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TABLE OF CONTENTS

How Many Types of Cryptocurrency Are There?

4.5
| by
Lim Yu Qian
-

What are Crypto Types?

Crypto can be organized into types, based on shared characteristics and purposes at both the protocol or network level, and the token level. Given crypto’s rapid growth, crypto types are an increasingly important tool for analyzing the similarities and differences between projects, and understanding how they fit into the overall crypto stack. 

While crypto participants have yet to agree on many terminologies and classifications, there are efforts underway to seek greater clarity and alignment. Besides the GCCS, other classification methodologies that have been proposed include Datonomy, from Goldman Sachs, MSCI and Coin Metrics, and CoinDesk’s Digital Asset Classification Standard (DACS). 

Common Mistakes in Defining Types of Crypto

The frequently asked question ‘how many types of cryptocurrency are there?’ is misleading, and a better question is ‘how many types of crypto are there?’. This is because crypto is a broader term for any blockchain-based asset, whereas cryptocurrency has evolved to become a subset of crypto, even though the two terms are still used interchangeably.

The most common mistake is to list top crypto assets as cryptocurrency types, such as Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Tether (USDT) and USD Coin (USDC). Such information is wrong in two ways: (1) Cryptocurrency refers to blockchain-based cash or precious metals, with BTC being the best example, as it is widely considered digital gold. Meanwhile, ETH is more accurately described as being a native currency for the Ethereum network. (2) USDT and USDC are both fiat-collateralized stablecoins, and it is confusing to say that they are individual types of crypto.

Another common mistake is referring to the number of crypto coins and tokens, as being the same as the number of crypto types. Having 10,207 coins tracked on CoinGecko does not mean that there are 10,207 types of crypto. It is inaccurate to consider every coin or token as a type of crypto, since a number of them will share similarities.

How Many Types of Crypto, by Classification Level

There are 12 main types of crypto at the asset or token level as of 2023, with cryptocurrency itself being a type of crypto asset. The other types of crypto are: Native and staked currencies; stablecoins that are fiat-collateralized, anchored or reflexive; derivative, utility and governance tokens; collectible, redeemable and royalty-generating NFTs.

This also means that there are 9 types of fungible crypto assets (coins) and 3 types of non-fungible crypto assets (NFTs). 

Separately, there are 8 types of crypto infrastructure components, as well as 10 crypto economy sectors that are further subdivided into 35 crypto industries. These classifications are used to analyze the protocol or network of crypto assets, on two separate levels.

The number of crypto types were identified in the Global Crypto Classification Standard (GCCS), which provides an organized and thorough framework to analyze crypto projects. GCCS’ three levels of categorization helps to break down crypto projects in terms of its protocol or network, and asset(s).

Alternatively, CoinGecko currently has 66 types of crypto by categories, which offers a less stringent but narrative-led approach to organizing crypto asset types.

CoinGecko 66 narrative-led crypto categories

What are the 12 Different Types of Crypto Assets/Tokens?

# Crypto Asset/Token Type Definition Examples Super Asset Class
1 Cryptocurrency Cryptocurrencies function as cash or commodity (especially precious metals e.g. gold). BTC, XMR, ZEC, DOGE Store of Value Asset
2 Native Currency Native currencies enable people to participate in the blockchain ecosystem, and are similar to units of gas or energy. They also represent a stake in the network’s economy. ETH, SOL, ADA Consumable/Transformable Asset
3 Staked Currency Staked currencies are used to secure and facilitate Proof of Stake (PoS) networks, whereby validators lock or stake their holdings, in exchange for native currency rewards. stETH, rETH, stSOL Capital Asset
4 Fiat-Collateralized Stablecoin Fiat-collateralized stablecoins are backed by a reserve of the target asset or extremely liquid collateral from the money market e.g. treasury bills. The risk of depegging is minimal. USDC, USDT Store of Value Asset
5 Anchored Stablecoin Anchored stablecoins are backed by a basket of different external collaterals, so that the peg is maintained independently from the issuing protocol’s native governance token. DAI Store of Value Asset
6 Reflexive Stablecoin Reflexive stablecoins are backed partially or not at all by external collateral. They are easier to scale, but are vulnerable in market downturns. FRAX, UST Store of Value Asset
7 Derivative Token Derivative tokens represent ownership of an underlying on- or off-chain asset, with possible fractional ownership, or act as an index fund. WBTC, Ondo Finance’s Tokenized US Treasury Bills and Bonds Capital Asset
8 Utility Token Utility tokens allow people to carry out specific actions on the protocol. SNX, LINK, ZRX Consumable/Transformable Asset
9 Governance Token Governance tokens represent voting rights for proposals on a given platform or DAO. MKR, UNI, LDO Capital Asset
10 Collectible NFT Collectible NFTs are unique and scarce digital items, which can range from status signals to artworks, mementos and more. CryptoPunks, POAP, Axie Infinity Store of Value Asset
11 Redeemable NFT Redeemable NFTs represent ownership of physical world items e.g. car deeds, event tickets, legal documents.
Also known as Consumable NFTs.
Adidas Originals, VeeFriends (VeeCon) Consumable/Transformable Asset
12 Royalty-Generating NFT Royalty-generating NFTs offer ownership rights to content e.g. music, books, videos, which automates payments of royalty fees to creators and/or holders. Alan Walker on Corite platform, Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ fractionalized NFTs Capital Asset

 

How Many Cryptocurrencies Are There?

There are currently over 1.43 million crypto assets on-chain, including cryptocurrencies and other crypto asset types, that are being tracked on GeckoTerminal as of May 31, 2023. Meanwhile, CoinGecko currently tracks more than 10,207 crypto that are listed on centralized crypto exchanges (CEX) and meet the qualification criteria, as well as 2,960 NFT collections.

Of course, the number of crypto in existence is always changing. New crypto assets are created every day, as people experiment with more and more applications of blockchain. On the other hand, crypto assets can fail and become dead coins.

Methodology

The study examined cryptocurrency types based on the Global Crypto Classification Standard, a taxonomy of cryptoassets that was co-developed by 21Shares and CoinGecko.


If you use these insights, we would appreciate a link credit to this article on CoinGecko. A link credit allows us to keep supplying you with future data-led content that you may find useful.

Curious to find out more about our previous research studies? Check out this one we did on the most popular layer 1s.

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Lim Yu Qian
Lim Yu Qian
Yuqian is a crypto research analyst at CoinGecko, covering a range of topics from NFTs to ETFs, crypto adoption and interest, and beyond. She's especially fascinated by the philosophical and socioeconomic aspects of crypto. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honors from the National University of Singapore. Follow the author on Twitter @solosbrqt

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