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Types of Digital Assets

Last Update 01/24/2024

Even before beginning to invest in crypto, it’s important to consider what kinds of digital assets there are in the first place. While frequently used interchangeably, crypto is a type of digital asset, next to the other types listed below. We believe digital assets form the backbone of the new and emerging digital economy. 


Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency that uses cryptography for secure and decentralized transactions. Crypto assets power blockchain networks, and often serve as incentives for the verification of transactions. Unlike traditional currencies issued by governments and central banks, cryptocurrencies leverage cryptographic techniques to secure transactions, control the creation of new units, and ensure the integrity of the entire system. Bitcoin, introduced in 2009, was the first decentralized cryptocurrency, and since then, a multitude of alternative cryptocurrencies, commonly referred to as altcoins, have emerged, each with its unique features and applications.


Stablecoins are a subset of cryptocurrencies designed to trade at a price fixed to the value of a real-world asset, usually a currency such as the US Dollar, or occasionally other assets like commodities or other cryptocurrencies. The primary objective of stablecoins is to provide the benefits of digital currencies, such as fast and borderless transactions, while mitigating the price fluctuations that can be a barrier to their adoption for everyday transactions and financial contracts. Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), and DAI are prominent examples of popular stablecoins that maintain a relatively stable value.

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) are digital forms of a country's national currency issued and regulated by the country’s central bank. Unlike decentralized cryptocurrencies, CBDCs are centrally controlled and typically operate on a permissioned blockchain or a centralized database. We believe the introduction of CBDCs represents a significant step in the evolution of digital currencies, as it enables governments and central banks to harness the advantages of blockchain technology while maintaining regulatory control. CBDCs aim to enhance financial inclusion, streamline payment systems, and provide central banks with more effective tools for monetary policy.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are unique digital assets that represent ownership or proof of authenticity of a specific item or piece of content using blockchain technology. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are fungible, or interchangeable, NFTs are indivisible and cannot be replicated. NFTs have gained popularity in the realms of digital art, music, gaming, and collectibles, providing creators with a new way to monetize and protect their intellectual property. The ownership and transaction history of NFTs are transparently recorded on the blockchain, ensuring authenticity and provenance for the digital ownership claims they represent.

Introducing Grayscale Crypto Sectors 

Given the various types of digital assets and the rapidly expanding crypto ecosystem, how can you begin to make sense of – and understand — the role of each and their purpose within the greater ecosystem? Similar to how the traditional economy is organized into sectors such as financials, industrials, consumer goods, etc., Grayscale Crypto Sectors is a comprehensive new framework that attempts to do the same for the digital economy, by applying Grayscale’s’ specialized view of the crypto landscape to systematize the digital economy into five distinct sectors. The Grayscale Crypto Sectors can be categorized based on function, technical features, and investable exposure. Learn more here

Investments in digital assets are speculative investments that involve high degrees of risk, including a partial or total loss of invested funds. Investments in digital assets are not suitable for any investor that cannot afford loss of the entire investment.

All content is original and has been researched and produced by Grayscale Investments, LLC (“Grayscale”) unless otherwise stated herein. No part of this content may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without the express consent of Grayscale. 

This information should not be relied upon as research, investment advice, or a recommendation regarding any products, strategies, or any investment in particular. This material is strictly for illustrative, educational, or informational purposes and is subject to change. This content does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to sell or buy any security in any jurisdiction where such an offer or solicitation would be illegal. There is not enough information contained in this content to make an investment decision and any information contained herein should not be used as a basis for this purpose. 

This content does not constitute a recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of investors. 

Investors are not to construe this content as legal, tax or investment advice, and should consult their own advisors concerning an investment in digital assets. 

Certain of the statements contained herein may be statements of future expectations and other forward-looking statements that are based on Grayscale’s views and assumptions and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, performance, or events to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements. In addition to statements that are forward-looking by reason of context, the words “may, will, should, could, can, expects, plans, intends, anticipates, believes, estimates, predicts, potential, projected, or continue” and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements. Grayscale assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained herein and you should not place undue reliance on such statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. Although Grayscale has taken reasonable care to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate, no representation or warranty (including liability towards third parties), expressed or implied, is made by Grayscale as to its accuracy, reliability, or completeness. You should not make any investment decisions based on these estimates and forward-looking statements. 

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