Bitcoin gets all the headlines when people talk about cryptocurrencies, but there are literally thousands of other options when it comes to these digital currencies. In fact, cryptos that aren’t Bitcoin are usually considered an “also ran” – what are called “altcoins,” or alternatives to Bitcoin.
While Bitcoin may be the first major cryptocurrency to hit the market – it debuted in 2009 – many others have become highly popular, even if not quite as large as the original.
Here are the largest cryptocurrencies by the total dollar value of the coins in existence, that is, the market capitalization, or market cap. Data is from CoinMarketCap.com, as of Sept. 15, 2021.
Largest cryptocurrencies by market cap
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
- Price: $47,991
- Market cap: $907 billion
As the harbinger of the cryptocurrency era, Bitcoin is still the coin people generally reference when they talk about digital currency. Its mysterious creator — allegedly Satoshi Nakamoto — debuted the currency in 2009 and it’s been on a roller-coaster ride since then. However, it wasn’t until 2017 that the cryptocurrency broke into popular consciousness.
2. Ethereum (ETH)
- Price: $3,538
- Market cap: $415 billion
Ethereum — the name for the cryptocurrency platform — is the second name you’re most likely to recognize in the crypto space. The system allows you to use ether (the currency) to perform a number of functions, but the smart contract aspect of Ethereum helps make it a popular currency.
3. Cardano (ADA)
- Price: $2.52
- Market cap: $81 billion
Cardano is the cryptocurrency platform behind ada, the name of the currency. Created by the co-founder of Ethereum, Cardano also uses smart contracts, enabling identity management.
4. Binance Coin (BNB)
- Price: $430
- Market cap: $73 billion
Binance Coin is the cryptocurrency issued by Binance, among the largest crypto exchanges in the world. While originally created as a token to pay for discounted trades, Binance Coin can now be used for payments as well as purchasing various goods and services.
5. Tether (USDT)
- Price: $1.00
- Market cap: $68 billion
Tether’s price is anchored at $1 per coin. That’s because it is what’s called a stablecoin. Stablecoins are tied to the value of a specific asset, in Tether’s case, the U.S. Dollar. Tether often acts as a medium when traders move from one cryptocurrency to another. Rather than move back to dollars, they use Tether. However, some people are concerned that Tether isn’t safely backed by dollars held in reserve but instead uses a short-term form of unsecured debt.
6. XRP (XRP)
- Price: $1.12
- Market cap: $52 billion
Formerly known as Ripple and created in 2012, XRP offers a way to pay in many different real-world currencies. Ripple can be useful in cross-border transactions and uses a trust-less mechanism to facilitate payments.
7. Solana (SOL)
- Price: $160.64
- Market cap: $48 billion
Launched in March 2020, Solana is a newer cryptocurrency and it touts its speed at completing transactions and the overall robustness of its “web-scale” platform. The issuance of the currency, called SOL, is capped at 480 million coins.
8. Polkadot (DOT)
- Price: $36.56
- Market cap: $37 billion
Launched in May 2020, Polkadot is a digital currency that connects the technology of blockchain from many different cryptocurrencies. A co-founder of Ethereum is one of Polkadot’s inventors, and some industry watchers believe Polkadot is looking to dethrone Ethereum.
9. Dogecoin (DOGE)
- Price: $0.24
- Market cap: $32 billion
Originally created as a joke after the run-up in Bitcoin, Dogecoin takes its name from an internet meme featuring a Shiba Inu dog. Unlike many digital currencies limiting the number of coins in existence, Dogecoin has unlimited issuance. It can be used for payments or sending money.
10. USD Coin (USDC)
- Price: $1.00
- Market cap: $29 billion
Like Tether, USD Coin is a stablecoin pegged to the dollar, meaning that its value should not fluctuate. The currency’s founders say that it’s backed by fully reserved assets or those with “equivalent fair value” and those assets are held in accounts with regulated U.S. institutions.
11. Uniswap (UNI)
- Price: $25.91
- Market cap: $16 billion
Launched in November 2018, Uniswap is a decentralized network that runs on the Ethereum blockchain and can act as an exchange for other coins, in contrast to centralized exchanges such as Coinbase and Binance.
12. Terra (LUNA)
- Price: $36.73
- Market cap: $15 billion
Using its currency Luna, Terra is a platform that helps backstop a range of stablecoins based on real currencies such as the dollar or euro. Terra helps stabilize the price of stablecoins through various technical means, and it also supports smart contracts.
The cryptocurrency market is a Wild West, so those speculating in these digital assets should not put in more money than they can afford to lose. Volatility can be intense, with crypto assets fluctuating significantly even in a single day. And individual investors can be trading against highly sophisticated players, making it a fraught experience for novices.
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Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.