plenty out there to experiment with.
At the time of this writing, opinions vary on how many different types of crypto are out there. Before we look at the numbers current at press time, it helps to look back over the brief history of crypto (comparatively speaking) to observe trends that can help us understand today’s numbers a bit better.
As far back as 2018, the Motley Fool reported the existence of some 1,600 coins. Back then, crypto market capitalization was, according to the March 16, 2018 article by Matthew Frankel, just under $370 billion.
But that value is not spread evenly across all currencies–far from it. Only the top 20 coins carried the most value in 2018. How much? Just under 90% of the entire crypto market. That means that, according to Matthew Frankel’s calculations the other currencies were only worth some $40 billion out of $370 billion.
That might seem to be skewed to some but observing this is a very important clue for the newcomer to crypto about how this particular type of investment operates and under what conditions a new investor is entering the market.
With that notion in mind–that legacy data or long-tail data can help inform a new investor’s approach to crypto–let’s look at some of those top 20 performers from 2018:
- Bitcoin (BTC)
- Ethereum (ETH)
- Ripple (XRP)
- Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
- Litecoin (LTC)
- Cardano (ADA)
- NEO (NEO)
- Stellar (XLM)
- EOS (EOS)
- Monero (XMR)
- Dash (DASH)
- NEM (NEM)
- IOTA (MIOTA)
- Tether (USDT)
- Tron (TRX)
- Ethereum Classic (ETC)
While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good representation of the significant players back in 2018–these were considered the relevant cryptocurrencies operating in the space at the time. The thousands of others? Some don’t view them as being important at all. Others might have viewed them as an opportunity to speculate, like buying penny stocks.
Crypto After 2018
But what happened since 2018? The number of coins in the space have certainly increased. And the number of “unworthy” coins (again, in the eyes of some) has certainly increased. Try looking up ALL the virtual currencies online at a resource like CoinMarketCap, and you’ll click “load more” endlessly…
Investopedia speculates there are more than 10,000 virtual currencies in existence at press time. Who are among top 20 at the time of this writing?
- Binance Coin (BNB)
- Tether (USDT)
- Solana (SOL)
- Cardano (ADA)
- XRP (XRP)
- U.S. Dollar Coin (USDC)
- Polkadot (DOT)
- Dogecoin (DOGE)
Some new names in the 2021 list compared to 2018–what a difference a few years makes! Not for some of these players, but Dogecoin in particular is an important addition–especially since the coin was initially considered to be a joke based on a dog meme. But hype and investor enthusiasm has pushed Dogecoin into the top 20 cryptocurrency list.
And at press time there are still plenty of coins out there that have major investor excitement behind them while others do not. And there is a lot of speculation about “minor league coins” (our term) that are struggling to stay in the top 200 (ranking-wise).
Consider CoinmarketCap’s top 200 ranked currencies–coming in at #200 is (at press time) is Uquid Coin (UQC) which is priced at press time (these numbers will be old before you even read this) at just above $16.
Just above Uquid Coin in the ranking at #199? Molecular Future (MOF) priced at just under TWO DOLLARS. Does that sound like a no-brainer in terms of price and competitiveness? At first glance, perhaps.
Scarcity Versus Availability
But on a second look, we see that Uquid Coin (UQC) has (at press time) 10,000,000 coins in circulation. Compare that to Molecular Future (MOF) which has a whopping 87,000,000 coins in circulation.
The market cap for both of these coins–nearly the same at around $166,000,000. So in spite of what appears to be a major difference between these two, we see that these coins have more technically in common numbers-wise than it might appear.
In this particular case, the biggest difference is the scarcity of Uquid compared to the relative ubiquity of Molecular Future. And that’s a factor that’s important to crypto enthusiasts who are serious about their speculative investments–Even a beginner can see that the numbers for virtual currencies are a bit more complex than they might appear to be on the surface.
The Bottom Line?
And that’s why it pays to shop around, do your homework, and seriously research the numbers for any virtual currency or coin you want to invest your hard-earned money in. There may be thousands of options but like buying real-world currency the valuation and circulation of these coins may vary greatly. What looks like a real loser to a less-experienced investor may seem like a golden opportunity for another.
But you can’t see those opportunities without learning more about the digital “ecosystem” crypto operates in. Learn the ups and downs of your favorite crypto and you’re off to a good start learning how to be a more savvy digital investor or speculator.
Joe Wallace has covered real estate and financial topics, including crypto and NFTs since 1995. His work has appeared on Veteran.com, The Pentagon Channel, ABC and many print and online publications. Joe is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.