Crypto 101 spot illustration

Crypto 101

Info about Bitcoin (the OG cryptocurrency) and its friends – including Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin – can be kind of…cryptic. But the headlines don't stop. And a lot of experts agree: digital currencies and the underlying technology, blockchain, are likely here to stay. Time to get schooled. Here's theSkimm.

Crypto coins

Let's Talk About...Why Everyone's Crazy for Crypto

Crypto's been around for more than a decade. But it's creeping farther into the mainstream. Here's why you can't stop reading about it now.


Crypto has taken group chats – and the entire money world – by storm. We Skimm'd the top terms you need to know to make sense of it all.


The OG. It was launched in 2009 by a person (or group of people?) under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” Very mysterious. Today there are thousands of cryptocurrencies, but Bitcoin is still the MVC (most valuable coin).

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A (mostly) hacker-proof digital ledger. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies use the tech to publicly track transactions on a network of computers.

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Digital money that’s decentralized – aka not backed by the gov or other authority – and uses cryptography to keep it secure. Kind of like virtual casino chips you can cash out. Or invest in. Or spend at certain retailers.

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Crypto Exchange

Virtual marketplaces where you can buy and sell cryptocurrencies. Ones you might've heard of: Coinbase, Binance, Gemini.

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Crypto Wallet

Where you can safely store your public and private crypto keys needed to trade and spend crypto. Some like 'em hot (as in, connected to the web, making them easier to access). But cold wallets (read: physical ones that exist offline) are long as you don't lose them.

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Based on the classic “Doge” meme, Dogecoin launched in 2013 as a joke. Then gained real momentum after some big names like Elon Musk and Mark Cuban started saying, 'So wow, much value.'

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Everyone's second-favorite cryptocurrency (according to market cap). It runs on the blockchain network known as ethereum and is a popular way to buy NFTs. Hint: non-fungible tokens represent ownership of unique digital assets like art, music, and real estate.

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Fiat currency

Not related to the car manufacturer. Unlike cryptocurrency, this money has value because it's gov-issued. It's not backed by a commodity like silver or gold. Think: US dollars, euros, pesos, etc. 

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How you get “free” currency by generating new coins and helping keep up the blockchain. It’s not rocket science, but it does take an extremely sophisticated computer that solves complex math problems. Psst...this consumes a lot of energy, which has raised environmental concerns. 

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Private Key

A *very* important secret code that comes with a matching public key. (You need both to access your crypto.) Do. Not. Lose. It. Once it’s gone, knowing the street you grew up on (or other security Qs) won't get it back. So store it somewhere safe.

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The crypto old-school investors might prefer. Because they peg their prices to other assets like gold or the US dollar. Meaning they’re less likely to experience sharp price swings, but still have the privacy and security of a cryptocurrency.

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Crypto Expert Panel

SkimmU Special Edition: Crypto

An expert panel answers your biggest Qs on why crypto prices jump around so much, how to decide which coins to invest in (or not), and some predictions for the future of crypto. Watch the recording.

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