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Top cryptocurrencies by value in 2021: Bitcoin, Ether and more

TechRadar is supported by its audience. TechRadar does not endorse any specific cryptocurrencies or blockchain-based services and readers s...

TechRadar is supported by its audience. TechRadar does not endorse any specific cryptocurrencies or blockchain-based services and readers should not interpret TechRadar content as investment advice. Our reporters hold only small quantities of cryptocurrency (under $100 in value), as is necessary to perform wallet and exchange reviews, and do not hold shares in any publicly listed cryptocurrency companies.


Our list of the top cryptocurrencies ranks the world's largest coins by market capitalization, a figure that represents the combined value of all units of a particular coin in circulation.

While it'll be a long while before an altcoin unseats Bitcoin and Ether from the top two spots respectively, the rest of the top ten is relatively fluid thanks to the volatility of crypto as an asset class.

Given the pace at which the cryptocurrency rankings change, we'll be updating this guide each morning with the latest price figures.

Each cryptocurrency has its own distinct personality, so our list also provides a brief overview of each coin's origins, attributes and quirks.

If you're thinking about purchasing cryptocurrency, you’ll want to pick out the best wallet for storing your digital wealth and identify the best crypto exchange for your purposes.

  • To purchase cryptocurrency, you'll need to sign up with an exchange or trading platform such as Coinbase, eToro, Robinhood or SoFi.

Top cryptocurrencies by value

Bitcoin

(Image credit: Shutterstock / REDPIXEL.PL)

1. Bitcoin

The original cryptocurrency

Well-established
Transparent
Wide support
Extremely volatile

Price per unit: $38,370

Market capitalization: $720.2 billion

Bitcoin (BTC) is the world’s first, most famous and most valuable cryptocurrency. It first emerged in 2008 when a person or group known by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” published a whitepaper entitled Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system.

Bitcoin is the first notable application of blockchain technology - an immutable and time-stamped ledger of transactions, distributed across all members of a network - which has now been applied across a whole range of use cases.

The blockchain underpinning Bitcoin allows holders to send and receive funds without the intervention of any third party intermediary, such as a bank or payment provider.

The current valuation is the product of a bull run (or period of growth) extending back to November 2020. However, as investors found out the hard way in 2017, the value of Bitcoin price is also known to fall through the floor, wiping out billions of dollars in value.

  • Buy Bitcoin via Coinbase here

Ethereum

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Overearth)

2. Ether (Ethereum)

The cryptocurrency of the ‘world computer’

Extremely versatile
Strong community
Some use cases tricky to grasp

Price per unit: $2,600

Market capitalization: $303.8 billion

Ether (ETH) is the cryptocurrency that underpins Ethereum network, known colloquially as the “world computer”.

Launched in 2015, Ethereum took Bitcoin’s public blockchain model and added the ability to code automated agreements (called smart contracts) that execute automatically when a set of parameters are met.

This new blockchain network also introduced the concept of decentralized applications (Dapps), which make use of the distributed nature of the network, and it’s also the foundation on which the blossoming DeFi and NFT markets are built.

Ether is the fuel on which this whole operation runs, which means it has a deep pool of potential use cases. If you want to participate in the Ethereum ecosystem, purchasing ether could be a good place to start.

  • Buy Ether at Coinbase here

Tether

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Diamond Visuals)

3. Tether

The top cryptocurrency for payments

Stable price
Great for payments
Questions over reserve stock

Price per unit: $1 

Market capitalization: $60.1 billion

Tether (USDT) differs from the other cryptocurrencies on this list in that it is not subject to the same levels of volatility.

As a stablecoin (specifically, a fiat collateralized stablecoin), Tether is pegged against a stable asset. In this case, for every unit of Tether in circulation there is one US Dollar sitting in reserve, which means the price of the cryptocurrency maps the exact price of the fiat currency.

This consistency in value allows users to transact using Tether, content in the knowledge that purchases will have the equivalent dollar value the next day, or the next month.

Although there are many others in circulation, Tether is currently the largest stablecoin on the market, as well as the fifth largest cryptocurrency in the world by market capitalization.

Be warned, however, there are those that believe the quantity of Tether in circulation is not fully backed by dollars in the bank, despite what the issuer and its Bahamanian bank has to say. If this is ever proven, the price of USDT won’t remain stable for long.

  • Buy Tether at Binance here

Binance Coin

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Diego Ioppolo)

4. Binance coin

Utility coin, Ethereum killer?

DeFi functionality
Ethereum rival
Project is centralized

Price per unit: $345

Market capitalization: $53.5 billion

When it launched in 2017, Binance Coin (BNB) used the Ethereum network as a foundation, but has since become the native currency of the Binance Chain.

The coin is used to pay fees and make trades on Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange. Users are incentivized to do so by the opportunity to secure discounts.

One quality that sets Binance Coin apart from is that Binance has committed to using 20% of its profits to buy back and burn (destroy) BNB tokens. This process is designed to restrict supply and boost value, and will continue until 100 million tokens (half the total supply) have been burned.

In September last year, Binance launched the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), which boasts many of the same smart contract and DeFi functionalities as Ethereum and is based around BNB. It's also much faster than the Ethereum network.

However, while some have referred to BSC as an "Ethereum killer", others have registered concerns about the centralized nature of the project, which is managed and overseen by a single entity: Binance.

  • Buy Binance Coin at eToro here

Cardano

(Image credit: Shutterstock / AlekseyIvanov)

5. Ada (Cardano)

First peer-reviewed PoS blockchain network

Strong academic review process
Wide pool of use cases
Staking options
Ethereum has a head start

Price per unit: $1.56

Market capitalization: $50.3 billion

Launched in 2015, Cardano often draws comparisons with Ethereum, with which it shares a number of common attributes and facilities (e.g. smart contracts/Dapps). It’s founder, Charles Hoskinson, is also co-founder of the Ethereum project.

However, Cardano differs from other blockchain platforms in that it is not built atop the technical foundations of Bitcoin or any other network. It’s also said to be the first blockchain network to deploy a proof-of-stake mechanism (called Ouroboros) that has passed through full academic peer review.

Ada is the cryptocurrency underpinning the Cardano network, named after famous programmer Ada Lovelace. The currency can be used for transactions in the same was as any other crypto, but also gives holders a stake in the network, allowing them to vote on proposed technical changes.

Cardano is developed and maintained by a company called IOHK, which is also responsible for a number of other crypto-based products and services, as well as the Cardano Foundation and EMURGO. As with other similar projects, development is always ongoing.

  • Buy Cardano at Coinbase here

XRP

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Wit Olszewski)

6. XRP (Ripple)

Open-source and permissionless

For mainstream financial institutions
Simplify how financial payments are made
Ongoing legal battle

Price per unit: $0.99

Market capitalization: $46.3 billion

  • Buy XRP at eToro here

Dogecoin

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Margaret Jung)

7. Dogecoin

Meme cryptocurrency

It's a memecoin
It's a memecoin

Price per unit: $0.34

Market capitalization: $45.6 billion

As per the official website, “Dogecoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer digital currency that enables you to easily send money online”.

Launched in 2013 by IBM developer Billy Markus and Adobe data scientist Jackson Palmer, Dogecoin was supposed to satirize the online frenzy surrounding cryptocurrencies at the time.

Since then, however, it has become a cult symbol embraced by a loyal and increasingly large following. The currency has also been endorsed by a variety of celebrities, such as Snoop Dogg, Gene Simmons and, most notably, Elon Musk.

Dogecoin critics, of which there are plenty, claim the recent rise in price is completely detached from any feasible real-world value, dictated by the actions of a prominent minority on social media and a desire to cash in on the crypto bull run.

Others contend its simple vision and the lack of an underlying agenda have allowed the coin to become the focal point of a genuine cultural movement.

  • Buy Dogecoin at eToro here

Sources: CoinDesk, CoinMarketCap



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