The 4 Types of Cryptoassets

Firstly before we tackle cryptoassets, we need to understand what an asset is. An asset is a resource that has value, such as real estate, stocks, bonds, savings and commodities.

On the other hand, cryptoassets are cryptocurrency-based assets. Some people are even calling cryptocurrencies a new asset class.

Classifying Different Cryptoassets

This information is based on the book called Cryptoassets, by Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar.


Chris and Jack break down the different types of cryptoassets in their book. In this article, you are going to get a distilled version of the cryptoassets book’s explanation.

Formats available:
Hardcover, Audiobook, Kindle, MP3 CD

The book is long, but chapter 4 specifically goes into detail on how you can classify different cryptoassets. The main problem is that people use the word ‘cryptocurrency’ interchangeably for cryptoasset.

However, there are distinct cryptoassets that are very different from each other. If we lump them all together in one basket it makes it all the more confusing.

In the book, the authors talk about 3 different types of cryptoassets. However, since the book was published in 2016 the cryptocurrency space has developed even further.

As a result, a new type of cryptoasset has emerged. In fact, the authors are also drawing attention to this form of asset in their talks lately. Although the fourth type of asset is not mentioned in the book, it is listed here.

1. Cryptocurrency

These assets are made purely to transact. Similar to any fiat currency like the US dollar, the British Pound etc.

The blockchain only keeps track of how much is in each wallet and the transactions on the network. Similar to an accounting ledger. Some blockchains are transparent so you can easily find out the wallet addresses that transacted with each other.

On the other hand, other blockchains are private and they hide this information. However, even though private blockchains hide this information there are still ways to check the honesty of the network.

That is to say that there is no fraud happening where coins are created out of thin air. Or that crypto is stolen out of wallets. All blockchains keep a list of all the transactions ever made on the network.

Cryptocurrencies can act as:

  • Medium of exchange – where buyers pay merchants using crypto to buy goods and services.
  • Store of value – where the currency keeps its value or goes up in value.
  • Unit of account – where goods and services are valued in the crypto.

Cryptocurrencies that fall into this category are, for example, the privacy coin Monero and XRP. It also includes stablecoins such as Tether and USD Coin.

2. Cryptocommodities

You can think of cryptocommodities as building blocks. They serve as a platform for developing other products on top of their own.

They act like raw materials much like traditional commodities like oil, wheat and sugar. These commodities are also used as a basis to make other products. For example, when wheat is used to make bread.

Hence where the name cryptocommodities comes from. Examples of cryptocommodities include Ethereum, Polkadot and Cosmos. Incidentally, Bitcoin also has DeFi, but it has only just started. These cryptoassets are allowing other projects to build a very large DeFi ecosystem. In fact, the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem has attracted billions worth of investment.


3. Cryptotokens

These cryptoassets are made to provide digital goods or services. They sit on top of cryptocommodity platforms. Each of these assets has its own tokens.

Instead of our current financial system, the DeFi developers are creating a new crypto-based system. As a result, it has to offer the same services which are:

  • Savings
  • Investments
  • Collective investments
  • Asset management
  • Payments
  • Trading
  • Exchanges
  • Lending and borrowing
  • Insurance
  • Pensions

Cryptotokens cater specifically to this space. Aave and Compound are two examples of cryptotokens.

4. Cryptocollectables

Cryptocollectables are widely known as NFTs by the general public. NFT stands for non-fungible tokens. They are not just jpegs you see online.

The blockchain developers managed to find a solution to verify digital scarcity. As a result, NFTs are the blockchain’s ability to track original digital artwork.

So it is very much like owning the Mona Lisa. There is only one Mona Lisa in the real world. Hence thanks to blockchain we can also now verify true and original digital artwork online.

To clarify there could be other copies of an NFT floating around on the internet. However, those copies will not get verified by the blockchain and they will not have value. Only the verifiable original piece will have value.

The NFT space offers either artwork or collectables, for example:

Artwork: One of the images of Everydays – The First 5000 Days by Beeple Sourced from The New York Times

There are more popular and expensive collectable projects you may have heard of. Including the Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties.

For NFT artists you may have heard of Beeple and Pak. They have sold some of the most expensive NFT artworks to date.

Most NFTs are on the Ethereum platform, but there are other NFT blockchains.

Cryptoassets Book

If you want to have more information about cryptoassets, the book is definitely well worth a read. That is why it is recommended in our top list of cryptocurrency books.

Both authors are highly knowledgeable individuals with decades of experience in financial markets. Jack is an expert in retirement planning and Chris is a trader on wall street.

In the book, they mention that humans are prone to fear and greed by nature. As a result, they will treat crypto like any other investment.

If you are interested in investing, this book provides insight into what you should look out for in cryptoassets. All markets have booms and busts, great assets and not-so-great assets. So you will need a toolkit to know what to stay away from and when to do so.

The authors point out that valuing cryptoassets is not by any means done like traditional investments. In other words, crypto is truly unique and needs a dedicated framework to evaluate it.

This is because cryptoassets do not have revenue or cash flow. So it is not as straightforward for those that want to evaluate them. Therefore you need to evaluate cryptoassets by analysing the team of developers and network effects.

You can find this information in chapters 12 and 13. Here you will find a detailed framework you could use to assess cryptoassets so you can find the best ones. If you intend to skim and read bits and pieces of the book these two chapters are a must-read.

How Cryptoassets are Made

Cryptocurrencies, cryptocommodities and cryptotokens are created by developers. They need to follow specifications and the road map created by the team working on the project.

Developers can use a whole variety of different programming languages to create cryptoassets. They select whichever one will work best for their project. The one that is the most suitable for the functionality and capabilities the cryptoasset must have. Programming languages are detailed in this blockchain article.

On the other hand, cryptocollectables or NFTs are different. Artists and designers can use any graphic and video editing software they like to compose their digital art.

However, they have to make sure the file format and file size is fine for the platform they use to register or ‘mint’ their artwork. Minting will place the artwork on the blockchain.

The platforms for NFTs are cryptocommodities and collectors use cryptotokens to pay for them. You can find out more about how to create NFT art and how to buy NFTs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a crypto asset?

A crypto asset is an asset like any other, but it falls within the umbrella of cryptocurrency. There are 4 types of crypto assets:
·      Cryptocurrencies
·      Cryptocommodities
·      Cryptotokens
·      cryptocollectables

How are crypto assets created?

Crypto assets are coded by developers based on a set of specifications established by a team. Cryptocollectables (NFTs) are the only exception to this. Instead, they are created by digital artists using graphic and video editing software.

Are NFTs a crypto asset?

Yes, NFTs are called cryptocollectables and they are a type of crypto asset. They can be either artwork or collectables.

Are cryptoassets the same as cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is used as an umbrella term to refer to any crypto asset. However, apart from cryptocurrency, there are also cryptocommodities, cryptotokens and cryptocollectables.