Cryptocurrencies are on everyone’s lips, especially because of Bitcoin. At GIGA, we take a closer look at this relatively new technology and explain what lies behind it.

Bitcoin is now not only known by technology-loving and brave investors. Due to the sometimes strongly fluctuating course, everyone has at least heard of this before. But while some celebrate bitcoin as a revolutionary innovation, others see it simply as risky speculation.

But in addition to Bitcoin, there are numerous other cryptocurrencies that have set themselves the goal of boosting contracts or the art industry in addition to the classic coin trading. In the following you will find an overview of the most well-known cryptocurrencies as well as the first steps to becoming active as an investor.

Cryptocurrency – what is it anyway?

One of the best known and strongest cryptocurrencies is of course Bitcoin. It was introduced in 2009 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, although it is still not known whether a person or a group was behind it. On the other hand, one knows that Bitcoin is a digital currency based on a decentralized blockchain.

What is all this for? This should make it possible to conduct business independently of banks, governments or financial institutions.


What is meant by a blockchain? Blockchain is, so to speak, a database where every transaction is registered on a database block of this blockchain. Once a block is full, it is archived and encrypted in a very complex way. Complexity increases over time.

For the computing power made available to solve this encryption, the respective owner is rewarded with bitcoins, which are also described as “mining”. This dividend is halved every four years, which is then called halving in crypto-speak.

This procedure prevents a single device from controlling the currency. This also puts an end to fraud as the encrypted blocks in blockchain are considered very secure due to the very complex computer tasks.

When it comes to climate protection, mining is usually subject to strong criticism as excavation is associated with a very high energy consumption. Bitcoin now uses more power than e.g. Finland.

But crypto can do more, too

Coins are all cryptocurrencies that you can use as a means of payment. However, these coins have no physically equivalent value as gold coins, they exist only digitally. The exchange rate then reflects how much a single coin would be worth compared to the euro or dollar.

In addition, cryptocurrencies have emerged, which are mainly used in stock trading, for tracking digital art or for insurance.

Coins, tokens, NFTs – what please?

So what exactly distinguishes tokens from coins? Basically, tokens do not have their own blockchain technology, but can be created with a small effort on existing blockchains by other cryptocurrencies.

You can imagine the token as a kind of package that you can fill with different things. These packages can be moved on the blockchain in real time. So tokens represent a type of asset and are often traded as stocks for a specific project.

Just as the Internet has given us new ways to trade and invest, tokens will continue to spread. Tokenization does not even stop at the art world, where trends accumulate under the keyword NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). BoredApe’s cartoon monkeys and CryptoPunks’ pixel art have been seen all over the world. But the NFTS could also take precedence over official documents such as diplomas or digital entrance tickets.

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Another advantage: Values ​​can be exchanged 24/7, banks and stock exchanges are no longer needed for this. A big plus for many: It can be verified anonymously, who is behind which transactions and who owns which securities.

Unlike classic securities trading, the investor does not receive a certificate, but a token, and the data is not stored online in a securities register, but on the blockchain.

How do the major cryptocurrencies differ from each other?

Currently the largest currency cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, ether and tether. Because the company Limited as tether seller, is often criticized, let’s also look at the smaller cryptocurrency instead Litecoin in the following overview:

  • Transactions are executed much faster than Bitcoin
  • lower fees than bitcoin
  • Litecoin is often a model for changes in Bitcoin
  • more versatile than bitcoin, as smart contracts can also be entered into due to the eco-network
  • Smart contracts are contracts whose data is protected on the blockchain and therefore protected against subsequent changes
  • particularly interesting for tokens
  • largest and best known cryptocurrency
  • Organized decentrally on the blockchain and thus protected from control or manipulation by central banks or institutions
© IMAGO / Lobeca

How do I start investing?

First of all: you have to choose between centralized and decentralized exchanges.

If you are a little more advanced, ie. you want to manage your coins and tokens yourself, there are options for this decentralized exchanges on. Well-known examples of decentralized exchanges are Binance DEX, AirSwap and Uniswap. You usually do not need to identify yourself on these exchanges.

The most obvious difference here is that you store your wallet on your own hard drive. This means that each individual PC is part of the system, making these platforms significantly more secure against hackers.

Investors are thus offered a great deal of freedom, but in certain circumstances it can unfortunately also be attractive to many criminal companies.

on centralized You can easily buy or sell cryptocurrencies on trading platforms like Coinbase, Etoro, Justtrade or Kraken. You need to be aware that you need to identify yourself so that they are in no way anonymous.

What characterizes these large exchanges is a high trading volume, a strong credit rating and sometimes even insurance on the wallet. In addition, they are usually easily accessible and offer many trading features. The disadvantage here is the safety of use, as central storage is susceptible to hacks.

The mentioned currency cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin are offered as a starting point by all market-leading exchanges. So if you want to invest in a particular currency, you need to check in advance if it is offered at all on the respective platform.

These exchanges are particularly suitable for newcomers, and as long as there is an internet connection, you can access your coins anywhere.

Do I have to pay taxes?

The short answer is yes, profits from the sale of cryptocurrencies are taxable. However, unlike profits from classic stock trading, taxes are not automatically deducted. As a buyer, you are responsible for paying the applicable taxes.

However, this is only the case if the profit is achieved within a year after the purchase. Here, the ordinary income tax rate applies, as the income is considered speculative profit. Profits remain tax-free up to the exemption limit of 600 euros.

© IMAGO / Steinach

How do I trade with other investors?

You can buy cryptocurrencies with conventional currencies (also called fiat money) on exchanges like Kraken or Coinbase and then transfer them to your wallet (= digital wallet).

You should also consider the fees at the trading venue. However, do not be fooled into looking only for low fees. The size of a stock exchange’s trading volume is always an indication of how much is actually being traded. If you choose a platform with low volume, it can take much longer to find a buyer for your currencies than with large providers.

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