Cryptocurrency Breakdown: Understanding the Difference Between Coins and Tokens

3 min readJun 30, 2024


Cryptocurrencies can be confusing, especially when it comes to understanding the difference between coins and tokens. While they might seem similar, they actually have different functions and uses. Let’s break it down in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

What Are Coins?

Coins are digital currencies that operate on their own unique blockchain. Think of well-known examples like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). These coins work a lot like traditional money — you can use them to buy things, trade them, or hold them as investments.

Key Features of Coins:

  1. Independent Blockchain: Each coin has its own blockchain. For example, Bitcoin runs on the Bitcoin blockchain, and Ethereum runs on the Ethereum blockchain.
  2. Main Use: Coins are mainly used for transactions — you can buy goods and services with them, or send them to someone else.
  3. How They’re Made: Coins are often created through processes like mining (solving complex math problems) or staking (holding and validating transactions on the network).

What Are Tokens?

Tokens, on the other hand, are digital assets created on top of existing blockchains. They can represent various things, like access to a service or a stake in a project. For instance, Binance Coin (BNB) started as a token on the Ethereum blockchain before moving to its own blockchain.

Key Features of Tokens:

  1. Existing Blockchain: Tokens don’t have their own blockchain — they use existing ones like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain.
  2. Different Uses: Tokens can serve many purposes. Some are utility tokens (giving you access to a service), others are security tokens (representing ownership in an asset), and some are governance tokens (allowing you to vote on project decisions).
  3. How They’re Made: Tokens are created through smart contracts and can be distributed via Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) or airdrops.

Case Study: Binance

To see the difference more clearly, let’s look at Binance. Binance Coin (BNB) started as a token on the Ethereum blockchain during its ICO. Later, it moved to Binance’s own blockchain, becoming a coin. This shows how a digital asset can start as a token and then become a coin.

Court Ruling and Its Impact

A recent court decision in the U.S. involving Binance illustrates the complexities in the crypto world. The court allowed several SEC claims against Binance to proceed, such as issues with its staking program and the sale of BNB. However, it dismissed claims about BNB being traded illegally on secondary markets, citing a decision related to Ripple. This highlights the regulatory challenges that both coins and tokens face.


In summary, coins and tokens are both crucial parts of the cryptocurrency world, but they have different roles. Coins have their own blockchains and are used like digital money. Tokens are built on existing blockchains and can represent a wide range of assets and utilities.

Understanding these differences is important, whether you’re investing, building a project, or just exploring cryptocurrency. As the industry evolves, having a clear grasp of these basics will help you make better decisions.

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