Comparison of Payment, Utility, and Investment Tokens from 2015 until 2019

Authors: Jan Spörer, Philipp Sandner

Last changed: 22nd July 2019
Originally posted: 22nd July 2019
Data from: 13th April 2019

Market capitalization and relative number of tokens for Payment, Utility, and Investment Tokens. Figure and data provided by the International Token Standardization Association (ITSA) e.V.

You are invited to download this figure and distribute it or use it for your own purposes. This figure is free for use. For reference, please use “(TOKENBASE, 2019)” and “TOKENBASE, version of April 2019, International Token Standardization Association (ITSA) e.V., see” in the footnote.

The diagram shows the market capitalization of and the relative number of tokens within each Economic Purpose dimension. While Utility Tokens overtook Payment Tokens in terms of the number of distinct tokens (lower diagram), the market capitalization of Payment Tokens is still dominant with approx. 70% of total market capitalization ($57bn vs. $173bn as of Q2 2019). Investment Tokens, as the youngest class, have (still) a significantly smaller economic impact with far less than 1% of total market capitalization ($0.2bn as of Q2 2019).

Tokens are classified by ITSA according to our International Token Classification (ITC) framework. This framework currently distinguishes between four dimensions. For this analysis, only the Economic Dimension and the Economic Purpose (EEP) are relevant. Within the EEP, tokens are classified within three categories: Payment Token (EEP21), Utility Token (EEP22), and Investment Token (EEP23).

A Payment Token is created to be used as digital currency. As such, a Payment Token fulfills the classic functions of money (at least partially): (1) medium of exchange; (2) unit of account; and (3) store of value. In general, the usage of the token as means of payment is not limited to a specific use case or environment.

A Utility Token is created to provide a certain sort of utility or right to the token holder within a clearly specified environment (e.g. decentralized network, third-party ecosystem, business relationship or jurisdiction) for a specific use case (e.g. access to services or products, transaction settlement, governance functions, or ownership management).

An Investment Token is created as a financial product or financial instrument for institutional and/or retail investors. The category comprises cryptographic tokens that represent debt, equity, funds, derivatives and other financial products or instruments that exist for investment purposes.

About ITSA

The International Token Standardization Association (ITSA) e.V. is a not for profit association of German law that aims at promoting the development and implementation of comprehensive market standards for the identification, classification and analysis of DLT- and blockchain-based cryptographic tokens.


So far various reputable organizations have already committed to join ITSA as associated founding members, reaching from corporates (e.g. Commerzbank’s Main Incubator, Bank Frick, MME, Börse Stuttgart) over associations (e.g. Bundesverband deutscher Banken, the German Investment Funds Association BVI), startups (e.g. Cashlink, solarisBank, CryptoTax, and Ambrosus) and universities (e.g. Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, University of Mainz, TU Munich, Hasso Plattner Institute or UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies in London) to private members (one of the co-creators of the ERC20 standard).


Are you also interested in becoming a member of ITSA and in contributing towards holistic market standards for the global token economy?

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