Understanding what are crypto tokens: differences, uses, and types

This article provides an overview of crypto tokens and their different types, including transactional tokens, governance tokens, utility tokens, security tokens, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Crypto tokens are digital representations of various forms of value or ownership on a blockchain. They serve diverse purposes within the blockchain ecosystem, from facilitating access to services to representing ownership rights.

Discover the concept of crypto tokens and distinguish them from coins. Delve into their unique characteristics, uses, and operational mechanisms in the context of blockchain technology. Understand the various types of tokens, their functions, and how they interact with blockchain networks.

When delving into the world of cryptocurrencies, you’ll come across several frequently used terms like cryptocurrencies, tokens, coins, and more. While people often use the terms token and coin interchangeably in casual conversation, it’s essential to understand that they have distinct concepts and meanings.

In simpler terms, coins act as the fundamental currency for blockchain systems, enabling transactions. In contrast, crypto tokens represent additional assets created on top of existing blockchains and are not necessary for the network’s operation. Each blockchain supports its unique coin, but can accommodate multiple distinct crypto tokens.

When people use the term “crypto,” they often refer to both cryptocurrencies and crypto tokens. In this tutorial, however, we will focus specifically on crypto tokens and clarify their meaning as we explore further. So let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What are crypto tokens?

As a cryptocurrency analyst, I would explain that crypto tokens represent programmable digital assets created by building upon an established blockchain through the use of smart contracts. These smart contracts serve as self-executing agreements between buyers and sellers, enabling various functionalities and applications for these tokens.

As a blockchain analyst, I would describe it this way: In the realm of blockchain technology, these tokens function in diverse manners. They grant users entry to specific services and unique features within a given ecosystem. Moreover, they act as virtual counterparts to tangible items.

Holders of certain cryptocurrencies are granted the ability to vote on key decisions within a project, with the influence of each vote proportional to the amount of tokens they possess.

Token holders have the flexibility to employ crypto tokens not just for investment in Decentralized Finance (Defi) platforms, but also as digital assets for saving value, or for purchasing goods and services within Decentralized Applications (Dapps). These tokens are typically issued, allocated, marketed, and traded via crowdfunding methods like Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).

Difference between a coin and a token

After gaining a clear comprehension of what crypto tokens represent, let’s clarify the distinction between them and coins, which is a term frequently used synonymously with tokens.

As a blockchain analyst, I would describe digital assets like coins as unique entities that function independently within their respective blockchains. These coins are inherent to their blockchain systems and serve multiple purposes. Primarily, they function as a means of exchange, facilitating transactions in a manner similar to how we utilize fiat currency in traditional financial exchanges. Moreover, they can act as a store of value and offer specific use cases tailored to each chain.

Instead of “On the other hand, tokens are digital assets that don’t have their own blockchain but need to run on an existing one,” you could say:

In simpler terms, tokens vary in value and function distinctly from the native digital currencies of their underlying blockchain platforms. They serve not only as modes of payment but mainly grant users entry to the specific features of a decentralized application.

In simpler terms, the fundamental distinction between a cryptocurrency coin and a token lies in their creation process and primary functions. Coins represent their own unique digital currencies with independent blockchains, primarily serving as a medium for financial transactions. Conversely, tokens are developed on pre-existing blockchain platforms, offering a more diverse set of features and capabilities.

As a crypto investor, I’ve found that creating tokens is a more straightforward process compared to coins. The reason being, creating a coin involves establishing a new blockchain from scratch, which takes significant time and technical know-how. In contrast, creating tokens can be accomplished by leveraging smart contracts on existing blockchains such as Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain. This streamlined approach makes it easier for individuals with less experience to enter the crypto space and issue their own tokens.

How do crypto tokens work?

Cryptocurrencies are created and disseminated via a consensus mechanism in the blockchain network, whereas crypto tokens emerge from self-executing contracts called smart contracts that operate on blockchain systems like Ethereum (ETH).

Smart contracts define the regulations and actions for cryptocurrencies, specifying details like their total quantity, creation methods, and capabilities.

As a crypto investor, I can tell you that developers have the power to create their own unique digital tokens by writing and deploying smart contract code on blockchain networks, such as Ethereum. These tokens are designed to follow specific token standards, like ERC-20, ERC-721, or ERC-1155, which set out the rules for how they should function and interact within the Ethereum ecosystem.

These token standards significantly influence the game. They set rules determining a token’s necessary attributes, functions, and permissions for its users or governing bodies. Additionally, they outline procedures for creating, disseminating, implementing, exchanging, revoking, and more facets of tokens within their respective blockchain frameworks.

On Ethereum, ERC-20 tokens represent the most prevalent form of digital tokens. These tokens function as interchangeable or fungible assets, meaning that each individual unit possesses an identical value and can be exchanged on a like-for-like basis.

The ERC-721 protocol is primarily adopted for creating one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable assets such as collectibles, virtual goods, or unique works of digital art. Each token under the ERC-721 standard possesses a distinct worth and cannot be interchanged with another token directly.

ERC-1155 tokens offer a blend of traits from ERC-20 and ERC-721 token standards. In simpler terms, they allow for the creation of both interchangeable and unique tokens under a single contract.

As a token holder, I have an affiliated balance of those specific digital assets linked to my blockchain address. By utilizing the designated smart contract functions, I’m able to transfer these tokens to other assigned addresses.

Crypto tokens serve various functions for investors. They can be held as a representation of ownership in a blockchain initiative, or utilized economically for transactions such as trading or purchasing merchandise and services.

I, as a financial analyst, would describe crypto tokens as digital assets that carry value and can typically be transferred, exchanged, purchased, and sold. These assets are safeguarded in digital wallets, which could be software applications or hardware gadgets designed specifically for storing cryptocurrencies.

Transactions involving a cryptocurrency token are processed through the blockchain to which the token is connected. For example, if the token is an ERC-20 standard token operating on Ethereum, then Ethereum manages all transactions related to that specific token.

Multiple applications of crypto tokens exist, such as:

Most cryptocurrency tokens can be traded on exchanges, with each transaction being confirmed and verified by the network’s nodes for security and agreement purposes.

Types of crypto tokens

Previously mentioned, there exist diverse categories of tokens within a blockchain system: transaction tokens, which facilitate exchanges; governance tokens, granting decision-making authority; utility tokens, offering specific platform access; security tokens, representing equity or debt; and non-fungible tokens, each unique with distinct attributes.

As a researcher studying the cryptocurrency market, I’ve observed that classifying a specific crypto token into one category can be misleading due to its unique characteristics and potential uses. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand the primary types of tokens to grasp the broader context of this complex ecosystem. Here are the main categories:

Transactional tokens

In my role as a researcher, I’ve come across the term “tokens” which are essentially digital equivalents of currencies within specific project frameworks. These instruments serve primarily for conducting transactions inside the designated ecosystem. At times, they offer additional perks akin to traditional money, such as enhanced liquidity and investment prospects.

One method to rephrase this statement in a conversational and clear manner is: Bitcoin (BTC) serves as an illustration of a transactional token, originally designed for facilitating low-cost and swift financial transfers.

Governance tokens

As a researcher studying the intricacies of blockchain technology, I can explain that certain digital tokens grant their possessors the power to participate in the decision-making process of a blockchain project. These specific tokens serve as voting instruments, enabling holders to cast their votes on proposed initiatives and contribute to the shaping of the project’s future direction. The number of governance tokens one holds generally correlates with the extent of their influence, translating into an equal number of votes.

Utility tokens

In simpler terms, utility tokens are distinctive digital coins issued by blockchain initiatives. Their primary role is to provide access to particular products or services within an application (dapp). These tokens are exclusive to the associated ecosystem and enable users to carry out specified functions on the network.

As a researcher exploring the concept of utility tokens, I’ve discovered that these digital assets are typically generated in large quantities before being released into circulation. This process, often referred to as “pre-mining,” is carried out by the project team and involves the creation of all utility tokens at once. The distribution of these tokens then follows, with the team deciding on the allocation strategy.

In the majority of situations, project originators dispense these tokens as a means to amass funds for future advancements. Subsequently, token owners have the ability to employ them in settling charges and accessing associated project fees and services.

Security tokens

Digital tokens signify ownership or value linked to an asset, which gets recorded on a blockchain. The creation of these tokens is achieved through the method known as “tokenization.”

As an analyst, I would describe a security token as follows: I hold a digital representation of a real-world asset or a collection of assets when I own a security token. The value of this asset is transferred to me upon purchase of the token.

In the process of tokenization, an asset is represented by a digital token which is then generated. Subsequently, this token can be made available to investors through various trading exchanges or investment platforms.

The ownership of that token will be documented on the blockchain, labeling it with the owner’s unique blockchain identifier.

As a security token analyst, I would explain that these digital assets serve as proof of ownership in a tangible entity or investment. For instance, a security token could symbolize a stake in a car, a piece of real estate, or even a corporation’s shares.

Non-fungible tokens

NFTs represent exclusive digital tokens, built upon blockchain technology, ensuring their uniqueness and resistance to duplication. Owners can validate possession and verify authenticity for tangible goods or intangible assets such as art, music, or videos.

During the minting procedure, the data for the tokens is encoded and inscribed onto a blockchain using encryption methods.

This type of cryptocurrency token is primarily utilized for producing digital artwork. Artworks created using this token can be purchased and traded via online platforms like OpenSea and Rarible, with their worth determined by market values and individual owners.

In many legal systems, the possession of these tokens does not automatically grant you the right to own the linked item. Ownership derived from tokens is generally not recognized as legally binding.

Most NFTs function as digital deeds of ownership rather than grants of intellectual property rights. Consequently, holders have no control over others’ ability to share, duplicate, or create new NFTs using the identical underlying digital files.


To successfully maneuver through the realm of cryptocurrencies, it’s crucial to grasp the workings of various crypto tokens. Utility tokens open doors to using specific services, while security tokens symbolize ownership and rights. Each token plays a unique role within the blockchain community.

Crypto tokens represent digital ownership or facilitate transactions on a blockchain network. Despite this functionality being comparable to cryptocurrencies, it’s essential to clarify that they are distinct: while tokens can symbolize an asset or enable trading, they aren’t the same as traditional currencies.

As a crypto investor or enthusiast, delving into the intricacies of tokens unlocks a universe of opportunities within the realm of decentralized finance and digital possession.

Tokens often function as tools for raising funds for projects via initial coin offerings. For individuals considering tokens as potential investments, it’s crucial to conduct in-depth research on the team or company behind the issue before making any investment decisions.

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2024-05-13 15:21