(CNN) — Cryptocurrency is having a moment.
Between the meteoric rise of dogecoin, Tesla accepting bitcoin as payment for its vehicles and PayPal allowing users to buy crypto on Venmo — all of which happened in just over a month — there is growing attention on and interest in the digital asset space.
Mainstream adoption of crypto has been gaining steam for years, and was accelerated by the pandemic. Cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin, are increasingly seen as investments to hedge against inflation during times of economic uncertainty, much like to gold. And Covid-19 stimulus checks meant some Americans had extra funds to invest.
In 2020, the market of potential bitcoin investors grew to 32 million people in the United States, up 52% from the year prior, according to a survey by digital currency asset management firm Grayscale Investments, published in October. Of the respondents who had bought bitcoin in the preceding four months, 63% said the pandemic impacted their decision to invest.
There has also been more institutional acceptance of crypto recently, which increases awareness and trust among retail investors.
“Because it’s been around for longer people are starting to accept it,” Gavin Smith, Group CEO of crypto investment firm Panxora, told CNN Business. “That’s led to professional involvement because now they understand a bit better how to manage the risk,” Gavin Smith, Group CEO of crypto investment firm Panxora, told CNN Business. That’s creating more confidence from the general public, he added.
But for new investors in the space, some caution and education is needed, experts say.
“Crypto is not for the faint of heart,” said R.A. Farrokhnia, Columbia Business School professor and executive director of the Columbia Fintech Initiative. For investors who do want to invest in cryptocurrency, “you have to take a very conscientious and disciplined approach,” he said.
Which cryptocurrency should I buy?
There is a wide variety of digital tokens and other crypto-related projects that one could invest in — with more emerging all the time as the so-called decentralized finance (or “DeFi”) movement gains traction.
“Many digital currencies have distinct use cases, and you should understand the value proposition of a potential investment before committing capital,” Grayscale Investments CEO Michael Sonnenshein said in an email.
For novice crypto investors, it’s probably best to start with the larger, more established options, such as bitcoin and ethereum. While still highly volatile, the regulatory framework around them is clearer than with other tokens, which could help temper future risk.
Bitcoin is also the most liquid cryptocurrency, which should make it easier for investors to buy and sell with relative ease, compared to smaller, more niche coins with less demand, Farrokhnia said.
After starting with the usual suspects, Panxora’s Smith said, invvestors should…