Top cryptocurrency 2021 by value: Bitcoin

Ether, Dogecoin, BinanceCoin

Top cryptocurrency listed — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Binance

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s pretty easy to find out what the top cryptocurrency is at any given time: essentially, it’s Bitcoin. However, the market moves so quickly that it’s a lot harder to keep up with what’s happening.

That’s because while we all know about Bitcoin and how rich we’d be today if we’d invested in it 10 years ago, there are hundreds, if not thousands, or other cryptocurrencies. Many are alternative — supposedly improved — versions of Bitcoin, but others, like Ethereum, Cardano and Chainlink, are much more than just a currency. And then there’s

Dogecoin, which started off as a joke but is now one of the most valuable cryptocurrencies of all, as well as “memecoins” such as Shiba Inu coin.

  • Robinhood app — how it works and everything you need to know
  • Everything you need to know about SafeMoon
  • Plus: Our guide to the best crypto wallets

Whether you’re thinking of investing or are just intrigued by this new financial world, it’s well worth finding out what the top cryptocurrency performers are. And unlike 10 years ago, we now know that it is a legit asset, as big banks, funds, and millions of individuals include crypto in their investment portfolios.

Latest cryptocurrency news (updated May 17)

  • A couple of Elon Musk tweets have made a major impact on the crypto market. After seemingly suggesting Tesla had sold its Bitcoin holdings, Bitcoin fell to a new three-month low of $42,400. Musk later clarified that Tesla had not sold its Bitcoin. It’s currently at $43,912.
  • The crypto market is still recovering after a rollercoaster week, sparked in part at least by Musk’s tweet that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment due to concerns over its environmental impact.
  • The Binance exchange is reportedly under investigation by U.S. agencies. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. DoJ and IRS are probing it in relation to multiple offenses.
  • An Elon Musk tweet stating that he was “Working with Doge devs to improve system transaction efficiency. Potentially promising” sent Dogecoin soaring.

What is the top cryptocurrency by value?

So, which is the top cryptocurrency right now? One approach is to look at market capitalization — essentially the total dollar value of a company’s shares of stock. And in that regard, it’s hard to see beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have sizable leads over their respective competition.

You can also look at the price of an individual cryptocurrency share, or coin, which is useful for knowing how well (or otherwise) a crypto is performing, but it doesn’t always tell the full story. So we’re sticking with market cap for this guide to the top cryptocurrency performers right now.

That said, many of the other crypto projects listed below are super interesting and certainly worth looking further into. And with new cryptocurrencies such as SafeMoon and Chia springing up seemingly every day, we’ll be updating this top cryptocurrency list regularly.

Editors’ Note: This roundup does not constitute investment advice and you should be aware that buying cryptocurrency, like any investment, involves risk. In fact, cryptocurrency is in some ways more of a risk than other investments, due to the huge rises and falls in the value of even the top cryptocurrencies. We’d recommend never spending more than you can afford to lose.

With that caveat in mind, here are all the top cryptocurrencies (by market cap as of May 17) and the stories behind them.

1. Bitcoin (BTC)

Top cryptocurrency listed — Bitcoin

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Bitcoin market cap: $822 billion

Bitcoin value: $43,912

The Bitcoin story: Bitcoin has been around since 2008 and is the blue chip cryptocurrency. It has, by far, the largest market cap, the highest coin value, and the largest network of users.

Bitcoin was created by an unknown person or group who goes by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto. It was supposed to be the cash of the future, and although you can use it today to purchase many goods and services, you wouldn’t use it to buy a cup of coffee because the cost of the transaction would be too high.

Think of Bitcoin instead like the gold of the future: not really useful for daily transactions, but you want to have some for its stored value. It’s also like gold in that it has a limited supply, which is one of the things that makes Bitcoin so attractive to investors: a total of 21 million Bitcoins will ever be released, which makes Bitcoin inflation-proof.

Bitcoin performance history: Like all cryptos, Bitcoin started out worth virtually nothing. In 2017 it took off from under $1,000 to over $20,000, but within a year was down around $4,000. In late 2020 it began skyrocketing again, this time from around $10,000 to a high of more than $60,000, before dropping steeply last week, mostly due to various Elon Musk tweets. Another one, which implied Tesla had sold its Bitcoin holding (he later clarified it hadn’t), caused a further drop late on Sunday to a three-month low of $42,400. It’s currently trading at $43,913 as of 3.16 p.m. E.T Monday (May 17).

How to buy Bitcoin: Bitcoin can be purchased on crypto exchanges such as Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken; at Bitcoin ATMs; on PayPal; and on Robinhood. Don’t be put off by the high price of a coin: you can invest as little as $25 in Bitcoin on Coinbase.

2. Ethereum (ETH)

Top cryptocurrency listed — Ethereum

(Image credit: Filippo Ronca Cavalcanti/Shutterstock)

Ethereum market cap: $363 billion

Ether value: $3,200

The Ethereum story: If there is another contender for the top cryptocurrency title, it’s Ethereum. But it doesn’t compete with Bitcoin. It’s important to note that many so-called cryptocurrencies aren’t straight-up currencies like Bitcoin. Some, like Ethereum, are instead unique technologies that also have a coin component. In Ethereum’s case, its currency is called Ether, and it can be used in applications run on the Ethereum platform.

Ethereum is the leader in what’s known as these “smart contract” platforms. While Bitcoin was created for one use case — as a currency — Ethereum was founded by Vitalik Buterin in 2015 with bigger and broader ambitions. The blockchain it runs on is programmable, meaning it can run programs, or apps, in a decentralized way, i.e., on millions of computers at once. This opens up many possible use cases, from technology and finance to gaming and collectibles, making Ethereum an attractive investment.

Ethereum performance history: In the past year, Ethereum’s price has shot up from around $200 to well over $3,000. In fact, it recently passed $4,000 for the first time in early May and reached an all-time high of more than $4,350 recently before dipping back to around $3,200.

How to buy Ethereum: You can buy ETH on the major crypto exchanges, Robinhood, and PayPal.

3. BinanceCoin (BNB)

Top cryptocurrency listed — Binancecoin

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

BinanceCoin market cap: $75.6 billion

BinanceCoin value: $500

The BinanceCoin story: BinanceCoin was launched in 2017 by the Binance cryptocurrency exchange, the world’s largest crytpo exchange by volume. During its initial coin offering (ICO), it sold 100 million coins to the public at $0.15 per coin. BinanceCoin can be used to pay transaction fees on the Binance exchange, to trade for other cryptocurrencies, and to pay for some goods and services. Every quarter, Binance uses 20% of its profits to buy back and destroy BinanceCoins. This will continue until Binance buys back and destroys 50% of the total supply, making its coin scarcer and therefore more valuable.

BinanceCoin performance history: Since launching in 2017, BinanceCoin has made a long, slow climb to about $60 a coin, before shooting upwards in February 2021. As of today (Monday, May 17) it was trading in the $500 range.

How to buy BinanceCoin: The best place to buy, sell, trade, and hold BinanceCoin is… Binance!

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