What is the difference between NFT and cryptocurrency: Key Differentiator For Absolute Comprehension!

Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD
8 Min Read

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have both emerged as major components of the blockchain ecosystem. But what exactly are the differences between these two digital asset types?

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare and contrast NFTs and cryptocurrencies across areas like function, value, usage, market structure, and more. Understanding the nuances of each can inform better investment and adoption decisions in the world of Web3. Let’s analyze these pioneering blockchain technologies side-by-side.

For a complete beginners guide to understanding cryptocurrencies Check my article HERE.

I also have an comprehensive article on NFTs HERE

Function and Purpose

The most fundamental difference lies in the basic functions and purposes of NFTs and cryptos.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum operate as mediums of exchange and stores of value. They can be used for digital payments or held as speculative assets. Their key function is transferring monetary value.

NFTs represent unique digital items like artwork, collectibles, avatars, videos, and more. Each has distinguishing information recorded on a blockchain. This allows for verifiable ownership and proof of scarcity. The core purpose is representing ownership of non-monetary digital assets.

While cryptos aim to disrupt existing currencies and payment systems, NFTs leverage blockchain to create novel markets for digital ownership and trading.

Fungibility and Interchangeability

One of the biggest differences stems from NFTs being non-fungible while cryptos are generally fungible.

Fungibility refers to the ability of a unit to be mutually interchangeable with other identical units. Dollars, gold, and Bitcoin are fungible – you can simply swap one for another.

NFTs are non-fungible, meaning each represents a unique asset. Every NFT contains distinguishing information and is not equal to or interchangeable with others on a 1:1 basis. This creates scarcity and makes them impossible to replicate.

Fungibility is crucial for currencies having equal value. Non-fungibility gives NFTs provable digital ownership of specific items.

Underlying Value Basis

NFTs and crypto derive underlying value through different mechanisms.

Cryptocurrencies get their value from utility for payments, network effects, technology, and supply scarcity similar to precious metals. Being decentralized and sovereign also affords value.

NFTs on the other hand depend on perceptions of scarcity and uniqueness, ownership rights, originality, demand for specific digital content, and creator branding. Provenance and community also increase desirability.

In a sense, NFTs reflect the subjective, emotional, and speculative value humans place on art and culture. Cryptos derive value from instantiations of money and property rights.

How They Are Created

NFTs and cryptos also utilize distinct mechanisms for creating units.

New cryptocurrency is generated through a process like mining or staking. Algorithms determine release of coin rewards to miners or validators who secure and upkeep blockchain networks.

NFTs are minted by simply creating new unique tokens on a blockchain. Creators upload digital items which become tokenized into NFTs through minting platforms. Limited edition runs can enhance scarcity value.

Cryptocurrencies use technical processes to distribute units, while NFTs directly transform creative works into blockchain-based assets upon minting.

Usage and Applications

The main applications of NFTs and crypto assets also tend to differ currently.

Cryptocurrencies are used for peer-to-peer payments, facilitating DeFi systems, as programmable money via smart contracts, for tokenization, and as long term stores of value.

NFT use cases include representing digital artwork ownership, avatar identity, virtual land deeds, collectible trading cards, event tickets, domain names, and more. Crossovers into gaming, licensing, and metaverse worlds are also growing quickly.

While some overlaps exist like collectibles, NFTs cater more to expressing identity and property ownership rather than just transmitting value.

Marketplace Structures

NFT and crypto marketplaces have evolved different structures and dynamics.

Cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase and Binance resemble stock market interfaces. Assets trade against currencies and each other based on fluctuating exchange rates. High fungibility creates fluid markets.

NFT marketplaces like OpenSea operate closer to auction houses dealing in unique works. Listings are individual and values situational. Rarity, community, and demand around creators and projects create pricing signals.

Market instability does permeate both, but NFTs have greater volatility given relative illiquidity and emotion-driven valuations. Cryptos rely more on systematic pressures and adoption for pricing.

Ownership, Security and Risk

Ownership rights between NFTs and cryptocurrencies work differently as well:

Cryptocurrencies grant proportional ownership rights. Owning 1 Bitcoin gives you claim to exactly 1/21 millionth of the total supply and stake in the network. Coins are interchangeable.

Each NFT represents ownership of a unique underlying digital asset. No other token can claim ownership of the exact same item. Value depends on the individual property rights granted.

Security and storage also vary. Cryptos are stored in wallets or on exchanges. NFTs reside in wallets but the artwork or content lives elsewhere.

Assets lost from hacked wallets cannot be recovered in either case. But NFTs have additional risks like plagiarism and broken linkages to content.

In summary, cryptocurrencies enable fractional ownership in networks, while NFTs provide full rights to discrete digital entities.

The regulation surrounding NFTs and crypto remains highly uncertain and evolving. But the landscapes do have nuances:

Cryptocurrencies currently fall under financial and commodity regulations focused on exchanges, taxation, and transmission of funds. Full legal status is still being defined.

NFTs have fewer existing regulations but will likely fall under frameworks related to digital property, intellectual property, securities, and commercial law.

Policymakers are still playing catch-up. But NFTs raise more issues around copyright, fraud, ownership rights, licensing and more that will likely warrant tailored policy approaches.


NFTs and cryptocurrencies utilize similar blockchain technology but serve very different purposes for now. Cryptos transmit monetary value, while NFTs convey ownership rights.

There are many technical, functional, market, and user experience differences between these digital asset categories. They attract distinct audiences while still complementing each other in advancing Web3.

Both represent revolutionary innovations that can transform legacy systems like property, finance, and creative economies. Understanding their nuances helps navigate the broader blockchain landscape taking shape.

As blockchain evolves, the lines between cryptocurrencies and NFTs may blur further. But for now, their disparate capabilities make them distinct assets for different needs. Evaluating use cases on their own merits remains prudent as adoption widens.

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Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD is a medical doctor by profession, an author, a financial literacy and digital assets enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a growing philanthropist.
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