What Is a Stablecoin?

What Is a Stablecoin?

The cryptocurrency world is always on the move, capturing the interest of a wide audience. With more media coverage on this topic, a frequent question emerges: What is a stablecoin?

Stablecoins aim to offer a digital currency with a stable value. This stability is typically achieved by linking the currency's value to a stable asset, like gold or a fiat currency such as the US dollar.

Due to the significant volatility seen in cryptocurrency markets, both in short-term and long-term trends, many view these digital coins as mainly speculative investments. However, stablecoins, by being backed by more traditional assets, instill a higher degree of confidence in their value stability. This trust makes stablecoins the preferred choice for financial transactions among both large-scale institutional and individual cryptocurrency users.

The fluctuating prices of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin render them unsuitable for regular transactions. The crypto world needs an asset that is decentralized yet stable in value. The market requires an asset that can reliably hold value for moving in and out of decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystems. Moreover, this asset should serve as a stable means of exchange, keeping its value consistent over time. To be truly effective, a digital asset should also exhibit low inflation to preserve its purchasing power.

Stablecoins maintain their stability by anchoring their value to less volatile assets such as gold or fiat money. This connection to tangible, real-world assets is key to their stable pricing.

In our discussion, we'll delve deeper into the world of stablecoins and their growing importance. We'll also explore the history of stablecoins and review the different types available in today's market, offering a thorough look at this crucial component of the cryptocurrency world.

What Is Stablecoin?

Stablecoins serve as a crucial link between the volatile world of cryptocurrencies and the more stable realm of traditional fiat currencies, by anchoring their value to reserve assets such as the U.S. dollar or gold. This strategy significantly minimizes the volatility seen in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, offering a digital currency that is much more suitable for a range of uses, from everyday transactions to facilitating transfers between trading platforms.

These digital currencies merge the stability of traditional assets with the adaptability of digital currencies, a combination that has captured the interest of investors and users alike. As a result, stablecoins like USD Coin (USDC) have seen billions of dollars in investments, becoming some of the preferred methods for storing and exchanging value within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

A stablecoin is essentially a digital currency that maintains a consistent value by being pegged to an external, traditional asset class, mitigating the price volatility often associated with digital currencies. This stability is achieved by backing the stablecoin with a traditional asset, which could be a mix of different currencies, a single fiat currency, or other valuable assets. The primary goal of stablecoins is to offer a dependable and steady medium for transactions, encouraging broader adoption of cryptocurrencies by reducing the speculative risks. They provide the ideal mix of cryptocurrency's security and decentralization with the predictable stability of fiat currencies.

Types of Stablecoin

In the dynamic cryptocurrency market, stablecoins offer a bridge to more predictable value, categorized into four distinct types based on their backing assets:

Fiat-Collateralized Stablecoins

These stablecoins are pegged to fiat currencies like the EUR, USD, or GBP on a 1:1 ratio. For each stablecoin in circulation, a corresponding unit of fiat currency is held in a reserve, creating a direct link to real-world money.


  • Simplicity in structure, making them easy to understand.
  • Low volatility due to the stability of fiat currencies.


  • Centralization introduces risks of operational failures and financial mismanagement.
  • Counterparty risk necessitates trust in the stablecoin issuer and reserve holder.
  • Regulatory and audit compliance are required for transparency and security.

Crypto-Backed Stablecoins

Instead of fiat, these stablecoins use cryptocurrencies as collateral, maintaining their value through a mechanism of over-collateralization to absorb price fluctuations.


  • Decentralized, leveraging blockchain technology for operation without a central authority.
  • No need for traditional banking systems as collateral is in cryptocurrency.


  • Complexity in managing the collateralized assets and maintaining stability.
  • Dependence on the volatile cryptocurrency market can introduce risk.

Non-Collateralized (Algorithmic) Stablecoins

These stablecoins use a software algorithm to adjust the supply based on demand, aiming to keep the coin's value stable against a target asset without using real-world collateral.


  • Fully decentralized, not relying on traditional assets for backing.
  • Innovative use of smart contracts to adjust supply and maintain stability.


  • Complex mechanisms can be difficult to manage and understand.
  • Vulnerability to rapid market changes can lead to stability issues.

Commodity-Backed Stablecoins

Backed by physical assets such as gold, these stablecoins offer a tangible connection to real-world value, often stored securely in vaults.


  • Real-world assets provide a tangible and often more stable backing.
  • The tokenization of commodities can increase market liquidity.


  • Centralization due to the management of physical assets.
  • Requires regular audits to verify the existence and valuation of the underlying commodities.

Each type of stablecoin brings its own set of advantages and challenges, offering different options for users depending on their needs for stability, decentralization, and trust in the underlying assets.

What are the most popular stablecoins?

The history of stablecoins traces back to the early days of the digital age, with a continuous quest to digitize fiat currency and streamline financial transactions. This journey saw the inception of various digital dollars, leading to the creation of the first stablecoin, BitUSD, and the subsequent rise of several key players in the stablecoin space.

The First Stablecoin: BitUSD

BitUSD, launched in 2014 on the BitShare blockchain, marked the beginning of stablecoins. It was developed by blockchain innovators Charles Hoskinson and Dan Larimer. BitUSD was backed by BitShares (BTS) and other cryptocurrencies, all secured in smart contracts to serve as collateral, setting a precedent for digital currency stability.

Exploring the vibrant world of stablecoins reveals a sector full of innovation and diversity. Here's a look at some of the standout names in the stablecoin arena:

Tether (USDT)

Since its inception in 2014, Tether has grown to become not only one of the earliest stablecoins but also the most widely used, boasting a significant market capitalization. USDT's primary function is to facilitate swift money transfers between exchanges, enabling traders to capitalize on arbitrage opportunities where the price of cryptocurrencies varies between platforms. Beyond this, it has seen adoption for international transactions, such as by Chinese importers in Russia, to transfer substantial sums across borders, circumventing China's stringent capital controls.

Tether Ltd., the entity behind USDT, found itself in a legal tussle with the New York Attorney General concerning allegations that Bitfinex, a related company, obscured an $850 million deficit with Tether's funds. This dispute concluded on February 23, 2021, with a settlement requiring Tether and Bitfinex to pay $18.5 million and to provide regular reports on Tether's reserve holdings over the following two years.


USD Coin emerged in 2018, a collaborative effort by Circle and Coinbase through the Centre Consortium, establishing itself as a formidable player in the stablecoin market. Initially pegged strictly to the U.S. dollar, USDC operates on an open-source protocol, encouraging innovation and product development by any interested party.

Circle, one of the coin's co-creators, announced a significant move toward going public with a $4.5 billion SPAC merger with Concord Acquisition Corp on July 8, 2021. This announcement followed a substantial $440 million funding round that attracted major industry participants, including FTX, Digital Currency Group, and Fidelity Management and Research Company.


Dai stands out for its operation on the Ethereum blockchain via the MakerDAO protocol. Launched in 2015, it is pegged to the U.S. dollar and backed by Ethereum's native token, ether. Dai distinguishes itself by its commitment to decentralization, with no single authority overseeing its operations; instead, it relies on immutable Ethereum smart contracts for governance.

However, this groundbreaking approach has encountered challenges, such as in 2020, when vulnerabilities in the smart contracts were exploited, leading to an $8 million loss. Despite these setbacks, Dai continues to represent a significant push towards a decentralized financial ecosystem.


TrueUSD, introduced in 2018, represents another facet of the stablecoin evolution. As an ERC-20 token, TrueUSD guarantees full collateralization, legal protection, and transparent verification, with monthly audits of its bank-held reserves. TrueUSD's framework aims to provide stability and trust in digital transactions.

These milestones in stablecoin history reflect the diverse approaches to creating digital currencies that combine the stability of traditional finance with the innovation of blockchain technology. From centralized solutions with fiat backing to decentralized models leveraging smart contracts, stablecoins continue to evolve, addressing the demands for stability, transparency, and efficiency in digital transactions.

What can you do with stablecoins?

Stablecoins offer a versatile tool within the cryptocurrency realm, serving multiple functions that extend far beyond mere transactions:

  • Mitigate Market Volatility: Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, are notorious for their rapid and significant price fluctuations. Stablecoins, however, are tied to more stable assets, providing traders and investors with the assurance that the value of their digital assets will remain relatively steady over short periods. This stability is crucial for those seeking to preserve the value of their holdings without the anxiety of sudden market dips or spikes.
  • Facilitate Trading and Savings: Unlike traditional banking systems, stablecoins do not require a bank account for ownership, making them accessible to a broader audience. They offer a seamless method for transferring value across the globe, proving especially beneficial in regions where accessing U.S. dollars is challenging or local currencies are prone to instability. This global reach and ease of transfer enhance the utility of stablecoins for both saving and international trade.
  • Reward Opportunities: Investing in stablecoins can yield returns often surpassing those available through conventional bank savings accounts. Various platforms provide opportunities to earn rewards or interest on stablecoin holdings, presenting an attractive option for generating passive income.
  • Cost-Effective Money Transfers: The efficiency of stablecoins is evident in their low transaction costs. For instance, transferring significant amounts of USDC, such as a million dollars, can incur fees of less than one dollar, showcasing the economic advantage of using stablecoins for large-scale transfers.
  • International Remittances: The combination of rapid processing times and minimal transaction fees positions stablecoins as an ideal solution for international remittances. They enable users to send money across borders swiftly and affordably, bypassing the higher costs and slower speeds associated with traditional banking systems.

In essence, stablecoins serve as a bridge between the traditional financial world and the innovative potential of digital currencies, offering a reliable, efficient, and accessible means of managing and transferring value in the global economy.

Pros and Cons of Stablecoins

Stablecoins present a blend of traditional financial stability and the innovative potential of cryptocurrencies, offering several key benefits along with certain risks.

Advantages of Stablecoins

  • Stability and Security: By anchoring to the stability of fiat currencies, stablecoins introduce a level of security and transparency to the digital currency space that fiat alone cannot offer. This stability is especially beneficial for applications on the blockchain, where stablecoins can interact seamlessly.
  • Efficiency in Transactions: Compared to traditional fiat currencies, stablecoins facilitate more cost-effective transactions. They are integral to a range of blockchain applications that often provide returns superior to those of traditional savings accounts.
  • Financial Flexibility: Users can leverage stablecoins for various financial services on blockchain platforms, including taking loans against their stablecoin holdings or acquiring insurance for their digital assets.
  • Enhanced Cross-Border Payments: Stablecoins streamline international payments, making them faster and less costly. Their acceptance on numerous trading platforms ensures high liquidity and ease of exchange into fiat currencies.
  • Tokenization of Commodities: Commodity-backed stablecoins simplify the trading of precious metals and other commodities, making them easily transportable and divisible without losing value, thereby opening avenues for earning interest through lending.

Disadvantages of Stablecoins

  • Counterparty Risk: The primary risk with stablecoins involves the potential for issuers to lack the reserves they claim or to deny redemption of tokens, introducing a significant trust factor.
  • Audit and Human Error: Dependence on central entities and auditors exposes stablecoins to human errors, where audits might overlook inaccuracies or issues, potentially compromising the stability and trust in these digital currencies.
  • Commercial Paper Risks: For stablecoins backed by commercial paper, there's an added risk of default by the debt issuer, which compounds the counterparty risk and can impact the stablecoin's value.
  • Market Turbulence Impact: During market instability or audit failures, stablecoins may face risk premiums, diminishing their value relative to their peg and making cryptocurrency purchases more costly compared to using fiat.
  • Algorithmic Stability Concerns: Algorithmic stablecoins can sometimes function akin to Ponzi schemes, relying on continuous new user deposits for token creation. This structure risks a rapid devaluation if the influx of new users ceases.
  • Regulatory and Legal Risks: Central authorities that issue tokens might freeze them on specific addresses if law enforcement requires, particularly in cases related to financial crimes, affecting the liquidity and freedom associated with these assets.

In sum, stablecoins offer a promising bridge between the fiat and cryptocurrency worlds, combining the best of both realms. However, users and investors must navigate their inherent risks, including regulatory, market, and operational challenges, to fully leverage their benefits in the evolving digital finance ecosystem.

Please note that Plisio also offers you:

Create Crypto Invoices in 2 Clicks and Accept Crypto Donations

12 integrations

6 libraries for the most popular programming languages

19 cryptocurrencies and 12 blockchains