Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
Determining the cheapest digital currency is a dark art that requires the lexicon and patience of a technical analyst—the sort of trader who stares at charts all day to work out what’s a good deal and what should be avoided. Many lucky people who predicted that Bitcoin would rise to astronomical prices are now filthy rich.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
Those who sold valuable currencies prematurely are also recorded in fables. On May 22, Bitcoiners observe “Bitcoin Pizza Day,” when one early adopter called Laszlo Hanyecz spent 10,000 Bitcoins on a pair of Papa John’s pizzas. If Hanyecz had held onto his Bitcoin, and sold it at the cryptocurrency’s all-time high price of $68,789 on November 10, 2021, those two pizzas would have been worth $689 million.
But what’s the cheapest cryptocurrency?
Some coins are worth close to nothing at all. It’s not hard to find a crypto under 1 cent. If you look at CoinMarketCap, a price aggregator that lists most major coins, some coins have valuations of next to zilch (remember that a price of a cryptocurrency represents its most recent trade, so, as long as a coin once traded for money, it has to be worth something). Each of the 254,608.2 billion Let’s Go Brandon tokens, or LGB for short, is worth about $0.000000000001. Of all the cryptocurrencies listed on CoinMarketCap, LGB is the cheapest crypto coin. Is it a cheap crypto with huge potential? Who knows, but, statistically speaking, probably not.
Some coins are worth nothing at all, and you’ll end up spending more transferring the crypto to your wallet, or to fund a withdrawal from an exchange, than you’ll spend on the crypto itself. If you’re prepared to launch your own blockchain, creating a cryptocurrency is free. And if nobody wants to pay you any money, then its price won’t rise. According to CoinMarketCap, nobody wants to pay much at all for BabyKitty, FirstHare, or Little Angry Bunny v2. The price of Planet Inu is $2.15 to the power of minus eighteen—we’ll leave it to you to determine whether the coin’s trading at below market value.
The idea is that you’ll buy lots of these worthless or near worthless tokens at once—perhaps even billions of them in one fell swoop. Shiba Inu’s maximum supply is about 589.6 trillion, and the token only ever reached highs of $0.00008845 on October 28, 2021. But that didn’t stop it from reaching a market capitalization of $41 billion. Part of the reason for these crazy economics is that cryptocurrencies allow for near infinite fractionalization—you can split up a cryptocurrency into as many pieces as you like, and mint a cryptocurrency with an infinite supply. New cheap cryptocurrencies come out all the time—but that doesn’t mean their price will rise.
Lots of cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, and could swing up in price just as quickly as they crash. Swing traders like to buy crypto cheap and sell high. Coins with smaller market capitalizations tend to be more volatile—just like how penny stocks have farther to rise than large cap stocks like Apple or Google. There’s just more room to grow.
Some people define altcoins as any coin that is not Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Others describe it as any small-cap coin (which would mean excluding Ethereum, the second largest coin by market capitalization, and a handful of others).
If we were writing a list of cheapest cryptocurrency with hindsight, we would have flagged some of the largest risers of 2021, like Axie Infinity, Avalanche, Loopring, Solana, and Polygon (MATIC). With the exception of Axie Inifnity—a critter-battling, crypto-powered video game that spearheaded a whole new genre of gaming called play-to-earn—all of these coins powered projects that offered alternatives to Ethereum’s expensive ecosystem of decentralized finance.
Axie Infinity, for instance, rose from $3.7 in June 2021 to highs of $160 by November—before crashing to $46 by February 2022. If you foresaw the rise of the need for a play-to-earn economy and cashed out at the right time, you’d have been rich.
In 2022, hindsight is no longer an option and, unfortunately, we cannot predict the future. Some traders think that the market is due for another “Crypto Winter”—where everything crashes and crypto traders have to go back to their day jobs. But more optimistic analysts think that the cryptocurrency market is due for another glow-up. Exactly which tokens could be considered “cheap” today in the event of another bull run is a matter of pure speculation.
Some analysts might point to rising metaverse tokens–those that power persistent online worlds like The Sandbox and Decentraland. They might pinpoint gaming as an industry that requires revolutionizing by blockchain and point to games like Axie Infinity, or newer applications that have only just come out. Could smaller “GameFi” coins like DeFi Kingdoms, Gala, and Illuvium have their day?
Others might point to the rise of scaling solutions as cheap cryptos to invest in. One example is ZK-SNARK protocol—a niche use case of a piece of cryptography called zero-knowledge, which speeds up blockchains through code that allows a blockchain to understand that a transaction is valid without learning anything more about that application. Could coins like Loopring rise? Other scaling solutions, like Optimistic Rollups, roll up batches of transactions into single transactions and confirm them as one transaction on, say, the Ethereum blockchain, making Ethereum cheaper to use. Perhaps the market for Boba Network, which is doing just this, could benefit from increased demand in this area, just like how scaling solutions such as Polygon went crazy in 2021? (Equally, perhaps not).
Perhaps you can’t even buy the next cheapest digital currency – perhaps it hasn’t been created yet. The lucrative NFT drops of 2021, like the Bored Ape Yacht Club or Loot, sold out nearly instantly. Loot, created by Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann, sold out within minutes of being released. Some cryptocurrencies are airdropped for free to early adopters of certain protocols—and could later become valuable. That happened to Uniswap users in 2020 and those who had rented domain names on the Ethereum Name System before October 31, 2021. Without detailed research and an army of analysts, or by being close to those in the know, it’s near impossible to find the next very cheap cryptocurrency to buy before it becomes wildly expensive.
All coins are cheap…all coins could go to zero
A lot of people like to make wild claims about cryptocurrencies.
Some people argue that all crypto is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme and that the whole market—Bitcoin, Ethereum, altcoins, the whole shebang—could plummet to zero. “The question is not if crypto will plunge, but when,” wrote crypto critic Amy Castor in a 2022 predictions newsletter. Castor continued: “Carol Alexander, professor of finance at Sussex University, told CNBC, that she expects bitcoin to collapse to as low as $10,000 in 2022. As far as she’s concerned bitcoin ‘has no fundamental value.’ It’s not a real investment, just a ‘toy.’” As evidence for an impending crypto crash, crypto critics cite as evidence the unsustainable energy consumption of Bitcoin, the lack of genuine demand for cryptocurrencies outside of speculation, and uncertainty around the backing of one of the largest stablecoins, Tether.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
On the other hand, some analysts think that everyone is still early to the market and crypto will eat the world—just like software did in the 90s and throughout the 2000s. From this perspective, virtually all crypto—the currencies that aren’t scams or vulnerable to hacks at least—is cheap, and we’re all early to the next big thing. Fall down this rabbit hole and you might start to believe that a single Bitcoin could one day be worth more than a million dollars—either because the US dollar is destined for failure or because Bitcoin could, somehow, become orders of magnitudes larger than the entire global economy. As of February 2022, Bitcoin is worth about $37,000. A panel of 33 industry experts polled by Finder.com in January 2022 estimated that Bitcoin would be worth $76,360 by the end of the year and $192,800 by 2025. By the end of 2030, the panel predicted that a single Bitcoin could be worth $406,400—down from a prediction of $703,321 five months earlier.
What to make of this? Perhaps Bitcoin will crash, or perhaps investors are still early—lots of coins are still cheap—and today’s HODLer will become rich beyond their wildest dreams by the end of the decade. Perhaps both outcomes will be true at some point, perhaps neither.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best way to buy cheap crypto in Canada is through a crypto exchange or brokerage. However, the prices of some cryptocurrencies are so small that they only trade on niche decentralized exchanges. Lots of these cheap coins are on Binance Smart Chain (BSC), where the most popular decentralized trading venue is called PancakeSwap. Just because a cryptocurrency is cheap, it’s not necessarily a good idea to buy it—it just means that the market has its reasons for sleeping on it. In the absence of regulation on decentralized exchanges, where developers can launch a cryptocurrency anonymously, cheap coins could well turn out to be a scam.
Lots of cryptocurrencies trade for less than a cent. (In fact, we’d argue that most cryptocurrencies trade for under a cent, given how many crash and burn). The price of a coin is not indicative of the value of the entire market for that coin. Some cryptocurrencies have circulating supplies in the trillions, and each cryptocurrency can be cut up into an infinite number of decimal points.
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