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Key points

  • Bitcoin was the original cryptocurrency that launched in January 2009.
  • Countless coins are traded on the crypto market.
  • Most cryptocurrencies hold small market capitalizations.

The cryptocurrency market is known for its volatility and unpredictability. But it has also generated incredible gains for long-term investors. Crypto bulls believe the sky’s the limit for crypto prices.

Though thousands of cryptocurrencies are available today, bitcoin and ethereum still dominate the crypto world. Their market capitalizations comprise about 73% of the $2.34 trillion global crypto market.

Here’s a list of the 10 largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, excluding stablecoins.

1. Bitcoin (BTC)

Price: $65,261.26

Market cap: $1.3 trillion

Year-over-year return: 147%

Since its creation in 2009, bitcoin remains the most popular and valuable cryptocurrency. Bitcoin was created by a person, or possibly a group, using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s a blockchain-based, decentralized transaction verification system that has revolutionized how we think about digital security.

Bitcoin’s decentralization and transparency make it appealing to investors and users. But critics have raised concerns about its energy-intensive, proof-of-work consensus mechanism and difficulties scaling the network. Several large-scale crypto projects also have faster transaction speeds than bitcoin. Other blockchains even have special designs to improve bitcoin’s functionality.

2. Ethereum (ETH)

Price: $3,407.32

Market cap: $416.6 billion

Year-over-year return: 97%

Ethereum was one of the first altcoins. An altcoin is an alternative to bitcoin. The leading altcoin debuted in 2015 and ranks second to bitcoin in market capitalization.

What sets the ethereum blockchain apart is its introduction of smart contracts. These contracts are pieces of code that run decentralized applications. The ethereum blockchain now supports over 4,400 dApps and developer tools.

The native cryptocurrency of the ethereum network is ether. In 2023, ethereum transitioned from a proof-of-work consensus mechanism to a less energy-intensive, proof-of-stake transaction system. Ethereum is now a greener investment than bitcoin.

3. BNB (BNB)

Price: $583.79

Market cap: $86.2 billion

Year-over-year return: 140%

BNB is the native token of Binance, one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges. The crypto was initially created on the ethereum network but now resides on Binance’s blockchain. It’s used for a range of transactions and applications. The token even gives users discounted fees on the Binance platform.

Like other crypto exchanges, Binance has been caught in the global regulatory crypto crackdown in recent years. In 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued Binance, accusing it of violating securities laws.

4. Solana (SOL)

Price: $137.19

Market cap: $63.4 billion

Year-over-year return: 782%

Designed to compete with the ethereum network, solana launched in March 2020. The crypto’s blockchain supports dApps, smart contracts and nonfungible tokens. SOL has a unique hybrid proof-of-stake and proof-of-history verification system. This hybrid system is a selling point because it makes solana cheaper and faster than ethereum.

Unfortunately, reliability has been solana’s downfall. The network has suffered several major outages since the beginning of 2022. At one point in February 2023, it was down for nearly 19 hours. Solana must improve stability and regain user trust to be an “ethereum killer.”

5. XRP (XRP)

Price: $0.50

Market cap: $27.5 billion

Year-over-year return: 1%

Developed by Ripple Labs, this global payments network aims to serve as an alternative to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. SWIFT is an international system banks and other financial institutions use to facilitate money transfers. But Ripple asserts that its technology offers a faster, cheaper and more transparent option than SWIFT. The native token on the blockchain is XRP.

In 2023, Ripple scored a partial victory over the SEC when a court ruled that XRP is “not necessarily a security.” But the SEC still seeks to enforce a nearly $2 billion penalty on Ripple. It alleges that the sales of XRP to institutional investors violated securities laws.

6. Toncoin (TON)

Price: $7.21

Market cap: $17.6 billion

Year-over-year return: 414%

Toncoin is a “layer 1” token developed in 2018 by encrypted messaging company Telegram. The toncoin network is known for its smart contract capability. It also has an advantage over ethereum with its impressive blockchain transaction speed of five seconds.

Toncoin’s speed makes it extremely useful. But its long-term success hinges on the network attracting more developers and growing its user base. Toncoin’s price and visibility got a boost from reports of Telegram considering an initial public offering. A successful Telegram IPO likely wouldn’t impact TON demand. But it could draw media attention to the crypto.

7. Dogecoin (DOGE)

Price: $0.12

Market cap: $17.4 billion

Year-over-year return: 94%

Dogecoin was created in 2013 as a parody of bitcoin. But dogecoin enthusiasts argue that the popular meme coin is a legitimate investment. The crypto has the backing of several high-profile supporters.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is among the cryptocurrency’s most visible investors. By simply mentioning the crypto, he has triggered extreme volatility in dogecoin prices. Musk faces a lawsuit by dogecoin investors who allege he illegally manipulated prices. Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban is also a dogecoin supporter.

Another thing to note: DOGE has a valuable online brand and a famous Shiba Inu mascot.

8. Cardano (ADA)

Price: $0.37

Market cap: $13.4 billion

Year-over-year return: 44%

Cardano is a decentralized proof-of-stake blockchain that debuted in September 2017. The crypto is designed to be more energy-efficient than bitcoin and other proof-of-work blockchains. From the start, cardano’s founder, Charles Hoskinson, co-founder of ethereum, boosted its credibility.

Like ethereum, cardano is focused on functionality, appealing to developers building dApps and verifiable smart contracts. ADA is the primary cryptocurrency used on the network to run dApps and facilitate transactions. By staking cardano, users can help verify the network’s transactions. They then earn additional tokens as a reward for participating in the proof-of-stake system.

9. Shiba Inu (SHIB)

Price: $0.000018

Market cap: $10.5 billion

Year-over-year return: 149%

Shiba Inu is a popular meme coin created in 2020 by an anonymous founder known as Ryoshi. Its name and mascot are an obvious response to the success of dogecoin. DOGE also has a Shiba Inu dog mascot.

Unlike dogecoin, Shiba Inu is built on ethereum and can run smart contracts and dApps. The meme coin has even advanced to become one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies in the world. It has also gained an online cult following. Active members of the SHIB community are known as the SHIBArmy.

10. Avalanche (AVAX)

Price: $26.00

Market cap: $10.2 billion

Year-over-year return: 130%

Avalanche is a 2020-launched ethereum network competitor. Its goal is to create the fastest, most secure network that supports smart contracts, dApps and autonomous blockchains.

AVAX is the native token of the avalanche network. Avalanche users can vote on platform governance and pay transaction fees using the token. Coin creation is limited to 720 million tokens. Avalanche users can vote to alter the rate that AVAX is created. This gives them control over the crypto’s inflation rate. AVAX also has a unique consensus mechanism for verifying transactions. The process involves a sufficient majority of validators approving a transaction.

*Market caps and pricing are sourced from CoinMarketCap.com, current as of 8:07 a.m. ET on June 18, 2024.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital asset investors can buy and trade on crypto exchanges. While thousands of cryptocurrencies have unique aspects, many share common traits.

Cryptocurrencies are typically considered alternatives to fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar. A government or central bank normally backs fiat currencies. Most cryptos are decentralized. This means they don’t have government backing and users don’t need a bank to complete transactions.

Crypto transactions are typically secured via a blockchain-based consensus mechanism. Cryptos leverage the power of distributed peer-to-peer computer networks. Their speed and security stem from their unique software protocols.

What is crypto trading?

Crypto trading involves buying and selling cryptocurrencies to generate profits from the transactions. There are several strategies for crypto trading:

  • Long-term traders buy and hold crypto, hoping its popularity and price will trend higher over the years or decades.
  • Crypto swing traders attempt to capitalize on market trends and momentum by buying and selling cryptocurrencies over a period of days or weeks.
  • Crypto day traders aim to buy and sell within a single-day period.
  • Crypto scalp traders attempt to buy and sell cryptos throughout the day to accumulate many minimal gains.

Pros and cons of crypto trading

To be a good crypto trader, you must treat the endeavor as your primary job.

“Because the crypto market is so volatile, the rewards from trading can be immense — but so too are the risks,” said Christian Quiver, CEO of League.Tech.

Crypto trading has risks and challenges you should understand before placing an order.

Here are several pros and cons of crypto trading:

Pros

  • Most top cryptos have solid long-term performance.
  • Supply restrictions limit dilution.
  • Demand for cryptocurrencies could grow significantly as institutional investment increases.

Cons

  • The crypto market has a record of extreme volatility and unpredictability.
  • Crypto may face growing regulatory scrutiny, including potential government bans.
  • Crypto doesn’t represent ownership in tangible goods or revenue-generating companies.

How to buy cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies trade on exchanges, similar to stocks. But not all exchanges and brokerages support cryptocurrencies, especially altcoins.

To buy cryptocurrency, first identify a broker or exchange that offers crypto trading. Leading crypto brokers include SoFi and Robinhood. Popular cryptocurrency exchanges include Binance and Coinbase.

Steps to open a cryptocurrency exchange account

Once you choose a crypto broker or exchange, you must create and verify a trading account. The process may vary depending on the platform. But it typically includes the following steps:

  1. Create an account. You may need to choose the appropriate account type and submit personal information.
  2. Verify your identity. This process may involve submitting a copy of a bank statement, photo ID or other documents.
  3. Read and agree to a user agreement. User agreements typically spell out the terms of service associated with your account. These include any penalties or fees you may need to understand.
  4. Link a payment method. Choose a bank account or other account type to link to your crypto trading account. This will allow you to transfer money in and out of the account.
  5. Fund your account. Consider how much money you want to start with in your crypto trading account. Then, initiate a transfer from your linked account.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

It’s relatively cheap and easy to create a new cryptocurrency. So there’s a low barrier to entry. Many crypto projects have also sought to improve upon bitcoin over the years. These projects have unique aspects to their designs.

Bitcoin, ethereum and other top cryptos have historically been good investments over the long term. But cryptocurrency doesn’t yet have a proven track record as an investment over several decades. It’s extremely volatile, so check to see if investing in crypto fits your risk profile.

Bitcoin and ethereum dominate the global cryptocurrency market cap in the top two spots. Beyond them, BNB, solana and XRP jostle for position among the top 10 cryptos.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy. The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Wayne Duggan

BLUEPRINT

Wayne Duggan is a regular contributor for Forbes Advisor and U.S. News and World Report and has been a staff writer for Benzinga since 2014. He is an expert in the psychological challenges of investing and frequently reports on breaking market news and analyst commentary related to popular stocks. Some of his prior work includes contributing news and analysis to Seeking Alpha, InvestorPlace.com, Motley Fool, and the Lightspeed Active Trading blog. He’s the author of the book "Beating Wall Street With Common Sense," which focuses on practical investing strategies to outperform the stock market. He resides in Biloxi, Mississippi

Farran Powell

BLUEPRINT

Farran Powell is the lead editor of investing at ӣƵ Blueprint. She was previously the assistant managing editor of investing at U.S. News and World Report. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including TheStreet, Mansion Global, CNN, CNN Money, DNAInfo, Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and the New York Daily News. She holds a BSc from the London School of Economics and an MA from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @farranpowell.