What Should a Beginner Learn in Crypto: Best Guide

Published: April 14, 2024 | Last Updated: April 14, 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 post, I will talk through what a complete beginner should learn in crypto. 

I have been writing, teaching, and explaining cryptocurrencies since 2017. I also teach a course that walks you through years of knowledge within three hours only. Check out my crypto course here

What my course covers

In order to understand crypto well there are two main facets you need to understand

1. Crypto in Theory

  1. Blockchain technology
  2. Bitcoin and Ethereum
  3. Ideology and economics
  4. Finance

2. Crypto in Practice

  1. Platforms and tools
  2. Crypto market investing
  3. How to research a project

1. Crypto in Theory

What makes crypto so confusing to most is that you have to understand the technology and code and the implications this has on politics, monetary policy, and macroeconomics.

On top of that since most of the innovation in crypto is around finance you need to understand financial products.

Once you understand what you are dealing with then there is the whole investing and trading angle to it. 

Not to fret though. In this article, I will walk you through all you need to know

#1. Blockchain Technology

The main reason people are excited about blockchains is that they allow for transactions without a central intermediary.

For example, Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market cap, is a type of money that exists without a central authority.

When you send $100 to your friend, the bank deducts $100 from your bank account and credits your friend’s account with $100.

With a blockchain, there is no middleman. This is why we say that crypto is decentralized.

The best way to understand blockchains is to read my article that explains how Bitcoin works

#2. Bitcoin and Ethereum

Bitcoin is special because there can only ever be 21 Million bitcoin.

It’s just the way that the code is written. This is the first time that we have money with a fixed supply. Think about it it.

The closest thing to a money with a fixed supply is gold whose supply increases by 1-2% per year on average. Here are some resources to help you understand bitcoin

  1. My explainer on what bitcoin is and how it works
  2. The internet of money by Andreas Antonopoulos
  3. The bullish case for Bitcoin
  4. Bitcoin, hard money you can’t F*ck with
  5. Bitcoin Billionaires: written by the same guy who wrote the Social Network it gives you all the background and history of how it all started.

But crypto is not only about Bitcoin. 

The biggest innovation came later with the advent of Ethereum. 

Ethereum allows you to use smart contracts which means you can add logic on top of a blockchain. For example, you can write ” if x happens then do y”.

This means that anyone can build an application on top of Ethereum. At the time of writing Ethereum accounts for the majority of the crypto protocols you may have heard about such as Uniswap, Compound, and Maker. 

After Ethereum, a lot of alternative platforms emerged claiming to be better and faster than Ethereum.

Solana, Cardano, Polkadot, Fantom, Cosmos are just a few examples. Each is trying to build its own ecosystem of apps. I cover many of those layer 1 protocols on Elementalcrypto.com.

To understand Ethereum read:

  • What Is Ethereum
  • The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze by Laura Shin. This is a very detailed account of how Ethereum started and the challenges it faced along the way. While detailed it is a very good chronicle of the crypto world as it was a founding piece of the puzzle. For example, you learn about initial coin offerings and who the founding figures were.

#3. Ideology and economics

Bitcoin originally garnered a lot of support from the Cypherpunk community. 

The term cypherpunk refers to a group of people who value privacy, individual freedom, and cryptography. 

They believe that the arrival of Bitcoin signals the end of nation-states.

That Bitcoin is the ultimate form of money and that because there is no one who can inflate its supply the world will switch to Bitcoin as a store of value. 

This will take away power from sovereign states who control the printing of money. 

To understand the political of cryptocurrencies use these resources:

  1. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking by Saifedean Ammous
  2. The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age by James Dale Davidson, William Rees-Mogg. This book was written in the ’90s and predicted the rise of video calls and digital money such as bitcoin. It also predicts the dissolution of nation states so it’s a freaky read. 
  3. The most notorious voice in this perspective is Balaji Srinivasan. Follow him on @balajis. I have a comprehensive list of the best crypto advisors here

#4. Finance

OK now that you have the foundation laid out you need to understand finance. Most of the apps built on top of these Layer 1 blockchains are trying to disrupt finance. When you subscribe to my newsletter I walk through the most important ones over 12 days. 

However, you can jump straight into it here:

  • Lending and borrowing: Compound 
  • Stablecoins: DAI amd Maker
  • Decentralized Exchanges: 
  • oracles: Chainlink
  • Yield farming: Yearn finance
  • Non-fungible tokens: Ape coin

In addition check out my crypto basics page where I explain a lot of concepts such as wrapping, slippage slashing and pegging. 

2. Crypto in Practice

#1. Platforms and tools

Ok you have a whole lot of theory under your belt. You next need to start practicing what you have learned

Cryptocurrency  Exchanges

The first thing you are going to want to do is choose a crypto exchange. I would recommend Kraken or Coinbase because they I like the security settings. For example, read up on. Read 

What Is a Coinbase Vault

Over time you are going to end up using more than one exchange because not all exchanges offer all tokens. Complementary exchanges to Kraken and Coinbase are Binance which has a wider range of tokens and MEXC which tends to list new tokens faster than any other platform. 

If you want to do your own research on which exchnage to use then read my article on factors to look for in a cryptocurrency exchange.

Wallets

If you invest a sizeable amount of your wealth into digital assets then you need to understand your storage options and decide wether you want to use a crypto wallet

You need to understand what a hot wallet, cold wallet and private keys are. I teach this in my course but you can also find some resources here

#2. Crypto trading and investing

There are three approaches to buying cryptocurrencies

The first is having a long term horizon say over 20 years. For me this means having a small part of my total investment portfolio in Bitcoin and Ethereum. This is a small proportion not more than 10% and the rest is diversified across the stock market, real estate, commodities, precious metals and bonds. If you are cluless about investing then I recommend you read How to Own the World: A Plain English Guide to Thinking Globally and Investing Wisely. It’s not crypto centric but it explains investing in simple language. 

An alternative way to invest in crypto is to trade it. Crypto traders aim to buy when price is low and sell when prices are high. This requires that you stay on top of the cryptocurrency market and that you do technical analysis and monitor the latest trends to decide which are good entry and exit points. 

The best book to learn how to trade cryptocurrency is The Crypto Trade by Glenn Goodman. In the book Glenn teachs you the various factors you need to know about trading cryptocurrencies in simple words: how to spot market trends, different trading strategies, risk management, why you should avoid day trading or swing trading. 

A third way to invest in crypto is to focus on passive income. You can avoid the price fluctuations of crypto by investing in stablecoins which are pegged to the US dollar. 

Once you figure all of the above and start making profits you need to be aware that you will have to pay taxes on capital gains.  

Passive Crypto Mining: 7 Best Strategies to Earn Income (2024)

#3. How to research a project

When deciding whether to invest in a digital currency there are two aspects you need to look into

The first is the fundamentals. Fundamental analysis will evaluate the qualoty of the team and the product. Is there a demand for the product? How good is it? For this, you would typically study the white paper.

The second dimension is tokenomics and momentum. How many coins are there? What is the maximum supply and how many are in circulation? When do new coins vest? Is this cryptocurrency trending on social media platforms? In my experience this second dimension dictates price action in the short term way more than fundamentals. If people are hyped about a coin its price will rise no matter what the fundamentals of the coin are. 

I have researched many coins and tokens on my site so you can view my research methodology there. Check out my analysis on different coins here:

Useful resources

That’s it, folks. I wish you luck on your crypto journey and hope you continue to come back to this site. It was built for crypto beginners like you after all. 

​Up next

What Is a Bitcoin and How Does It Work? A Beginner’s Guide

What Is a Bitcoin and How Does It Work

In this post, I will explain what a bitcoin is and how it works in as simple a language as possible. I will help you understand how Bitcoin works conceptually without dragging you through complicated maths and terminology. However, I am going to go into detail. Read How Bitcoin works.

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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