- Bitcoincash & bitcoingold
- Ripple (XRP)
- Dark coin (Dash)
- Name coin
In our opinion, the most relevant cryptocurrencies here in 2018 are:
- Bitcoin: Bitcoin is an easy pick. It was the first major usable cryptocurrency; it has the highest market cap; its coins trade at the highest cost of all cryptocurrencies (about USD 225 as of June 2015, but as high as $5,000 during early September 2017). Despite the big increase in price, Bitcoin seems to be the best choice for anyone entering the cryptocurrency space. It is the most familiar and invested-in coin. Primarily Bitcoin is the reason anyone is talking about cryptocurrency in the first place. You might not want to start a CPU-based Bitcoin mining company in 2017 or start buying coins for $5,000 each (which is fine since you can buy fractions of a coin) but it’s still going to take 1st place on our list.
- Litecoin: Litecoin is probably the second most important digital coin [true in 2015, it is still relevant today]. It had the third-highest market cap as of June 2015, but today it sits closer to 7. Despite the decline, CPU mining is still sort of possible, people know what a Litecoin is, it uses essentially the same technology of Bitcoin, and it costs about 1/50th – 1/100th of what Bitcoin does (depending on the day). A Litecoin is a lot like a Bitcoin before the whole ‘Silk Road‘ controversy, or as some people would say “a Litecoin is like a Bitcoin except with a value closer to what a reasonable person would expect a digital coin to have in a rational market.”
- Ethereum: Is probably the third most important coin [here in 2018, I’d argue that it is the second most important after Bitcoin]. Ethereum doesn’t have the longevity at the top like Litecoin, but it has some unique features and a market cap that make it a real contender. Most ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) use Ethereum. It has a less intimidating cost that Bitcoin and has the second highest market cap. On that note, Ethereum classic is also notable. Ethereum is a spin-off (aka “hard fork”) from what isn’t today called Ethereum classic (like how our next up coin, Bitcoin cash, is a spin-off of Bitcoin.) NOTE: Ethereum is a fork of another relevant coin called Ethereum Classic.
- BitcoinCash and Bitcoin Gold: BitcoinCash is a spin-off of bitcoin, meant to have faster transactions, voted on and implemented by the Bitcoin community. Bitcoin Gold is also a spin-off, the goal of that coin is to have a coin that can be mined with a GPU (graphics processor, like the ones AMD and NVIDIA make). It is too early to be sure, but these coins have a high market cap and could shape up to be top players over the long run. Keep your eye on them, but don’t expect them to be guaranteed the staying power of Bitcoin. They are interesting altcoins, but it’s unlikely either will ever truly challenge Bitcoin for the top spot. The concept here is that Bitcoin is so relevant that it is important to keep an eye on its forks.
- Ripple (XRP): Ripple (properly known as XRP) tends to have a steady price due to its large supply. It has had staying power over time. Its a popular and speedy alternative to Bitcoin that often is less volatile than other coins toward the top of the list.
- IOTA: IOTA is a popular coin with a large supply (meaning there are many MIOTAs out there). It has one of the highest market caps today due to the tech behind it being embraced by some big-name companies like Cisco Systems Inc, Volkswagen AG, and Samsung Group. Any coin in the top 10 by market cap is worth watching. IOTA is no exception.
- Darkcoin (Dash): Darkcoin, known as Dash as of March 25, 2015 (dash=digital cash), but previously known as XCoin, has unique functionality. XCoin was developed by Evan Duffield who wanted to improve on Bitcoin but didn’t have the pull to do so. Thus, he developed his own coin. It takes less power to mine Dash than most coins. Using less energy to mine is important because mining coins is one of the most wasteful processes you can imagine. The wasteful mining process is key to security and stability of all coins that use a “proof-of-work” system. It prevents people from mining too fast. However, environmentally, it’s a nightmare. In 2015 we had said, “People know what a Darkcoin is. Hopefully, this familiarity rolls over to Dash” (today few remember XCoin and Darkcoin, and Dash is a well-known crypto). Back in 2015, Dash was one of the higher valued coins. Today that is still true, and Dash has performed almost as well competitors like Ethereum.
- Tether: Tether is meant to reflect the price of the US dollar. There are some criticisms to consider. But if you want a stable coin for temporary use, Tether tends to be a good choice. It isn’t an investment; it is a place to park your value in crypto when you are in-between coins.
Below are coins that are no longer on our list of suggestions. They looked great in 2015, but they didn’t stand up over time. Consider we noted Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dash in 2015, and we noted the coins below. If you invested in them at the time, you did very well. That said, being off the list doesn’t make these coins a bad bet; it just means they aren’t as attractive as they once were:
- Namecoin: In 2015 Namecoin looked promising, here in 2017 there is a little less hype. Still, Namecoin is notable. Namecoin is almost the same as Bitcoin. It was the first “fork” of the Bitcoin software. It’s based on Bitcoin and has the same unit cap, but has a few tweaks in its data storage. Namecoin was originally just going to be an upgrade to Bitcoin, but people were nervous that it would pose issues. So Namecoin is similar to Bitcoin, but like all the currencies that are not-Bitcoin, it is worth a fraction of Bitcoin. Its solid background and reasonable price point make it a relatively good coin to invest in. Of all the coins noted so far, Namecoin has performed the most poorly so far. It is still priced very low in USD.
- Nxt: Not only does this nifty coin sport a name similar to Steve Job’s other company; it uses a cool and different algorithm for producing coins. This algorithm – an implementation of a proof-of-stake scheme rather than proof-of-work – may be less burdensome on the environment and has long-term potential. It may be worth a tad less than the other coins we recommend; it is worth about a penny on the dollar on a good day. However, less cost per coin means you have less to lose if the coin value deflates. Nxt is like Namecoin. It had a super cool code but didn’t though perform at the same level as other cryptos (until late 2017 where it saw a notable price hike). It is still priced very low in USD.
- Peercoin: Like Nxt, Peercoin (abbreviated PPC) uses a proof-of-stake system; in fact, it was the first proof-of-stake coin. It’s worth about $0.40 on the USD and has a market cap of almost ten million. This coin has everything going for it and might be a smart bet as far as cryptocurrency goes. As an bonus to the confidence and quality of the coin, Peercoin was developed by Sunny King. Sunny King is, or might be, the person who created Bitcoin or another coin, or maybe Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. It’s hard to tell as the culture of cryptocurrency puts importance on peer-to-peer, code, and coin over developers. Still, he is important, and like-it-or-not little things like this could be the deciding factor in whether a coin sinks or swims in the new market. Peercoin has a story like Nxt and Namecoin where they are long-running coins.
- Dogecoin: Dogecoin (like the “Doge” internet meme about a dog and misspelling) had the 7th highest Market cap as of June 2015. In 2017 it was still a contender although it was more of one early in 2017. Individual coins aren’t worth as much as other coins on the list, but it’s value and popularity have remained relatively steady despite notable highs and lows. Dogecoin uses the same essential technology as Bitcoin with a few important technical distinctions. Like the failed Coinye West, Dogecoin was just in it for the lolz (i.e., it was created as a joke), but unlike Coinye, Dogecoin became inexplicably popular. Why do we suggest a joke coin? Because it’s a popular coin and today the only funny part about it is the name (and it’s mascot and backstory). It’s a lot like Litecoin — a fairly priced coin with some degree consumer confidence. Dogecoin has, one might argue, turned their comedic origins into an excuse to make their coin “fun and friendly,” which was a smart long-term move. It’s also one of the only major cryptocurrencies with a .com Top-Level Domain name and is one of the few that attempts to reach an audience outside of techies and cryptography nerds. As of September 2017, Dogecoin had taken a beating in value. One could argue that its roots as a joke coin weren’t as great a long-term strategy as it had once seemed (although one could argue the volatility it has seen is just business as usual in the cryptocurrency space.)
Other honorable mentions: Cardano (ADA), Stellar Lumens (XLM), Zero-ex or 0x (ZRX), Tron (TRX), Zcash, EOS, NEO, NEM, Basic Attention Token (BAT), Monero (XMR), and a few others all have decent values, familiarity, and respectable market caps. Some even have better exchange rates currently then our top picks for coins, and who knows, any of these could be a top coin in the future. So, make sure not to dismiss the other forerunners (or even some odd altcoins with interesting code or large user bases are worth keeping an eye on). We could easily see one a given existing altcoin or even a new coin spring up to the top of the list at any moment (for example Verge accomplished this during an altcoin boom in 2017 – 2018). The cryptocurrency market is young and volatile, so anything could happen over time. The past is a good indicator of the future in crypto, but things change and the future is truly any coin’s game.
TIP: The top coins by market cap are usually the best bets. Most of the top coins today were toward the top of the list back in 2015. There are a few coins high on the list today that you should be wary of, for example, Bitconnect. There are a few new ones, like the Bitcoin forks, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold, that are new to the list. Meanwhile, there are a few that didn’t stand up to the test of time, like Peercoin. As a rule of thumb, historically speaking, the higher the coin is on the list, the more solid it is an investment over time.
Note: In most cases, you’ll have a hard time trading anything other than Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum for actual fiat (fiat being the centrally issued money of nations). You can trade most coins at online cryptocurrency exchanges, and you can use some coins to buy certain things online, but converting an altcoin into fiat currency means converting to a major coin first (BTC or ETH generally). A coin having a theoretical value in USD doesn’t mean that anyone is going to give you USD or pay that rate for your coins. This is more like selling penny stocks or trading one baseball card for another than actually having money on hand. So, keep that and the volatility of the markets and coins in mind when investing.