The 10 Most Popular Cryptocurrencies, and What You Should Know About Each Before You Invest

What do Vladimir Putin and Burger King have in common? 

For starters, they both have a cryptocurrency named after them. Actually, PutinCoin and Whoppercoin might be the only thing they have in common. But their namesake cryptocurrencies are among the thousands of different virtual currencies making up a growing marketplace grabbing investors’ attention.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have a growing track record of holding and increasing in value over time, though recent dips have wracked the market, while lesser-known cryptos are considered much more speculative and unpredictable. And while PutinCoin and Whoppercoin belong to a category of cryptocurrencies marked more for their absurdity than their potential as either an investment or cryptocurrency, they show just how unique different types of cryptocurrencies can be.

  • The Most Popular Cryptocurrencies
  • Decentralized Finance
  • Digital Gold
  • Digital Cash or Internet Money
  • Software Platforms 
  • Stablecoin or Digital Fiat
  • Memecoins, and Other Strange Cryptocurrencies

In general, cryptocurrencies can be grouped by utility: What is the purpose of the cryptocurrency? What is its value proposition? What is it for?

“They all have different utilities, they all have different founders who have different visions for where that cryptocurrency is going,” says Mike Uehlein, founder and financial planner of WealthU advisors. Uehlein regularly talks to clients about investing in cryptocurrency. 

The Most Popular Cryptocurrencies

There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, most with very little value and unclear potential. Many advisors recommend investors stick to Bitcoin and Ethereum — if any — and pass on the smaller cryptos. 

Leading cryptocurrency news outlet CoinDesk maintains a Coindesk 20 list of the most popular cryptocurrencies currently being bought and sold. This list includes cryptocurrency assets and networks by their most common names. Some, like Bitcoin (BTC), have one name for both the blockchain network and the cryptocurrency. Others, like Ethereum, are named for the broader blockchain network, but have a different name for their associated native cryptocurrency (Ether, or ETC, in the case of Ethereum).

Updated quarterly, the list ranks cryptocurrencies based on dollar volume and other data from third-party cryptocurrency exchanges, where people can buy and sell different cryptocurrencies.

  1. Bitcoin
  2. Ethereum
  3. XRP
  4. Cardano
  5. Stellar
  6. USD Coin
  7. Chainlink
  8. Uniswap
  9. Polkadot
  10. Bitcoin Cash

Note: This list was last updated – using the Coindesk 20 – on July 1, 2021.

1. Bitcoin

As the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC) is also the most popular and highly valued, despite high volatility over the course of its history. Bitcoin was initially created to be used as a digital payment system, but experts say it is still too volatile to be used for that.

2. Ethereum

Ether (ETH) is the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network, an open-source blockchain upon which developers can build apps and other cryptocurrencies. It’s also the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, behind Bitcoin. Ether’s value has risen sharply since its creation in 2013, to nearly $3,000 for one token as of late May, but still lags well behind Bitcoin’s value of nearly $40,000 per coin. 

3. XRP

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