20 Best Crypto for Beginners: Which Ones to Buy

Published: 5th June, 2024 | Last Updated: 5th June, 2024

Markos Koemtzopoulos

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

In this guide, I will walk you through the best crypto for beginners. While all cryptocurrencies are volatile, some are more established than others and experience fewer fluctuations. These are known as blue chips within the industry. 

Whether you choose to invest in blue chips or smaller, riskier coins with more upside ( and downside) depends on your investment horizon. As I explain in my guide on how to buy crypto you need to decide if you are investing for a 20-year time horizon or if you want to capture the upside of a bull run over a few months. 

Coins to hold over the long term

If you are looking at the long term, there are only three coins you should care about 

1. Stablecoins such as USDT, DAI and USDC

A picture of stable coins USDT, DAI, USDC

Ok, this isn’t a specific coin but rather a category of coins. Investing in stablecoins allows you to participate in the cryptocurrency market and earn a decent return without experiencing any of the uncertainty. 

If you want to start dabbling in crypto, the least risky way to do that is to buy a stablecoin. Stablecoins peg their value to a national fiat currency such as the US Dollar. USDT is the largest stablecoin, followed by USDC and DAI. 

By investing in a stablecoin, you can experiment with all the fun things that crypto is known for

  • Send crypto from one person to another in seconds for close to zero in fees. 
  • Set up a wallet and store your crypto
  • Invest your crypto to earn a yield. 

How do you earn passive income on a stablecoin?

While a stablecoin won’t appreciate in value, you can still lend it on decentralized protocols to earn a yield. The most common ways to lend stablecoins are:

  1. Send it to a lending protocol such as Compound
  2. Place it in a liquidity pool on a decentralized exchange such as Uniswap
  3. Send it to a yield aggregator such as Yearn Finance

If all of the above options sound like gibberish to you, then study my Crypto 101 page or take my Crash course on crypto which explains how all this works in more detail.

2. Bitcoin

A picture of a bitcoin coin

Bitcoin is the largest coin by market cap. While it’s very volatile, it’s the least volatile out of all digital assets due to its size. At the time of writing, the market capitalization of Bitcoin was $1.3 trillion. For comparison, Apple is worth $3 trillion.  

On average, Bitcoin has been growing at 150% per year since its inception. This does not mean that if you buy Bitcoin today, you will be 150% richer next year.

But over the long run, it’s been the best-performing asset out of all possible investments one could have made. 

Reasons to hold Bitcoin

  • There can only be 21 million bitcoins. There is no central authority that can change Bitcoin’s supply. This is why many compare Bitcoin to gold and say it is a store of value. Gold is the only other thing in the world that has a limited supply. The supply of gold grows at about 2% per year on average, whereas Bitcoin’s supply is capped. Once we reach 21 million in 2140, there will be no more bitcoin. And there’s already 19.6 million in circulating supply. 
  • The Bitcoin rewards to miners were halved in April 2024. This means there is less supply coming onto the market than before.
  • The US approved its first bitcoin ETFs in January 2024, which means that institutional investors are now buying bitcoin.

To understand Bitcoin, read what Bitcoin is and how it works.

3. Ethereum

Image of an ethereum coin.

While most people know of Bitcoin, it’s actually Ethereum that spawned the thousands of crypto assets you hear about today. This is because Ethereum encompasses a blockchain technology called smart contracts. This means that you can build apps on top of Ethereum. It also means you can issue tokens. 

Most of the decentralized finance apps, aka dApps, you hear about today are built on Ethereum. And each has issued its own token. Some examples of what has been built are

Overall, about 60% of the digital currencies that are locked into such apps as collateral and liquidity are locked into Ethereum. The terminology people in the crypto market use to describe this is Total Value Locked or TVL. 

TVL across chains

The main narrative for Ethereum is that it was the first mover and has locked in the network effects. If everyone is building on Ethereum, it’s very hard to go and build somewhere else. 

Most Ethereum advocates will tell you that Ethereum is here to stay.

Its detractors will tell you that it’s slow and expensive to use and that the newer blockchains are much better. In the following section, we will take a look at some of Ethereum’s contenders.

Coins to hold over the short-term

In this section, I am going to share with you coins that are riskier as they are not as established as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

However, they either play a key role in the crypto ecosystem or are growing fast. You will need to reassess your strategy on these coins after a few months. 

Ethereum competitors

4. Solana

After Ethereum, a bunch of alternative blockchain networks emerged that wanted to do the same thing as Ethereum only better, cheaper, and faster.

This is what Solana aims to do as well.

What’s impressive about Solana is that it’s the fastest-growing blockchain out of the large ones. Developer activity continues to pick up and this is reflected in the price and market cap of the coin. 

The only drawback is that Solana keeps crashing from time to time. Despite that, it has a strong community of supporters who believe it will succeed.

5. Avalanche

Avalanche, often touted as an “Ethereum killer,” was developed by Cornell University professor Emin Gün Sirer and his team. It aims to provide a highly scalable and eco-friendly platform for decentralized applications (dApps) and financial primitives, setting new standards for speed and low fees in the crypto world.

6. Algorand

Algorand was founded by Silvio Micali, a Turing Award-winning MIT professor. It’s designed to overcome the limitations of first-generation blockchains by delivering fast, secure, and scalable transactions, making it a favorite for those looking to invest in a technologically advanced crypto asset.

7. Cardano

Cardano was created by Charles Hoskinson, one of the co-founders of Ethereum. Known for its rigorous scientific approach, Cardano is built on peer-reviewed research.

Cardano aims to provide a secure and scalable platform for smart contracts and dApps. It critics argue that it is overvalued.

8. Polkadot

Polkadot was developed by Dr. Gavin Wood, another co-founder of Ethereum and the creator of its smart contract language, Solidity.

Polkadot’s unique multi-chain framework allows different blockchains to interoperate, offering a vision of a more interconnected and versatile blockchain ecosystem, perfect for those looking to diversify their investments.

Apart from Ethereum competitors, there are also a bunch of protocols that batch Ethereum transactions on the side and send them to Ethereum in a bundle. This makes Ethereum faster and these solutions are known as Layer 2 solutions.

Here are some of the more popular layer 2 protocols

Layer 2s

9. Polygon (MATIC)

Polygon, formerly known as Matic Network, was co-founded by three Indian developers, Jayanti Kanani, Sandeep Nailwal, and Anurag Arjun. It’s one of the most well-known Layer 2 solutions that enhances Ethereum’s scalability and usability by offering a framework for building and connecting Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks.

Polygon’s vision is to create a multi-chain ecosystem that is faster and cheaper while retaining Ethereum’s security.

10. Optimism

Optimism is a Layer 2 scaling solution developed by the team at Optimism PBC, led by Jinglan Wang and Karl Floersch, both former Ethereum core developers.

It utilizes a technology called Optimistic Rollups to significantly increase Ethereum’s transaction throughput and reduce gas fees. By processing transactions off-chain and then bundling them onto Ethereum, Optimism helps make Ethereum more efficient without compromising on security.

11. Arbitrum

Arbitrum was developed by Offchain Labs, a company co-founded by Princeton University professors Ed Felten, Steven Goldfeder, and Harry Kalodner.

Arbitrum’s Layer 2 solution also uses Optimistic Rollups to enhance Ethereum’s performance, allowing for faster and cheaper transactions. It’s known for its compatibility with Ethereum smart contracts and its ability to improve the user experience for decentralized applications (dApps). I have done a more extensive deep dive on Arbitrum here.

Key infrastructure

12. Chainlink

Chainlink is a key infrastructure player within the crypto space.

Smart contracts were a great innovation in crypto, as they allowed you to build anything based on knowledge. But a smart contract does not know the outside world.

For example, it doesn’t know the price of bitcoin or the weather in Florida.

If you want to create an insurance product that pays out $10,000 worth of Bitcoin after a hurricane, you need to be able to pull that data into your smart contract to automate everything. 

Chainlink’s decentralized oracle network securely feeds data from the outside world (like stock prices, weather data, or event outcomes) into blockchain applications, enabling a wide range of new use cases such as decentralized finance (DeFi), insurance, and supply chain management.

By solving the problem of connecting smart contracts to external data, Chainlink enhances the functionality and utility of blockchain technology, making it an essential piece of the puzzle for anyone looking to get involved in the crypto space. 

Balancing a portfolio for crypto beginners

If you are just starting in crypto, the majority of your portfolio should be in blue chips. However, you can have a small percentage of riskier coins with lower market caps. The benefit of including such coins in your portfolio is that there is more room for them to grow. The drawback is that many of them drop back down to zero and inexperienced investors ride the wave up, don’t exit in time, and ride it back down to zero. 

A good way to go about investing in crypto is to place 90% in blue chips and 10% in trending narratives. 

Here are the narratives and coins that are trending in the current bull run.

Real-world Assets

The idea is that you will be able to tokenize everything from treasury bills to fractions of real estate. Here are some RWA coins that are trending on social media

best rwa crypto for beginners

13. ONDO

This is the coin with the largest market cap. The team comes from a traditional finance background and they have successfully tokenized treasuries on which you earn a yield. You can find out more about ONDO here: 

What Is Ondo Finance and Its ONDO Token: Best Guide

what is ondo finance

14. PropBase

The PROPS tokens are issued by a company based in Thailand. The CEO has built and sold multiple real estate marketplaces. This is his first time building a marketplace that uses a token.

Retail customers can own fractional shares in companies that invest in real estate, while developers can raise capital for their real estate projects.

The user interface is one of the best I have seen, as it is easy to understand and all the crypto stuff is hidden in the background. 

What Is Propbase Crypto and is $PROPS Worth Investing In?

what is propbase crypto

15. Realio Network

This protocol has been trending for many months on Twitter.

Early investors have made 100x multiples but the market cap is still low.

The tokenomics of this project are really good. There was no distribution of tokens to investors or the team and already the majority of tokens are in circulation.

The risk is that they haven’t really launched a product yet. You can find out more about Realio Network and its RIO token here:

What Is Realio Network: Your Best Guide to $RIO

what is realio network

Artificial Intelligence

First, we had silicon chips, then came the internet, and now we have AI with new AI breakthroughs coming almost every week. This has led to a plethora of crypto projects that seek to leverage or facilitate AI. 

best artificial intelligence crypto for beginners

16. Bittensor

This is a platform that crowdsources AI resources such as computing power, data, and models. The idea is that it democratizes and scales access to AI resources.

Bittensor is the largest of the AI projects, with a market cap in the billions. You can read my research on the TAO token below. 

What Is Bittensor and Is TAO a Good Investment (2024)?

what is bittensor

Gaming

I’m just going to drop two gamer coins I did some research into. Both are small with a high upside if they work out, but they are in very early stages. 

17. Gamer arena

This is a platform that rewards you in tokens for participating in duels against other gamers.

What Is Gamer Arena and Is Its GAU Token a Good Investment

what is gamer arena

18. Creo Engine

This is a platform that makes it easy to share game assets and characters in the form of NFTs across games.

What Is Creo Crypto and Is It a Good Investment?

What is Creo Engine

DePIN

Decentralized Physical Infrastructure refers to protocols that create marketplaces for physical infrastructure such as servers or data. 

19. Helium

This project incentivizes people to offer internet connectivity and a 5g network and rewards participants with tokens. 

Is Helium Crypto a Good Investment: Best Research on HNT 

Is Helium Crypto a Good Investment

20. Akash

Akash seeks to break up the cloud computing oligopoly held by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. 

what is Akash Network

What is Akash Network? The best explanation by far

FAQs

Where can I buy crypto? 

The easiest place to buy crypto is a crypto exchange. You can deposit money from your bank account to a crypto exchange using wire transfers, ACH, and more. If you are looking for an instant transfer, you can sometimes use a credit card or debit card. This is best avoided, as the deposit fees are hefty.  Read my guide on how to buy crypto at the end of this article. 

Should I store my crypto in a wallet? 

To start with, you don’t need to use a crypto wallet. Just make sure you select and secure a crypto exchange. Later, you can move your assets off exchanges and onto a cryptocurrency wallet.

 Please make sure you do your research. None of what you read here is financial advice. 

Markos Koemtzopoulos is the founder and main writer of ElementalCrypto. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nicosia on cryptocurrencies and DeFi and has taught two courses on crypto and blockchain technology.

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