Chart: The Coin Universe Keeps Expanding
Bitcoin’s record year is just a part of the big story
Note: This post was updated June 27th, 2017 with current values for all cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency, and its meteoric rise has made it a mainstay of conversation for investors, media, and technologists alike.
In fact, the innovation of the blockchain is changing entire markets, while causing ripples with central banks and the financial industry. At time of publication, the bitcoin price now hovers near US$2,400, a massive increase from this time last year.
But the true impact of Bitcoin is actually far more reaching than this – it’s actually helped to birth new markets for over 800 other cryptocurrencies and assets that are available for online trading. And while the market for bitcoins is worth $40 billion itself, the rest of these cryptocurrencies are actually worth even more in combination.
The Altcoin Universe
For the first time since Bitcoin was founded, it now makes up the minority of the entire cryptocurrency market at about 41.6% of all coins and assets.
So what are the other altcoins that make up the rest of this universe, and where did they come from?
Litecoin is one of the first altcoins, and it is nearly identical to Bitcoin after being “forked” in 2011. Litecoin aims to process blocks 4x faster than Bitcoin to speed up transaction confirmation time, though this creates several other challenges as well. At time of writing, Litecoin’s market capitalization is worth $2.1 billion.
Ethereum, launched in 2015, is the largest coin by market capitalization aside from Bitcoin. However, it is also quite different. While Bitcoin is designed to be a payments protocol first, Ethereum enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, while also enabling smart contracts. The tokens used to power the network are called Ether, but they can also be traded online. At time of writing, Ethereum’s market capitalization is $25.7 billion.
Also interesting: the Ethereum network actually split into two in 2016. It’s a complicated situation, but read about it here. There is now a separate Ethereum, based on the original Ethereum blockchain, trading as “Ethereum Classic” with its own market capitalization of $1.8 billion.
Ripple (XRP) is the native currency of the Ripple Protocol – a broader catch-all for an open-source, global exchange. It’s already being used by banks such as Santander, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, UBS, and RBC. It solves a different problem than Bitcoin, allowing for settling payments between different currencies and even different payment systems. Today, Ripple’s native coin (XRP) has a market cap of $10.5 billion.
With over 800+ altcoins or assets out there, there’s plenty of information to absorb.
Here’s a short 20-minute course on the history of altcoins that might provide useful context, as well as in-depth explanations of Ethereum and Ripple that may help you learn about the important parts of a rapidly growing altcoin universe.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to the U.S. Dollar
The U.S. dollar is the dominant currency in the global financial system, but some countries are following the trend of de-dollarization.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to U.S. Dollar
The U.S. dollar has dominated global trade and capital flows over many decades.
However, many nations are looking for alternatives to the greenback to reduce their dependence on the United States.
This graphic catalogs the rise of the U.S. dollar as the dominant international reserve currency, and the recent efforts by various nations to de-dollarize and reduce their dependence on the U.S. financial system.
The Dollar Dominance
The United States became, almost overnight, the leading financial power after World War I. The country entered the war only in 1917 and emerged far stronger than its European counterparts.
As a result, the dollar began to displace the pound sterling as the international reserve currency and the U.S. also became a significant recipient of wartime gold inflows.
The dollar then gained a greater role in 1944, when 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, creating a collective international currency exchange regime pegged to the U.S. dollar which was, in turn, pegged to the price of gold.
By the late 1960s, European and Japanese exports became more competitive with U.S. exports. There was a large supply of dollars around the world, making it difficult to back dollars with gold. President Nixon ceased the direct convertibility of U.S. dollars to gold in 1971. This ended both the gold standard and the limit on the amount of currency that could be printed.
Although it has remained the international reserve currency, the U.S. dollar has increasingly lost its purchasing power since then.
Russia and China’s Steps Towards De-Dollarization
Concerned about America’s dominance over the global financial system and the country’s ability to ‘weaponize’ it, other nations have been testing alternatives to reduce the dollar’s hegemony.
As the United States and other Western nations imposed economic sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow and the Chinese government have been teaming up to reduce reliance on the dollar and to establish cooperation between their financial systems.
Since the invasion in 2022, the ruble-yuan trade has increased eighty-fold. Russia and Iran are also working together to launch a cryptocurrency backed by gold, according to Russian news agency Vedmosti.
In addition, central banks (especially Russia’s and China’s) have bought gold at the fastest pace since 1967 as countries move to diversify their reserves away from the dollar.
How Other Countries are Reducing Dollar Dependence
De-dollarization it’s a theme in other parts of the world:
- In recent months, Brazil and Argentina have discussed the creation of a common currency for the two largest economies in South America.
- In a conference in Singapore in January, multiple former Southeast Asian officials spoke about de-dollarization efforts underway.
- The UAE and India are in talks to use rupees to trade non-oil commodities in a shift away from the dollar, according to Reuters.
- For the first time in 48 years, Saudi Arabia said that the oil-rich nation is open to trading in currencies besides the U.S. dollar.
Despite these movements, few expect to see the end of the dollar’s global sovereign status anytime soon. Currently, central banks still hold about 60% of their foreign exchange reserves in dollars.
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