Crypto Tokenomics: A Beginner's Guide

June 18, 2024
@Justin Wise
Lead Technical Analyst, Co-Founder

Crypto Tokenomics: A Beginner's Guide

The cryptocurrency markets have evolved significantly over the last decade. Going from an unknown niche your weird cousin talked about during family gatherings to blasting onto the mainstream financial scene as a serious asset held by Hedge Funds and Professional Traders. As crypto has evolved, it’s also become harder and harder to find reliable information and learn how to establish a reliable trading or investment strategy. The proliferation of thousands of tokens, blockchains, wallets, decentralized finance applications, and much more has only compounded this difficulty. 

However, for anyone looking to achieve success with their crypto investments or trading, one concept often stands at the heart of any project’s success or failure: Tokenomics. Before diving into our discussion and analysis, let’s make sure you’re up to speed on the basics.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency, often abbreviated as "crypto," is digital money. While many argue over what it should be, no one can deny that it practically acts as a medium of exchange, a store of value, and, at times, a safe haven asset for investors. Cryptocurrency relies on digital security principles like cryptography and encryption underneath the hood to ensure that transactions are secure, that the creation or minting of new tokens or assets is controlled, and that the balance of every user’s wallet is secure and verifiable. Unlike traditional currencies issued by governments and central banks, which rely on centralized “command and control” systems that are easy to influence and corrupt, cryptocurrencies operate on decentralized networks based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that records all transactions across a network of computers, ensuring transparency and immutability.

What are Tokens?

Token is the term used for a particular cryptocurrency on a particular blockchain. For example, Bitcoin was the first blockchain to come into existence when Satoshi Nakamoto published it in 2009, and with that blockchain came the very first token, Bitcoin. To be clear, Bitcoin is a token on the Bitcoin blockchain. The Bitcoin blockchain is capable of hosting other tokens, which we’ve seen a preview of with the release of Ordinals, BRC-20, and Runes, and there is a lot of work underway from projects like Stacks to create its own vast token ecosystem.  

While the Bitcoin example is familiar, when most people think of Tokens they think of blockchains like Ethereum or Solana, which, unlike Bitcoin, have their own “base” currency, ETH and SOL respectively, but also natively house the ability for users to mint any number of tokens. The Ethereum and Solana blockchains for example are home to thousands of independent tokens, all with their own decentralized applications, websites, user bases, ecosystems, and market capitalizations.

Tokens can be categorized into two main types: fungible and non-fungible. Fungible tokens, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, are identical and can be exchanged on a one-to-one basis, very similar to dollar bills. Any $1 dollar bill is equal and equivalent to another $1 bill, there is nothing that makes one more valuable intrinsically than the next (ruling out numismatic value). Each unit of a fungible token holds the same value and utility as another. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), on the other hand, are unique and cannot be exchanged on a like-for-like basis. NFTs represent ownership of a specific item or piece of content, such as digital art, music, or virtual real estate.

Why Tokenomics Matters

Tokenomics, a blend of "token" and "economics," refers to the principles and models governing the creation, distribution, and management of tokens. Each token creator is responsible for establishing their own unique Tokenomics, and cryptocurrency tokens have become a fascinating experiment of different economic & market principles, game theory, and gamification. Understanding the tokenomics of a project is a critical aspect for anyone looking to understand, invest, or trade into a particular token.

Impact on Token Value and Project Success

The design and structure of a project’s tokenomics can significantly impact its value and therefore the success of the cryptocurrency project. Tokenomics includes factors such as the total supply of tokens, distribution mechanisms, and the use cases for the token. A well-designed tokenomics model can create scarcity, drive demand, and encourage long-term holding by investors. Conversely, poor tokenomics can lead to oversupply, low demand, and ultimately, the failure of a project.

Understanding Incentives within a Crypto Ecosystem

Tokenomics is also about understanding the incentives that influence the behavior of a token’s investors and users. In blockchain projects, incentivizing buying, holding, and use of the token are necessary to ensure network security and user-base participation, and to foster community growth. For example, Bitcoin miners are rewarded with new bitcoins for validating transactions, which incentivizes them to contribute their computational power to the network, ultimately securing and strengthening the network.

Similarly, decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms use tokens to incentivize liquidity providers and users. By offering rewards in the form of new tokens, these platforms can attract more participants and investors, increase liquidity, encourage investors not to sell, and enhance the overall functionality and security of the ecosystem.


In conclusion, tokenomics is an essential component of a successful cryptocurrency project, influencing the value of their tokens and the potential success of their project. By understanding the principles of tokenomics, investors and enthusiasts can make better decisions, avoid scams, and be better equipped to navigate in this space. Whether you're new to the crypto space or looking to deepen your knowledge, grasping the basics of tokenomics is a vital step in your journey.

Core Concepts of Tokenomics

Tokenomics is the framework that governs the creation, distribution, and utility of tokens within a cryptocurrency project. Understanding these core concepts is essential for anyone looking to engage with or invest in cryptocurrency tokens.

Supply and Demand

The principles of supply and demand are fundamental to any economic structure, particularly a currency, influencing a token's value and its attractiveness as an investment.

Total Supply vs. Circulating Supply

The total supply of a token refers to the maximum number of tokens that will ever exist. This number is usually fixed and predefined by the project's creators. In contrast, the circulating supply is the number of tokens that have already been minted or created, and that are available to buy and sell between traders and investors.  The difference between circulating supply and total supply represents tokens that are locked up, vested by early investors, reserved for future investment rounds, or yet to be minted or released.

Understanding and being aware of the difference between a token’s total supply and circulating supply is very important. A large total supply with a small circulating supply often increases the scarcity or rarity of that project’s tokens, creating an environment where prices tend to rise higher. However, as more tokens enter circulation, it leads to inflation, diminishing the purchasing power of each individual token and potentially creating selling pressure. The rate at which new tokens enter the circulating supply is also very important and is often the difference between a project growing sustainably and a pump and dump.

Mechanisms for Token Creation


Mining was and is the original process for the creation of new tokens. Mining requires using specialized computers to perform complex mathematical problems. The amount of computing power that is used in the mining process is what typically secures the blockchain network, and the reward for doing so is the distribution of new tokens to the miner. This method is commonly referred to as Proof-of-Work and is the process used by Bitcoin, Litecoin, Monero, and other more established blockchains. As this process relies on a high volume of computer power, it requires a lot of energy, which has drawn criticism from some over its potential environmental impact.


Staking is the second method used by blockchains to secure the network, validate transactions, and create and distribute new tokens. Unlike mining, massive amounts of computational power are not required. Instead, staking relies on individuals holding and “staking” a certain amount of tokens in their wallet. This process allows for a similar level of security to mining. In return, those “stakers” receive rewards in the form of newly minted tokens. Penalties are imposed for those who attempt to cheat this system with what is known as “slashing.” With this mechanism, those who attempt to provide false information to the network for personal gain are punished by having their staked tokens taken from them, providing a strong incentive to “play by the rules”, enhancing the security of staking blockchains. Staking is also referred to as Proof-of-Stake and is utilized by Ethereum 2.0, Cardano, and most blockchains nowadays.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICO)

ICOs are a fundraising method used by new projects to acquire capital and distribute tokens to their userbase, helping them bootstrap what they need for a successful crypto project: capital, liquidity, and a userbase. Early investors, from professionals to retail, often engage in these fundraising projects due to the ability to get a promising new token at discounted prices. ICOs were very popular from 2016-2020, and are still performed but have fallen out of favor due to the prevalence of scams and fraud.

Newer methods have largely replaced ICOs for most retail investors. 

Initial DEX Offerings (IDO): Similar to an ICO, but instead of tokens being distributed by the developers of a project and money paid directly to them, projects inject their tokens into a Decentralized Exchange (DEX) Liquidity Pool, where retail investors can flock and buy them up. This process reduces the potential for shady developers to “take the money and run” and ensures that investors at least receive their tokens, whether or not they go up in value.

Initial Exchange Offerings (IEO): Similar to ICO and IDO, but in this case the developers partner with an established cryptocurrency centralized exchange, which lists the token for trading on a pre-determined date and time. 

Liquidity Bootstrapping Pools (LBP): Quickly becoming a very popular method of new token distribution and similar to an IDO. With an LBP, developers use advanced algorithms called Automated Market Makers (AMM) on decentralized exchanges to dynamically adjust the price of the token over a given period of time, allowing the market to find a fair price and giving opportunities to buy and sell high and low for investors.

Token Airdrops: Probably the most popular form of token distribution nowadays. Projects will host events challenging potential investors to promote their project, usually by re-tweeting, subscribing, sharing their marketing content on social media, engaging with a project’s testnet, using its new features, etc. In return, users will be earmarked for a portion of the token’s distribution, often with a “points” system so users can track how much they might earn. 

Burn Mechanisms and Deflationary Models

Because the increase in a token’s circulating supply can often have negative effects on the token’s value, developers have a tool at their disposal to actively reduce the circulating supply.

This tool is known as “burning.” When tokens are “burnt”, they are sent to a wallet address that no one can access, not even the developers. This can be done in multiple ways, but generally, a wallet is created where the private key is not saved. Without access to the wallet’s private key, no one will ever be able to access those tokens, effectively removing them from the circulating supply forever. 

This process of burning tokens helps create a deflationary tokenomic model. Unlike an inflationary token model, where the quantity of circulating tokens increases over time, a deflationary model is one in which the circulating supply decreases over time. This, in theory, increases the value of each individual token as the circulating supply decreases, helping to create upward price pressure for the valuation of the token. Examples include Binance Coin (BNB), Ethereum 2.0 (ETH), Shiba Inu (SHIB), and Stellar (XLM), which all regularly burn a portion of their circulating supply.

Token Utility and Use Cases

Beyond speculative financial value, tokens generally offer some form of utility or use case. This allows enthusiasts, investors, and end-users of the project or token to actually use it for something beyond mere speculation. The fine balance of attractive tokenomics and actual utility plays a key factor in the demand and adoption of a token.

Utility Tokens vs. Security Tokens vs. Governance Tokens

A token is considered a “utility token” if the end-user can use it to access some specific product or service within a project’s ecosystem. Not marketed as investments, at least by the project directly, these tokens serve to be a means to access a desired function or service provided by the project. Examples include Ethereum’s ETH token, which is required to pay for transaction fees on the Ethereum network, Chainlink’s LINK token, which is used to pay for services on the Chainlink network like APIs, bank payments, and access to external data sources, and Basic Attention Token’s BAT token, which is used to reward users for viewing advertisements within Brave Browser, and is also used to reward content creators. 

Security tokens, on the other hand, represent ownership or investment in an underlying asset, such as shares in a company, portions of a Real Estate Portfolio, physical landownership, art collections, and much more. They are or should be, subject to securities regulations and are primarily considered pure investments.

A subset of utility tokens are Governance tokens. Governance tokens do provide a utility, but a very specific one. Holders of a governance token have the right to participate in a democratic process of making decisions for the future of a particular project or protocol. Different projects offer varying degrees of power to holders of governance tokens, from full control over all future development to minor control over less important matters. Buying into a governance token is like buying a seat in the congress of a crypto project, giving one the power to vote on proposals or even propose their own.

How Token Utility Creates Demand

Besides speculative financial gain, a token’s use cases can often significantly impact the level of demand to buy and hold that token. If a cryptocurrency project provides a valuable service or product, and a particular token is required to access that service or product, then there will be a lot of demand to buy that token, leading to that token’s price to rise. For example, the demand for Ether (ETH) has steadily grown over the years due to the number of projects, decentralized applications, and ecosystems on the Ethereum blockchain, where all users are required to have ETH to pay for transactions, access these decentralized applications, and participate in on-chain activities.

Examples of Token Use Cases


As explained earlier, holders of Governance tokens give the holder the right to vote on proposals and changes to a cryptocurrency project. When these decisions have financial implications, then there is often intense demand for those tokens among those who would benefit from the ultimate outcome. For example, AAVE is an on-chain lending and borrowing protocol that charges interest. Holders of the AAVE token can participate in governance and influence the interest rates for borrowing and lending. Those who stand to earn from increased interest rates to borrowers or save due to decreased rates for borrowing have a strong incentive to buy as many AAVE tokens (the Governance token of the AAVE platform) as necessary to ensure that their financial self-interest is benefitted. Curve Finance’s CRV token is another great example.


Some tokens grant access to exclusive services or content within a platform. For instance, Filecoin’s FIL token is required to utilize and store data in its decentralized storage system. BitTorrent Token’s BTT is required to speed up BitTorrent downloads and access other premium features. 

In addition to access, many cryptocurrency platforms provide discounts to holders of their native token. For example, most decentralized exchanges offer discounted fee rates to holders of their token, generally on a tiered structure that provides the highest level of discounts to the largest holders of the token.


Many tokens are used as a medium of exchange within their respective ecosystems. Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC) are prime examples of tokens used for payments and transactions.

Token Distribution and Allocation

As opposed to traditional financial systems, almost all transaction data is publicly visible on the blockchain. Because of this, maintaining transparency and developing trust between a project and its investors and token holders is crucial for the long-term success of a project. How a project distributes its tokens, particularly in the early phases of its launch often is a determining factor for its initial and long-term success.

Different Distribution Models

Public Sales

Directly selling new tokens to the public is still one of the most common ways for a promising project to bootstrap necessary capital. Allowing them to reach a wide retail audience, this process allows the project to raise funds while distributing their tokens to early adopters and investors. As explained earlier, these sales commonly take the form of ICO, IDO, IEO, LBP, or Airdrops.

Team Allocation

Nobody works for free, and cryptocurrency developers are no different. Projects will often allocate a percentage of the total supply for the team. While this can be a controversial topic, many agree that this allocation is warranted to reward the team for their hard work and commitment to the project’s success. This process can and has, many times, been abused, and most serious projects will require this allocation to be locked up or vested for an extended period of time. This helps to align the incentives of the team with the investor and holder community rather than allowing for a quick cash grab.

Foundation Reserves

In addition to allocating a portion for the team, which is meant as profit for them, many projects also allocate a portion to a foundation or reserve fund. These tokens are intended to be used by the team for future marketing initiatives, core development and security audits, community incentives, promotional campaigns, grants & investments to benefit the ecosystem, partnerships, as well as market making and providing liquidity. In general, a savings account that a project can draw from to cover the cost of growth and operating expenses.

Vesting Periods and Lock-Up Mechanisms

Vesting periods and lock-up mechanisms are strategies to prevent large amounts of tokens from flooding the market at once, which could easily destabilize the price and lead to a panicked sell-off. Vesting periods slowly release tokens to team members, advisors, and early investors over time, ensuring that if they are cashing out, they cash out gradually so the market can absorb the selling pressure.

Lock-up mechanisms restrict the sale of tokens for a specified period. This approach is often used in ICOs and other token sales to maintain price stability and prevent early investors from selling off their holdings immediately.

Importance of Fair and Transparent Distribution

As stated, because almost all of the activities of everyone in the ecosystem is publicly visible and auditable, being fair and transparent with a token’s distribution is essential to build trust with their community and investors. Many projects have bungled their token distribution, leading to unfair centralization of token ownership. This undermines the principles of egalitarianism and decentralization that most crypto investors believe in. Being transparent and honest with the distribution of a token and ensuring that the team’s incentives are aligned with the community are paramount for growth and sustainability.


As you can see, understanding the core concepts of a project’s tokenomics is necessary for anyone looking to invest or participate within an ecosystem. From the factors that influence supply and demand (circulating supply, inflationary model vs. deflationary model) to the utility and distribution methods provided by the team, these principles are the backbone of any successful crypto project. Understanding the difference between a good tokenomic model (deflationary, fair distribution, transparent vesting and lock up, aligned incentives) versus a bad tokenomic model as an investor or trader will be the difference between being a successful token picker and getting rug pulled.

Advanced Tokenomic Features

Next, we’ll dive a little deeper into some of the more advanced tokenomic features that are beginning to become staples of modern crypto projects. From dynamic token supply mechanisms to the impact of Tokenomics on Decentralized Finance, we’ll cover everything you need to know to master the art of Tokenomics.

Dynamic Token Supply Mechanisms

Historically, when a cryptocurrency project would establish a Total Supply, that number was set in stone and as unchanging as marble. Over time, newer projects advocated for more inflationary models and launched tokens with no maximum supply, like Monero’s XMR for example. Nowadays, a more advanced approach is a token with a Dynamic Total Supply. These tokens can adjust their supply based on market conditions, responding elastically to adjust the levers of supply and demand. These mechanisms are intended to help stabilize the price and economy of a project’s token, giving investors more confidence that their holdings are less susceptible to wild market swings, panic selling, and high volatility.

Examples of projects with dynamic token supplies include FraxShares FRAX and, although dead and buried now, Terra’s LUNA token. 

Terra’s LUNA token used a dual-token model to dynamically adjust its supply, incentivizing holders of LUNA to burn portions of their LUNA holdings to mint more UST, which they would do because they would be receiving UST at a discount. This process was designed to re-stabilize the UST peg to $1, increasing the value of their new UST holdings, and also increasing the value of LUNA due to the decrease in circulating supply.

In contrast, FRAX is a fractional-algorithmic stablecoin that dynamically adjusts its supply to maintain its peg to the US dollar. FRAX uses a combination of collateral (generally stablecoins) and an algorithm to accomplish this elastic supply. When demand for FRAX is high (pushing price above $1) FRAX algorithmically reduces its collateral ratio, allowing more FRAX to be minted for cheaper than before. This increases demand to mint FRAX, increasing supply and reducing price back to its $1 peg. Conversely, when demand for FRAX wanes (causing it to trade below $1), the collateral ratio is raised, making minting FRAX more costly and reducing the amount of supply hitting the market, allowing price to re-peg.

NFT Integration and Utility

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have been integrated into the ecosystem of many cryptocurrency projects, adding layers of utility and integration that can often go beyond mere collectibles. 

NFT Staking and Farming: Some platforms incentivize users to stake NFTs to earn rewards, often the native token of that project. The popular NFT platform Rarible lets users stake NFTs to earn rewards in the form of RARI tokens.

Liquidity: Decentralized exchanges can allow users to deposit NFTs as collateral for ERC-20 tokens, which they can use to stake to earn yield or trade for profit.

NFT-Gated Access: Projects can require a user to hold a certain NFT to access premium or exclusive content, events, or services. The Sandbox requires users to own specific Land NFTs and SAND tokens to access special in-game events and exclusive content from partners.

In-Game Economies: Blockchain-based games like Axie Infinity allow players to purchase in-game assets in the form of NFTs that can be sold and traded for profit. These in-game assets often make the player more successful in the game, leading to increased rewards in the form of the game’s native token or additional NFTs. 

Dual-Token Models

Dual-Token Models are a more advanced tokenomic strategy. Typically involving the use of two or more different types of tokens, each serving a different purpose. A typical example would be a platform offering a Utility Token to access or receive discounted access to a platform’s services and a Governance Token or a token that is designed to accrue value over time.

MakerDAO utilizes a dual-token system to ensure the price stability of its DAI stablecoin. DAI is used for transactions and as a medium of exchange, while MKR is the governance token used to vote on proposals that will affect the platform. 

VeChain is another good example, with it’s VET and VTHO. VET is used as a medium of exchange and can be staked to earn rewards in addition to acting as a governance token, while VTHO is used as a medium of exchange and to pay transaction fees on the VeChainThor blockchain. VET generates VTHO over time and helps separate smart contract execution from regular financial transactions. 

Bonding Curves

Bonding curves are an integral part of many decentralized applications, allowing projects to dynamically adjust the price of an asset based on current supply and demand factors. These are critical in the successful operation of Automated Market Makers, Liquidity Bootstrapping Protocols, and liquidity pools. 

Quite simply, a Bonding Curve is a mathematical operation that defines the relationship between the price and current supply of a token. As demand increases, leading to increased buying activity, the curve gets steeper, increasing the subsequent price of newer tokens, whether they are being purchased or minted. On the flip side, selling or burning tokens decreases the curve, reducing the price of future tokens. Bonding Curves can also be divided into Linear, Exponential, and Logarithmic Curves, which change the speed at which the curve will steepen or decline. 

Bonding Curves, Smart Contracts, and the burning or minting of a token can all be combined to create a system of dynamic price and supply, where Smart Contracts automate the process of minting or burning a token, effectively controlling its supply based on the volume of buying or selling pressure.

On-Chain vs. Off-Chain Governance Models

As explained earlier, Governance is the process of voting on proposals and decisions that influence the future direction of a cryptocurrency project. On-chain governance involves decision-making processes that are executed directly on the blockchain. Smart Contracts are used to record votes from token holders and set epochs (time limits) on voting. When a voting epoch has concluded, these Smart Contracts ensure that no changes can be made and allow the voting process to remain transparent.

Off-chain governance, in contrast, involves discussions and decisions made outside the blockchain, often on forums or through community meetings. While off-chain governance allows for more flexibility and deliberation, it may lack the transparency and immutability of on-chain solutions. An example is Bitcoin, where major decisions are often discussed in forums and developer meetings before being implemented through code changes.

How Token Ownership Influences Voting Power

In life, money talks and the blockchain is no different. While many find the influence of money in our political system to be corrupt, it is an inescapable fact of current life. In crypto, likewise, the quantity or value of a user’s holdings of governance tokens is usually proportional to the weight of their vote or the number of votes they’re entitled to. Known as token-weighted voting, this is designed to ensure the interests of those with the most skin in the game have the most say in the project’s future. While this is a beautiful idea, and can work, this can lead to the centralization of power and individuals pushing the platform in a direction that financially benefits them at the expense of the broader community.

For instance, in MakerDAO, the MKR token holders vote on proposals that affect the DAI stablecoin system. The more MKR tokens one holds, the greater their voting power, thereby influencing key decisions such as collateral types and risk parameters.

Examples of Governance Proposals

Governance proposals can cover a wide range of topics, from protocol upgrades to fee structures. In addition, they can cover more controversial topics such as:

  • Uniswap’s Retroactive UNI Token Distribution: When UNI did its initial token distribution, users who had interacted with the platform through a proxy did not receive an allocation. A governance proposal was raised to retroactively reward these early users, who arguably had contributed to the platform’s early adoption and growth. This was a highly publicized and debated vote that underlined the importance of fairness and the project's need to recognize its user's efforts.

  • AAVE’s Credit Delegation: The AAVE platform allows one to stake collateral to be lent out by the platform and in return receive interest. In addition, stakers can borrow up to a certain percentage of their collateral’s value. A proposal was raised to allow stakers to delegate their borrowing power to others. While controversial, this created new borrowing and lending use cases in their ecosystem and did not lead to the collapse of the platform as some predicted.

  • Curve Finance’s Introduction of veCRV Tokens: CRV tokens allow one to participate in governance on the Curve Finance platform. However, it was pointed out that there were no incentives to hold the token long-term. Some users pointed out that when certain proposals would come up for voting, interested parties would just buy up massive amounts of CRV in order to push the vote in their favor and dump the tokens after the epoch had ended. In response, Curve introduced the veCRV system, where users could lock up their CRV tokens, which converted them into veCRV tokens, for longer periods of time up to 4 years. veCRV tokens had significantly greater voting weight, proportional to the length of time one chose to lock their tokens.

These stories illustrate the importance of governance models in a cryptocurrency’s future and how this political process can be used for the greater good of the economy and also manipulated for the financial gain of a few over the many.

Staking and Yield Generation

Staking has emerged as a prominent feature in many blockchain ecosystems, offering participants the opportunity to earn rewards by locking their tokens.

Locking Tokens to Earn Rewards

Staking one’s tokens involves locking them up. By different mechanisms, this process allows users the right to validate transactions, maintaining the immutability and security of the network. In return, stakers receive rewards, generally in the form of newly minted native tokens of the blockchain or project. This process relies on the slashing penalty, as outlined before, to prevent potential manipulation. This manipulation is made possible due to the lack of need for energy-intensive computation required in Proof-of-Work systems. It instead relies on the “carrot and the stick” approach for network security.

Proof-of-Stake Consensus Mechanisms

In a PoS system, for every block of transactions that needs to be validated and added to the blockchain, the network looks to the list of those who have signaled they are willing to stake their tokens to choose one or several validators. These validators are chosen to create new blocks and confirm transactions based on the number of tokens they hold and are willing to "stake" as collateral. If a block is processed by the validator/s successfully, their stake is released, and they are rewarded. If their block contains malicious information in an attempt to manipulate the state of the ledger for their benefit, they are punished by having their “stake” slashed or burnt. Examples include:

  • Ethereum 2.0: Transitioned from PoW to PoS to enhance scalability and sustainability.
  • Cardano: Uses the Ouroboros PoS protocol, which provides security and decentralization.

Risks and Benefits of Staking

Staking offers several benefits, such as earning rewards and participating in network governance. However, it also carries risks, including:

  • Slashing: Those found guilty of malicious behavior, which could include trying to manipulate the state of the ledger or failing to validate in time, suffer a slashing penalty for a portion or all of their staked tokens.
  • Liquidity Risk: Staked tokens are often locked for a fixed period. If prices start going down, stakers are essentially “locked” into their positions and cannot sell.
  • Market Risk: The value of staked tokens can fluctuate, affecting stakers overall returns.

Despite these risks, staking remains an attractive option for many participants due to its potential for passive income and the opportunity to directly support the stability and growth of the network.

Tokenomics and Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

DeFi has become one of the most popular and exciting areas of tokenomic innovation, as most DeFi platforms can experiment with all sorts of different tokenomics to incentivize users of their products and platforms.

Role of Tokens in DeFi Protocols

Tokens are the bread and butter of DeFi protocols, often serving as collateral and liquidity. Decentralized Exchanges rely on incentivizing users to deposit tokens in the form of liquidity to properly provide their exchange functions to end users. Lending and borrowing platforms rely on token deposits to act as collateral for their lending operations. Without sufficient incentives for token holders to deposit their assets, these protocols would collapse.

Liquidity Pools, AMMs, and Token Incentives

Liquidity pools are a cornerstone of DeFi, enabling decentralized trading and lending. These pools are powered by Automated Market Makers (AMMs), algorithms that dynamically adjust the price of an asset using a Bonding Curve based on current buying and selling. 

The most common method of incentivizing deposits for DEXs is sharing a portion of the platform's trading fees with those who deposit liquidity. In addition, they may also receive newly minted tokens native to the platform. 

Understanding Tokenomics of DeFi Projects

Like any project, DeFi protocols will often use the same Tokenomic methods to ensure its utility and incentives.

  • Token Supply: Controlling circulating supply with inflationary or deflationary emission schedules, token buybacks, and burning programs.
  • Incentive Mechanisms: Incentivizing deposits of user assets by rewarding staking, liquidity provision, and collateral deposits.
  • Governance: Enabling token holders to propose and vote on changes, aligning the interests of the platform with the community.


These advanced tokenomic features are what differentiate modern blockchain projects from their earlier predecessors. As navigating cryptocurrency profitably and without getting scammed becomes more and more difficult, understanding these concepts can empower you to spot a promising narrative from a potential scam. 

Evaluating a Crypto Project's Tokenomics

If you’ve made it this far, then you have a better grasp on tokenomics than the majority of cryptocurrency investors. But knowledge alone won’t help you make better trading or investment decisions unless you put your knowledge to practical use. Learning to evaluate the viability or attractiveness of a project’s tokenomics is important to spot profitable opportunities and avoid potential scams. In this section, we’ll cover the process we recommend you use to evaluate a project’s tokenomics, and red flags that you should absolutely avoid.

Red Flags and Warning Signs

Before expending a considerable amount of time researching a project’s tokenomics, you should first evaluate any of these red flags that are tell-tale signs of a doomed project.

Unsustainable Token Inflation

Remember that a cryptocurrency’s price is heavily influenced by its circulating supply and the mechanisms of how that circulating supply increases or decreases. Be aware of projects that continuously increase their token supply without a corresponding increase in demand. Not having a mechanism to prevent run-away inflation erodes the value of token-holders investment over time, making it less and less attractive to newcomers. If an investment can’t continually attract new investors, its price will stop going up. Look closely at the token’s issuance/emission schedule and make sure it aligns with realistic adoption rates and current and future demand.

Unclear Token Utility

To incentivize users to have a need to hold a token, its use case within the project’s ecosystem must be clear. If the utility of the token is hard to determine, it will likely struggle to generate the necessary demand for price growth. Successful projects will have tokens that are essential to access their services, participate in governance, or perform transactions. If the project you are researching has a poorly defined use case for its token, this is a red flag for the token’s viability.

Unequal/Unfair Token Distribution

The distribution of a token among it’s holders is extremely important when evaluating a potential investment/trade. Common red flags include heavy centralization of token ownership among insiders, founders, team members, and early investors. This often leads to market manipulation. If a small group of people are holding a significant portion of the circulating supply, then that market will always be susceptible to the actions of those few. Panic selling, token dumping, and as previously stated, market manipulation are all too common among projects such as these. Make sure the project you’re investing in has a transparent token allocation among its early investors and team members and is equitably distributed among a wide group of holders. This helps balance the scales in your favor.

Lack of Transparency in Tokenomics

Good projects welcome questions with open arms and firm answers. Transparency is the key to trust in the crypto space. Most projects have Telegram or Discord groups where you can connect with investors, team members, and other interested parties. If you ask simple questions about their Tokenomics, and they are vague, unclear, defensive, or combative, you are in the wrong place. A good Tokenomic schedule should be established by a project before it goes live, and if they’re fumbling for answers while asking for money, it’s a clear sign that they’ll continue to fumble the bag and your investment. Lack of transparency is often used to fool investors by scammers and low-quality projects. Avoid at all costs.

Analyzing the Project's Whitepaper and Roadmap

If the project you’re analyzing does not raise any of the aforementioned red flags, then it’s time to move on to actually analyzing their Tokenomics. The best place to start is by reading their Whitepaper and studying their Roadmap. In the section, we’ll point out the key details to look for.

Identifying Tokenomics Details

Any viable cryptocurrency project will have a Whitepaper, a document that outlines their vision, technological innovations, tokenomics, team, and strategy. A project that lacks a comprehensive Whitepaper should be avoided at all costs. Within the Whitepaper, full details of their Tokenomic strategy should be detailed including total token supply, distribution strategy, emission schedule, incentives for holders, and the token’s ultimate utility with their ecosystem. This is the section of the Whitepaper you should focus on because generally, the rest is just fluff. Carefully review these aspects of their plan and see if they align with the fundamentals we’ve outlined above. Pay close attention to any deflationary strategies like token buybacks or burns, which often have a large impact in the long run.

Assessing the Overall Vision and Feasibility

In addition to their tokenomics, the whitepaper should lay out a clear and realistic roadmap for the project’s development. My first step is always looking to see where they are on the roadmap. Have they already shown a track record of following through on their promises? If not, then the odds that they will get it together in the future are low. Study the team’s goals, milestones, and timelines to assess whether they are realistic and achievable. If the tokenomics look good, the roadmap looks reasonable, and the team has built the trust of their community on following through: you might be looking at something worthwhile.

Community Sentiment and Discussion

One of the most valuable indicators of any cryptocurrency project’s viability is its community. What is the vibe like in their Discord or Telegram? How does Twitter treat them? Analyzing the sentiment of community members can generally tell you very quickly how attractive the broader investment community considers the project.

Importance of Community Engagement

A strong, engaged, and supportive community is a positive indicator of the health of a project and its potential for success. Make sure the project has active participation on social media and in their own community channels. Also, make sure you can distinguish between genuine human activity and bot activity. You should see clear signs of a responsive and involved team responding to community questions and hosting community events. Equally, make sure that the community is responding well to these initiatives and engaging by providing feedback, spreading awareness, and participating in governance.

Understanding Public Perception of Tokenomics

It’s important to check how well the project is received and respected, not just by its own community of investors and token holders but by the broader community as well. Larger social media platforms like Reddit and Twitter can be very helpful for this. Most projects will always promote themselves on those platforms, and it’s important to see how those who aren’t invested respond. It might not always be positive, and that’s not always a bad thing, but you should see some outside sources chiming in on whether a project is a scam, viable, or not. Also, if there is a lot of overall negative sentiment outside of the project’s community, it will be hard for it to attract new members and potentially stifle its growth potential.


Whether or not to invest or trade a particular cryptocurrency project requires doing a thorough evaluation of their tokenomics, understanding the red flags to avoid, and gauging the sentiment of the community. Focus on those aspects before focusing on the price, and you’ll be better able to sift through the ocean of disinformation, potential scams, and lackluster investments. Carefully consider the project’s inflationary or deflationary model, incentives, utility, governance, transparency, and track record. Analyzing their Whitepaper, roadmap, and community can generally give you all the information you need.


The Future of Tokenomics

As crypto continues to evolve, so do Tokenomic models. New economic strategies, cryptographic methods, and innovation incentivization are constantly pushing the envelope for what is possible. As technology and regulation marches on, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest trends and techniques or be left in the dust.

Evolving Trends and Innovations

One significant trend is the growing emphasis on interoperability between different blockchain networks. Projects are developing tokens that can seamlessly operate across multiple platforms, enhancing their utility and adoption. Cross-chain bridges and multi-chain protocols are key innovations driving this trend, allowing tokens to move fluidly between different ecosystems.

The intersection of cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence has already caused a market boom, and it’s clear that this will continue to play more and more of a role in cryptocurrency and tokenomics. From optimizing token distribution strategies to predicting market trends, sometimes it seems as if the sky is the limit. Also, the introduction of NFTs I believe will continue to play an important role in the evolution of tokenomic models.

Decentralized finance (DeFi) continues to be a hotbed for tokenomic innovation. Concepts like yield farming, liquidity mining, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are pushing the boundaries of traditional financial systems, offering novel ways for users to earn, govern, and interact within blockchain ecosystems. Once considered years away from the mainstream, the shift towards widespread adoption is well on the way, and I see the technologies that can facilitate a better future for all of us being innovated every day.

Impact of Regulations on Tokenomics

As the crypto industry matures, regulatory frameworks are becoming more defined, significantly impacting the tokenomic strategies of crypto projects. Governments and regulatory agencies worldwide are developing policies to protect investors, prevent scams and fraud, and maintain market stability. These regulations have already had a massive impact on how projects raise capital, and as they become more defined, will continue to influence token distribution, incentives, and governance.

Key Takeaways for Beginners

Understanding the core concepts of Tokenomics is essential for any newcomer to the crypto space, as well as any aspiring investor.

Importance of Considering Tokenomics Before Investing

Thoroughly review a project’s tokenomics before investing. A project’s Whitepaper should contain all the details you need, and a lack of critical information is a big red flag. Make sure you understand how a project intends to distribute its token, what the token’s utility within the ecosystem will be, and what mechanisms are expected to regulate supply and demand. Looking for these details will help you avoid potential scams and filter out lackluster projects.

How Tokenomics Influence Project Success

A project’s Tokenomics are often the difference between a scam, pump and dump, and long-term success. Make sure the projects you’re considering have or plan to create a balanced ecosystem where the incentives and interests of users, developers, and investors align. A project needs to drive demand, stay transparent with its distribution, and set realistic goals and expectations to earn the trust of a loyal community.

Final Thoughts

As cryptocurrency has evolved over my years in it, tokenomics has become and will remain one of the most important factors driving the success of a project. If you’re new to the space, study the fundamentals of tokenomics and be aware of the red flags to avoid. Always remember that there are thousands of tokens out there, and you don’t need to force anything. Don’t chase gains, focus on finding high-quality projects with good tokenomic models and a transparent team. Focusing on these fundamental principles will help protect your capital and your sanity in the often turbulent world of cryptocurrency.

If you’re looking to level up your trading and investment knowledge and skills, I highly recommend joining our Crypto Trading Academy. In our Academy, we ground all of our students in the fundamentals of trading and investing, surrounding you with a supportive community dedicated to your success. We have a strong track record of producing professional traders, and we would love to have you among our ranks. 

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