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.
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 March 1, 2022, a single Bitcoin’s price was over $44,000. That’s growth of about 7,800%.
Related: How To Buy Bitcoin
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 the beginning of March 2022, its price went from about $11 to over $3,000, increasing more than 27,000%.
Related: How To Buy Ethereum
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.
The Binance Coin is a form of cryptocurrency that you can use to trade and pay fees on Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world.
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.
BNB’s price in 2017 was just $0.10. By the beginning of March 2022, its price had risen to around $413, a gain of approximately 410,000%.
Related: How To Buy Cryptocurrency
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 March, 2022, its price reached $0.80, equal to a rise of more than 12,600%.
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 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, to the beginning of March 2022, Luna has risen over 14,200% to $92.
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 March 1, 2022, its price was at $0.99. This is an increase of 4,850%.
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 March 1, 2022, its price was around $101, a gain of nearly 13,000%.
Polkadot (DOT), founded in the year 2016, is a unique blockchain interoperability protocol designed to connect different chains together. It also allows exchanging data and processing transactions for parachains, or parallel blockchains without compromising their security. Developers can create their own blockchains while using the Polkadot security.
The core founder of Ethereum, Gavin Wood created Polkadot. The exciting feature of DOT is that it has no hard limit on its total supply. Rather, a new token is constantly in circulation.
Polkadot’s price reached its heights in May 2020 at $6.30 and later in May 2021, the price hit its all-time high of $55.11.
Litecoin (LTC), an open-source blockchain project launched in 2011, was created by former crypto exchange Coinbase software engineer Charlie Lee. It was one of the initial cryptocurrencies whose code is imitated from Bitcoin’s. Despite the fact that it has similarities with Bitcoin, it is developed to have a faster transaction confirmation time. It can be used as an avenue for paying people around the world without a mediator. LTC is frequently considered as “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.”
Litecoin has a total round-off supply of 84 million tokens. In May 2021, it recorded its lifetime high of $413.47 but it dropped by over 50%. There are a growing number of merchants that undertake Litecoin. It has a per token value of around $106, the 21st-largest cryptocurrency in the world.
Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, FL. She specializes in helping people finance their education and manage debt.
John Schmidt is the Assistant Assigning Editor for investing and retirement. Before joining Forbes Advisor, John was a senior writer at Acorns and editor at market research group Corporate Insight. His work has appeared in CNBC + Acorns’s Grow, MarketWatch and The Financial Diet.