What are stablecoins?
Today we will talk about what is called a stablecoin.
A “stablecoin” is a type of cryptocurrency whose value is pegged to another asset class, such as a fiat currency or gold, to stabilize its price.
Cryptocurrencies such as BTC and ether offer a number of benefits, and one of the most fundamental is not requiring trust in an intermediary institution to send payments, which opens up their use to anyone around the globe. But one key drawback is that cryptocurrencies’ prices are unpredictable and have a tendency to fluctuate, often wildly.
This makes them hard for everyday people to use. Generally, people expect to be able to know how much their money will be worth a week from now, both for their security and their livelihood.
Cryptocurrency’s unpredictability comes in contrast to the generally stable prices of fiat money, such as U.S. dollars, or other assets, such as gold. Values of currencies like the dollar do change gradually over time, but the day-to-day changes are often more drastic for cryptocurrencies, which rise and fall in value regularly.
The following graph shows the price of bitcoin vs. the U.S. dollar (USD) compared to another fiat currency, the Canadian dollar (CAD), to see how much each currency fluctuates in relation.
Types of stablecoin collateral
Using this framework, stablecoins come in a range of flavours, and the collateralized stablecoins use a variety of types of assets as backing:
Fiat: Fiat is the most common collateral for stablecoins. The U.S. dollar is the most popular among fiat currencies, but companies are exploring stablecoins pegged to other fiat currencies as well, such as BiLira, which is pegged to the Turkish lira.
Precious metals: Some cryptocurrencies are tied to the value of precious metals such as gold or silver.
Cryptocurrencies: Some stablecoins even use other cryptocurrencies, such as ether, the native token of the Ethereum network, as collateral.
Other investments: Tether’s USDT was once supposed to be backed 1-for-1 with dollars but its collateral mix has shifted over time and in a breakdown provided in 2021 the company said nearly half its reserves are in commercial paper, a form of short-term corporate debt. It has not disclosed the issuers of this paper but claims it is all rated A-2 or higher (A-2 is the second-best grade available for a corporate borrower from credit rating agencies like Standard & Poor’s). Circle’s USDC, similarly, lists unspecified “approved investments” alongside accounts at federally insured banks (notably, it does not say whether the accounts themselves are insured) in its monthly disclosures.
Stay with us, we will write our next exciting posts about stablecoins and tell you a lot of interesting things!