From Bitcoin and Ethereum to Dogecoin and Tether, there are thousands of different cryptocurrencies, which can make it overwhelming when you’re first getting started in the world of crypto. To help you get your bearings, these are the top 10 cryptocurrencies based on their market capitalization, or the total value of all of the coins currently in circulation.
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
- Market cap: Over $730 billion
Created in 2009 by someone under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin (BTC) is the original cryptocurrency. As with most cryptocurrencies, BTC runs on a blockchain, or a ledger logging transactions distributed across a network of thousands of computers. Because additions to the distributed ledgers must be verified by solving a cryptographic puzzle, a process called proof of work, Bitcoin is kept secure and safe from fraudsters.
Bitcoin’s price has skyrocketed as it’s become a household name. In May 2016, you could buy a Bitcoin for about $500. As of Feb. 1, 2022, a single Bitcoin’s price was over $38,000. That’s growth of about 7,600%.
Related: How To Buy Bitcoin
2. Ethereum (ETH)
- Market cap: Over $327 billion
Both a cryptocurrency and a blockchain platform, Ethereum is a favorite of program developers because of its potential applications, like so-called smart contracts that automatically execute when conditions are met and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Ethereum has also experienced tremendous growth. From April 2016 to February 2022, its price went from about $11 to over $2,700, increasing nearly 25,000%.
Related: How To Buy Ethereum
3. Tether (USDT)
- Market cap: Over $78 billion
Unlike some other forms of cryptocurrency, Tether is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by fiat currencies like U.S. dollars and the Euro and hypothetically keeps a value equal to one of those denominations. In theory, this means Tether’s value is supposed to be more consistent than other cryptocurrencies, and it’s favored by investors who are wary of the extreme volatility of other coins.
4. Binance Coin (BNB)
- Market cap: Over $63 billion
Since its launch in 2017, Binance Coin has expanded past merely facilitating trades on Binance’s exchange platform. Now, it can be used for trading, payment processing or even booking travel arrangements. It can also be traded or exchanged for other forms of cryptocurrency, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin.
Its price in 2017 was just $0.10; by Feb. 1, 2022, it had risen to around $377, a gain of approximately 377,000%.
Related: How To Buy Cryptocurrency
5. U.S. Dollar Coin (USDC)
- Market cap: Over $50 billion
Like Tether, USD Coin (USDC) is a stablecoin, meaning it’s backed by U.S. dollars and aims for a 1 USD to 1 USDC ratio. USDC is powered by Ethereum, and you can use USD Coin to complete global transactions.
6. Cardano (ADA)
- Market cap: Over $35 billion
Somewhat later to the crypto scene, Cardano is notable for its early embrace of proof-of-stake validation. This method expedites transaction time and decreases energy usage and environmental impact by removing the competitive, problem-solving aspect of transaction verification present in platforms like Bitcoin. Cardano also works like Ethereum to enable smart contracts and decentralized applications, which are powered by ADA, its native coin.
Cardano’s ADA token has had relatively modest growth compared to other major crypto coins. In 2017, ADA’s price was $0.02. As of Feb. 1, 2022, its price was at $1.05. This is an increase of 5,150%.
7. Solana (SOL)
- Market cap: Over $33.5 billion
Developed to help power decentralized finance (DeFi) uses, decentralized apps (DApps) and smart contracts, Solana runs on a unique hybrid proof-of-stake and proof-of-history mechanisms that help it process transactions quickly and securely. SOL, Solana’s native token, powers the platform.
When it launched in 2020, SOL’s price started at $0.77. By Feb. 1, 2022, its price was around $100, a gain of almost 13,000%.
8. XRP (XRP)
- Market cap: Over $29 billion
Created by some of the same founders as Ripple, a digital technology and payment processing company, XRP can be used on that network to facilitate exchanges of different currency types, including fiat currencies and other major cryptocurrencies.
At the beginning of 2017, the price of XRP was $0.006. As of Feb. 1, 2022, its price reached $0.62, equal to a rise of more than 10,000%.
9. Terra (LUNA)
- Market cap: Over $21 billion
Terra is a blockchain payment platform for stablecoins that relies on keeping a balance between two types of cryptocurrencies. Terra-backed stablecoins, such as TerraUSD, are tied to the value of physical currencies. Their counterweight, Luna, powers the the Terra platform and is used to mint more Terra stablecoins.
Terra stablecoins and Luna work in concert according to supply and demand: When a stablecoin’s price rises above its tied currency’s value, users are incentivized to burn their Luna to create more of that Terra stablecoin. Likewise, when its value falls compared to its base currency, this encourages users to burn their Terra stablecoins to mint more Luna. As adoption of the Terra platforms grows, so too does the value of Luna.
From Jan. 3, 2021, when its price was $0.64, Luna has risen almost 8,000% to $51.39 just over a year later.
10. Polkadot (DOT)
- Market cap: Over $19 billion
Cryptocurrencies may use any number of blockchains; Polkadot (and its namesake crypto) aims to integrate them by creating a cryptocurrency network that connects the various blockchains so they can work together. This integration may change how cryptocurrencies are managed and has spurred impressive growth since Polkadot’s launch in 2020.
Between September 2020 and Feb. 1, 2022, its price grew about 565%, from $2.93 to $19.49.