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Better Buy: Bitcoin or Every Other Cryptocurrency?

By Rick Munarriz and Jennifer Saibil – Dec 15, 2021 at 3:35AM

Key Points

  • Bitcoin has gone mainstream as the world's most valuable cryptocurrency.
  • As great as Bitcoin has performed over time, it's actually a laggard within the 10 most valuable crypto tokens.
  • Buying Bitcoin or everything else might come down to sizing up your risk tolerance and desire for diversification.

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Bitcoin is the undisputed top dog in crypto, but can it beat a basket of every other digital currency? Let the weigh-in begin.

There's no denying that Bitcoin (BTC -2.38%) is the rock star of the cryptocurrency food chain. It's the original gangster. It's a household name. It's also obviously not the only digital currency out there.

Should you stick to Bitcoin as the denomination that everybody knows? Are you better off buying every crypto outside of Bitcoin? Let's take a look at both sides of the argument.

Someone in a suit ripping open the buttoned shirt to reveal a t-shirt with the Bitcoin logo underneath.

Image source: Getty Images.

Nothing like the original

Jennifer Saibil: As cryptocurrency expands and some tokens border on exclusively speculative, it's helpful to remember that there is a token that has all the makings of a real, usable currency and has truly transformed digital currency. That, of course, is Bitcoin. Bitcoin's mission as a digital cryptocurrency is deceptively simple; there's none of the bells and whistles of some of the newer cryptos that aim to deliver every possible solution under the sun to end your financial, educational, and even medical woes. Bitcoin by its nature is a store of value, like the dollar, and like other global currencies that allow you to buy and sell what you need.

Certainly, Bitcoin's history gives it an edge in any comparison. It's been around the longest, with a first-mover's lead in the crypto space. With a market cap nearing $1 trillion, many people have poured money into the platform both for real usage and as an investment. That alone gives it stability, since any currency only has value in the value that users assign it.

That leads to the next advantage, which is probably the most compelling. And that's its acceptance in the real world. It's accepted as payment through coffee chain Starbucks (SBUX 0.70%) and throughout PayPal's (PYPL 0.28%) huge network, and not only can it can be traded on PayPal's app, but it's also the only cryptocurrency available to trade on Block's (SQ 3.01%) (formerly Square's) Cash App. Block's Jack Dorsey has come out as a huge Bitcoin enthusiast, seeing it as the potential for a native internet currency, and has bought up Bitcoin for Block while shunning any other crypto token.

Growth has slowed down, and Bitcoin's price is up about 150% this year. That trails many of the fastest-growing cryptocurrencies by a huge expanse, but the trade-off is decreased risk and real value. Investors may want to allocate a small amount of speculative contributions to benefit from other cryptocurrency's growth potential; after all, you only needed to invest about $2 last year to become a millionaire from Shiba Inu's (SHIB -0.97%) rise. But if you had to choose between Bitcoin and every other cryptocurrency, you're way more likely to come out on top by choosing Bitcoin.

The Extra Crispy bucket is better

Rick Munarriz: I think the future of Bitcoin is bright. I just believe the future of the entire cryptocurrency market is brighter. Let's start by exposing the flaws of Bitcoin. Critics argue that Bitcoin mining is an energy hog, given its eco-unfriendly proof-of-work protocols. It's expensive to move around with every transaction. Bitcoin has also been slow to evolve its blockchain technology, making it a late arrival to the smart-contracts party. For every knock on Bitcoin, you'll find another cryptocurrency that addresses the shortcomings of the top dog in digital currencies. 

You can own Bitcoin, or you can own the basket of every other crypto that addresses the original digital currency's pressure points. That's a hard argument to counter. But what if Bitcoin was historically the better performer? Spoiler alert: It's not. 

Bitcoin's nearly 150% gain over the past year is impressive, but let's size up just the next four most valuable cryptocurrencies over the past 365 days. 

  • Ethereum (ETH 6.80%) is up 544%.
  • Solana (SOL -2.03%) is up 9,544%.
  • Cardano (ADA 1.73%) is up 685%.
  • Polkadot (DOT 0.94%) is up 418%.

I can keep going, but the point here is that Bitcoin is the worst performer among the 10 most valuable cryptocurrencies, and it isn't even close. It may seem odd to call an investment a laggard after more than doubling over the past year, but that's exactly what we have here. There will be losers in the basket, but obviously you're getting more diversification with several denominations -- including the ones that have workarounds to what's keep Bitcoin back. 


You can buy Bitcoin. You can buy anything but Bitcoin. There are plenty of ways to divvy up the money that you're comfortable deploying in the risky but promising realm of cryptocurrencies. Not everyone agrees on the right approach, but hearing from both sides isn't a bad thing as you chart your own course.  

Jennifer Saibil has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Rick Munarriz owns Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polkadot, and Solana. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Bitcoin, Block, Ethereum, PayPal Holdings, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $75 calls on PayPal Holdings and short January 2022 $115 calls on Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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