Crypto Coins vs. Tokens: What’s the Difference? Understanding digital Assets

Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital money that use cryptography to secure transactions and control the creation of new units.

They are powered by decentralized networks of computers that follow a set of rules or protocols. But not all cryptocurrencies are created equal. In fact, there are two main types of digital assets: coins and tokens.

The terms “crypto coins” and “tokens” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion among both newcomers and seasoned investors.

To understand digital assets, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamental distinctions between these two entities.

What are the differences between them and why do they matter? Let’s find out.

Note: To help you understand blockchain better, we are thrilled to inform you that we have rolled out our Free Blockchain Online Course ( Fee Diploma in Blockchain Technology compete course from Beginners to Advanced level )

But first, before we begin,  let’s understand what Digital assets are:

Understanding Digital Assets.

Digital assets are electronic files of data that can be owned and transferred by individuals, and used as a currency to make transactions, or as a way of storing intangible content, such as art, music, or collectibles.

Some examples of digital assets are cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), digital documents, photos, videos, and more.

Digital assets are becoming more important and valuable as technology advances and integrates into our personal and professional live.

To manage, store, and exchange digital assets, various platforms and systems are used, such as blockchain, digital asset management (DAM), and tokenization.

Digital assets have different characteristics, functions, and purposes, depending on their type, origin, and usage. Understanding digital assets can help you make better and more informed decisions when investing, trading, or using them.

Read Also: How to Protect Your Digital Assets From being Hacked: Security Measures in Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

Examples of Digital assets

1. Cryptocurrencies

The most well-known digital assets are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These are decentralized digital currencies that use cryptography for security and operate on a blockchain, a distributed and immutable ledger.

2. Tokens

Tokens represent a diverse range of digital assets. They can represent ownership in a blockchain-based project, access rights to a particular service or platform, or even real-world assets like real estate or commodities. Tokens are often created through smart contracts on blockchain platforms like Ethereum.

3. Digital Securities

Assets like stocks, bonds, or other financial instruments can be digitized and represented as digital securities on a blockchain. This allows for increased transparency, efficiency, and accessibility in traditional financial markets.

4. Digital Art and Collectibles.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have gained popularity for representing ownership and provenance of digital art, collectibles, and other unique digital items. NFTs use blockchain technology to certify the uniqueness and authenticity of a digital asset.

5. Digital Documents and Intellectual Property.

Documents, patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property can be digitized and recorded on a blockchain, providing a secure and tamper-resistant way to establish ownership and rights.

6. Data and Information

Digital assets also include data and information stored digitally, such as databases, digital media, and other forms of content. Blockchain technology can be used to ensure the integrity and traceability of digital information.

7. Smart Contracts

Smart contracts, although not assets in themselves, are digital scripts that automatically execute and enforce the terms of an agreement when predefined conditions are met. They play a crucial role in the creation and management of digital assets on blockchain platforms.

The common threat among digital assets is their reliance on digital technology and cryptographic principles for security, transparency, and traceability. As the digital asset space continues to evolve, new forms of digital representation for various assets are likely to emerge, offering innovative solutions across industries.

Now let’ dive deep into crypto Coins and tokens.

Types of cryptocurrencies.

There are two types of cryptocurrencies: coins and tokens. While the terms are often used interchangeably, coins and tokens have distinct characteristics and serve different purposes.

What are the similarities and differences between crypto coins and tokens, and what are some real-world uses?

Realated Article: What Is Consensus In Blockchain?: Understanding Differences between Proof-of-Work vs. Proof-of-Stake

What are Crypto Coins?

Crypto coins are the original and most common type of cryptocurrency. They run on their own blockchain, which is a distributed ledger that records and validates transactions. Crypto coins are used as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account. They can be transferred from one person to another without intermediaries, such as banks or payment processors.

Crypto coins, often referred to as cryptocurrencies, and are the foundational building blocks of the digital asset ecosystem.

Some of the most popular crypto coins are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero. Each of these coins has its own blockchain, its own rules, and its own use cases.

For example, Bitcoin is the first and most widely used cryptocurrency, designed to be a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Ethereum is a platform that enables smart contracts and decentralized applications, or dApps, to run on its blockchain.

Litecoin is a faster and cheaper version of Bitcoin, while Monero is a privacy-focused coin that obscures the identities of its users and transactions.

Bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency, paved the way for a multitude of alternative coins, commonly known as altcoins. Coins are characterized by their independent blockchain networks, which serve as decentralized ledgers to record transactions.

Each coin operates on its own set of rules and protocols, providing a secure and transparent means of transferring value. Bitcoin, as the first and most well-known cryptocurrency, is a prime example of a coin. It functions as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, allowing users to send and receive payments without the need for intermediaries like banks.

Other prominent coins include Ethereum, Litecoin, and Ripple, each with its unique use cases and features.

How Crypto Coins work.

The blockchain protocol creates and issues new coins each time that miners in proof-of-work (PoW) networks or validator nodes on proof-of-stake (PoS) networks validate new blocks and add them to the chain. The coins are known as native to the blockchain protocol. For instance, Ether (ETH) is the native coin of the Ethereum blockchain.

Most cryptocurrency coins have a limited maximum supply, which aims to create the scarcity that will potentially lead to value appreciation over time. For instance, Bitcoin (BTC) – the first and largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization – has a maximum supply of 21 million coins. Once it reaches that cap, no more BTC will be mined.

What Are Crypto Tokens?

In contrast to coins, Cryptocurrency tokens are digital assets that run on top of an existing blockchain network.

Crypto tokens are a newer and more diverse type of cryptocurrency. They are not native to their own blockchain, but rather built on top of an existing one, such as Ethereum.

Crypto tokens are created through a process called tokenization, which is the conversion of real-world assets, such as stocks, bonds, art, or real estate, into digital tokens that can be traded and exchanged on a blockchain.

Crypto tokens are not used as a medium of exchange, but rather as a representation of something else. They can have various functions and purposes, such as:

  • Utility tokens: These tokens provide access to a service or a network, such as cloud storage, bandwidth, or computing power. For example, Filecoin is a utility token that allows users to store and retrieve data on a decentralized network.
  • Security tokens: These tokens represent ownership or rights to an asset, such as equity, debt, or dividends. For example, tZERO is a security token that represents shares of a regulated trading platform for digital securities.
  • Governance tokens: These tokens grant voting power or influence over the decisions of a project or a protocol. For example, Maker is a governance token that allows holders to vote on the stability and risk parameters of the Dai stablecoin.
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): These tokens are unique and indivisible, meaning that they cannot be exchanged for another token of the same kind. They are used to create digital scarcity and prove authenticity and ownership of digital or physical items, such as art, music, collectibles, or gaming items. For example, CryptoKitties are NFTs that represent digital cats that can be bred and traded on the Ethereum blockchain.

Tokens are typically created through smart contracts, self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code.

One of the most popular blockchain networks for creating tokens is Ethereum. Ethereum-based tokens, often referred to as ERC-20 tokens, have gained widespread adoption due to the platform’s robust smart contract capabilities.

These tokens enable the creation of decentralized applications (DApps) and the implementation of various blockchain-based solutions.

How crypto Tokens work.

Smart contracts running on blockchain networks define the way that tokens function. There are several popular token standards that define their functionality, such as:

  • ERC-20, which is used to create tokens on the Ethereum blockchain;
  • BEP-20, which is used for tokens on Binance’s BNB Chain.

Tokens based on these standards can interact with the ecosystem of dApps on the respective blockchains.

The total supply of a token is often created at launch, and a certain amount is distributed through initial coin offerings (ICOs) or token sales.

What Are the Key Differences Between Crypto Coins and Tokens?

Cryptocurrencies and tokens are both digital assets, but there are fundamental differences between them.

Cryptocurrencies (Coins)

1. Independent Existence: Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have their own blockchain and operate independently.

2. Store of Value/Means of Exchange: They often serve as a store of value or a medium of exchange within their respective networks.

3. Mining: Many cryptocurrencies use mining as a consensus mechanism to validate transactions and secure the network.


1. Built on Existing Blockchains: Tokens are created on existing blockchains, like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain, using smart contracts.

2. Represent Ownership or Utility: Tokens can represent ownership of assets or provide access to specific functionalities within a decentralized application (DApp).

3. No Independent Blockchain: Tokens do not have their own independent blockchain; they rely on the blockchain of the platform on which they are created.

4. Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and Token Sales: Tokens are often distributed through ICOs or token sales to fund projects and development.

In summary, while cryptocurrencies function as independent digital currencies, tokens are created on existing blockchains and can represent various assets or utilities within specific ecosystems. This is the key difference between Coins and tokens. Check the table for basic comparisons.

Read Also: What is Decentralization in Blockchain Technology?, Role, Importance and difference from Centralization

What Are Some Examples of Coin and Token Usage?

The most popular cryptocurrencies on the market illustrate the differences in the way that coins and tokens function.

Coin Usage Examples

1. Bitcoin (BTC): Primarily used as a store of value and a decentralized digital currency for peer-to-peer transactions.

Bitcoin functions on its dedicated blockchain, with a capped supply that enhances its role as a store of value, often likened to “digital gold.” Embraced as an asset class for portfolio diversification,

Bitcoin is utilized for payments by individuals and businesses. Notably, an expanding array of merchants and service providers, such as AMC, Gamestop, Microsoft, NewEgg, Overstock, PayPal, Shopify, and Twitch, now accept Bitcoin.

2. Ethereum (ETH): Used for executing smart contracts and building decentralized applications (DApps) on the Ethereum blockchain.

Ether serves as the native cryptocurrency for the Ethereum blockchain, a platform hosting numerous tokens. Positioned as a leading “altcoin” or alternative to Bitcoin, Ethereum is favored by investors anticipating value appreciation with the increasing adoption of its blockchain for decentralized applications (dApps).

Moreover, Ethereum is recognized as a payment option by various companies, including AMC, Microsoft, NewEgg, Overstock, PayPal, and Twitch.

3. Litecoin (LTC)

Emerging as a hard fork or spinoff of Bitcoin, Litecoin functions as a cryptocurrency with a dual role as both a store of value and a payment method.

Several companies, including AMC, Overstock, and PayPal, acknowledge and accept Litecoin as a means of payment, contributing to its practical use in commercial transactions.

Token Usage Examples.

1. Basic Attention Token (BAT): Used within the Brave browser ecosystem to reward users for viewing ads and content.

2. Uniswap (UNI): Provides governance rights in the Uniswap decentralized exchange protocol.

UNI operates as an ERC-20 token within the Ethereum blockchain, serving as both the utility and governance token for the Uniswap decentralized exchange (DEX). As governance tokens, UNI holders have the ability to vote on proposals and receive rewards for contributing their tokens to liquidity pools.

Additionally, UNI finds use on the Uniswap DEX as part of trading pairs or as an intermediary currency for token swaps. This functionality facilitates seamless asset exchanges for traders on a decentralized and permissionless platform.

3. Chainlink (LINK): Used to pay for services on the Chainlink decentralized oracle network, connecting smart contracts with real-world data.

4. Tether (USDT): A stablecoin token pegged to the value of fiat currency (like USD), providing a stable medium of exchange in the crypto space.

These examples illustrate how coins and tokens serve various purposes, from being a medium of exchange to representing ownership, providing utility, or facilitating governance within specific blockchain ecosystems.


In the dynamic world of digital assets, distinguishing between crypto coins and tokens is crucial for anyone looking to navigate the complexities of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency investments.

Coins and tokens play distinct roles within the ecosystem, offering unique opportunities and challenges. As the crypto space continues to evolve, a solid understanding of these fundamental concepts will empower investors to make informed decisions and actively participate in the exciting future of decentralized finance.

Note: To help you understand blockchain better, we are thrilled to inform you that we have rolled out our Free Blockchain Online Course ( Fee Diploma in Blockchain Technology compete course from Beginners to Advanced level )

NEXT READING: Blockchain Use Cases and Applications: Beyond Cryptocurrencies

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