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Token vs Coin: Decoding the Differences

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Ah, the dazzling world of cryptocurrencies! It’s like walking into a shimmering digital bazaar where everything from ‘magic internet money’ to quirky collectables can change hands.

With an overwhelming array of jargon, navigating the cryptocurrency landscape can often feel like decoding a puzzle. At its core, everything boils down to two major categories: crypto token vs. coin.

Token vs. Coin

Setting the stage: Token vs. coin

Now, let’s bring out the star players of this digital arena — coins and tokens:

Crypto coins

Crypto coins are your classic headliners. Think Bitcoin, Ethereum, or other cryptocurrencies.

What sets coins apart is their own blockchain. They’re the ‘OG’ digital currencies, serving primarily as a medium of exchange, akin to our familiar pound or dollar, but in the digital realm.

Crypto tokens

Crypto tokens are versatile performers. However, crypto tokens don’t have their blockchain but live on existing ones.

Their roles? Vast and varied. From representing shares in a company (equity tokens) to granting access to a specific service in the blockchain world. They’re like golden tickets, each with a unique promise or function.

In our crypto token vs. coin comparison, remember: all coins are cryptocurrencies, but not all crypto tokens are coins.

It’s the whole “every thumb is a finger, but not every finger is a thumb” scenario. The terms coins and tokens are used interchangeably but denote distinct entities in the crypto world.

Dive in deeper, and the shimmering bazaar becomes a fascinating theatre of possibilities, with each coin and crypto token playing its part in this digital evolution.

Characterising a crypto coin: Functions and features

In the grand theatre of cryptocurrencies, the crypto coin holds the lead role, boasting its limelight and script.

At its essence, a crypto coin operates on its existing blockchain, standing as an independent entity with a unique set of rules and infrastructure. These digital coins primarily serve three functions:

Medium of Exchange: Acting as a digital alternative to traditional currencies, they facilitate transactions in the digital realm.

Store of Value: Like gold or silver, they’re perceived to retain their value over time, making them an asset to hold and cherish.

Unit of Account: They provide a consistent measure to represent market value.

Some hold a distinct status regarding security, adoption, and recognisability among the vast sea of coins.

Popular crypto coins: Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin Cash

Bitcoin: The maestro, the pioneer, started it all. Widely regarded as the most valuable cryptocurrency, Bitcoin remains unmatched regarding its market cap and reputation.

Ethereum: Not just a coin but a platform. Ethereum ushered in the era of smart contracts, extending the capabilities of blockchain technology beyond mere transactions.

Bitcoin Cash: Emerging from a split in the Bitcoin community, this coin, while inspired by its popular crypto coin predecessor Bitcoin, offers quicker transaction times and a different approach to scalability.

While these are headline grabbers, the crypto universe is vast, with numerous other crypto coins vying for attention, such as the stablecoin, and USD Coin, which pegs its value directly to traditional currencies.

So, when you hear ‘crypto coin’, think not just of a coin in the digital realm but an entire ecosystem brimming with potential, opportunities, and evolution.

Dive deep into crypto tokens

If crypto coins are the all-encompassing actors, crypto tokens play the role of a versatile artist, each with a distinct part in the blockchain theatre.

Tokens, often built on pre-existing blockchains, carry varying values and functions. Let’s break down the major types:

Utility tokens:

  • Purpose: Utility token grants users access to a project’s features. Think of utility tokens like tokens at an arcade — exchange them to play a game or access a service.
  • Example: Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) fall under this category, representing unique digital items on the blockchain. Non-fungible tokens are often seen as unique digital assets that cannot be replicated or replaced, representing a revolution in art, collectables, and digital ownership.

Security tokens:

  • Purpose: Security token derives value from external assets and can be traded. Often linked to real-world financial instruments, security tokens
  • subject to securities regulations.
  • Benefit: Security token offers potential profits through dividends, revenue share, or price appreciation.

Equity tokens:

  • Purpose: Resembling traditional stock, equity tokens represent ownership in a company or project.
  • Impact: Token holders might have voting rights like shareholders in project decisions.

While tokens might seem a mere sidekick to the native coin, their capabilities and functionalities make them vital players in the blockchain ecosystem.

Case study: Is Shiba Inu a coin or token?

The Shiba Inu cryptocurrency, inspired by Dogecoin and named after the dog breed, is fascinating.

Contrary to popular belief, Shiba Inu isn’t a coin but a token. Created on the Ethereum blockchain, it’s an ERC-20 token. Thus, it doesn’t have its own blockchain like a native coin.

Moreover, it’s also emerging as a governance token for the Shiba ecosystem, granting token holders a say in its developmental roadmap.

This token showcases how crypto tokens can represent more than just value — they can symbolise community, influence, and the potential for growth.

Navigating the world of tokens might seem like trudging through a maze, but understanding the essence of what each token represents can be both enlightening and profitable.

Role of blockchains in coins and tokens

Blockchains form the very backbone of both coins and tokens, serving as the immutable, decentralised ledgers that underpin them. Here’s a snapshot of how they influence both:


  • Origin: They run on their own blockchain like Bitcoin operates on the Bitcoin blockchain and Ethereum on the Ethereum blockchain.
  • Function: This allows them to be a native digital currency for that specific blockchain.


  • Creation: Typically, they reside on an existing blockchain like the Ethereum platform. These blockchains host multiple tokens simultaneously.
  • Purpose: Blockchain projects create tokens for myriad reasons, from representing assets to facilitating specific functions within a platform.

The innovation of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the consensus mechanism ensures data integrity and authenticity in these blockchains, offering the trust factor in the decentralised crypto world.

Smart contracts: Powering token functionality

With tokens, especially on platforms like the Ethereum blockchain, another fascinating piece of technology is smart contracts.

Nature: These are self-executing contracts wherein terms of the agreement are directly written into lines of code. They’re autonomous, decentralised, and tamper-proof.

Application: Smart contract technology defines the rules and penalties around an agreement and automatically enforces obligations. This makes them instrumental in token creation and management.

For instance, when initiating an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), a project might use a smart contract to specify the total supply of tokens, distribute them to buyers, and define functionalities like how they can be spent or earned.

They’ve revolutionised how blockchain projects interact, offering security and efficiency in a world where trust is crucial.

Coins as a medium of exchange and store of value

In the vast digital frontier, crypto coins have carved out specific, foundational roles:

  1. Medium of exchange: Coins, synonymous with digital currency, facilitate trade in the digital world. Just like you’d use a pound or a euro, you can buy coins like Bitcoin or Ethereum to exchange for goods, services, or other cryptocurrencies.
  2. Store of value: Much like gold in the traditional financial sphere, certain coins, especially Bitcoin, are perceived as a hedge against economic instability. Their limited supply and decentralised nature provide a perceived value, allowing them to act as a store of value, especially during fiat currency inflation or economic downturns.

Tokens: Beyond mere value, from governance to physical representation

Tokens, versatile by design, extend their functionality well beyond mere transactional value:

Utility and function: Tokens can be created for specific purposes within a platform. For instance, trade tokens could grant holders access to a particular service, while tokens created during an initial coin offering might help raise funds for a new project.

Governance: Some tokens, like governance tokens, enable holders to vote on decisions that influence a platform’s direction, ensuring decentralised decision-making.

Representation: Tokens aren’t just confined to the digital realm. They can represent even a physical object. This means that a token could represent a piece of art, real estate, or any tangible item, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds.

Their existence and creation, often streamlined by smart contracts, make tokens versatile tools in the crypto ecosystem, ready to represent, facilitate, or even revolutionise various aspects of digital and traditional landscapes.

A comparative analysis: Token vs. coin – which is better?

Advantages and disadvantages of coins


  • Decentralisation: Most coins operate without a central authority, making transactions transparent and, in many cases, anonymous.
  • Value and trust: Being the earliest forms of digital currencies, coins like Bitcoin are widely recognised and trusted as digital assets in the crypto market.
  • Liquidity: Coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum are readily accepted and easily exchanged for fiat currency or other currencies, offering high liquidity.


  • Volatility: Coins can be exceptionally volatile, with prices susceptible to significant fluctuations, often influenced by market sentiment or regulatory news.
  • Limited functionality: Unlike tokens, coins mainly serve as a medium of exchange, a store of value, or a unit of account.

Advantages and disadvantages of tokens


  • Diverse utility: Tokens can represent anything from a stake in a company (akin to traditional securities) to virtual goods, rights, or services.
  • Innovation: New projects often launch their new tokens, leading to a proliferation of innovative use cases and solutions in the crypto space.
  • Customisation: Tokens, especially those on platforms like Ethereum, can be tailor-made for specific applications, thanks to innovative contract capabilities.


  • Regulatory uncertainty: The versatile nature of tokens means they sometimes fall into grey areas of regulation, especially when likened to traditional securities.
  • Complexity: The sheer number of tokens and their varied utilities can be overwhelming, making it essential for investors to do thorough research.

In conclusion, determining whether a coin or token is “better” depends on an individual’s objectives and the specific use case.

Coins offer stability and are foundational to the crypto world, while tokens provide unparalleled versatility and potential for innovation.

Both, however, play indispensable roles in the vibrant tapestry of digital assets.

Renata Pacheco

Renata is a seasoned financial market expert with over 30 years of experience in journalism and content creation, primarily focusing on the financial market. Throughout her extensive career, she has worked with leading financial institutions such as Citibank Brasil, Fiserv in Latin America, and other notable financial entities, further honing her expertise and credibility in the sector.

For more than six years, Renata has also been writing for the crypto market, collaborating with financial publications in Brazil, the US, and Europe. Her deep understanding and extensive knowledge make her a respected voice in the industry, appreciated for her ability to demystify complex financial concepts and market trends. This skill enables her to make financial insights accessible to a wide audience, from novice investors to seasoned professionals.

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