By one measure, cryptocurrency exchanges seem to have achieved parity with their stock-listing counterparts. 

Online publication Business Insider published a post yesterday stating that the 24-hour total trading volume for cryptocurrencies was close to that of the New York Stock Exchange during the same time period. The publication cited trading volumes from www.coinmarketcap.com, which crossed the $50 billion mark briefly, yesterday. Those figures are similar to trading volumes over the same time period at the New York Stock Exchange. The achievement is pretty impressive when you consider that cryptocurrency exchanges (and cryptocurrencies) have been around for less than a decade. (See also: A Look At The Most Popular Cryptocurrency Exchanges.)  

But it might be too soon for cryptocurrency proponents to celebrate. There are a couple of reasons for this. 

First, the comparison is an unequal one. The New York Stock Exchange deals with stocks while cryptocurrency exchanges are used to trade digital currencies. As Business insider itself points out, the correct comparison should be with fiat currency exchanges, which have average trading volumes of $5 trillion. 

Second, trading volumes at cryptocurrency exchanges are largely propped up by select players. For example, bitcoin’s share of trading volumes has fluctuated between 43% to over 50% of the total volume in the last couple of months. This, despite an incessant drumbeat about cryptocurrency investing emanating from the media and the fact that there are 1,372 cryptocurrencies listed across the world. In contrast, the top 10 most-traded stocks this morning accounted for less than 1% of the overall trading volume at NYSE. (See also: 5 Ways To Short Bitcoin.) 

Finally, cryptocurrency exchanges lack the transparency and regulation of stock exchanges. Cryptocurrency traders are identified by addresses. Consequently, it is difficult to distinguish between actual traders and algorithms. The situation often leads to price movements characterized by volatility and wild swings. This is unlike stock exchanges, where trading is subject to strict rules. 

That said, cryptocurrencies have become a force of their own, racking up phenomenal gains over the year. Their advance is reflected in trading volumes. At the beginning of 2017, that figure was $130 million. As of this writing, it is $44 billion. 

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns 0.001 bitcoin. 

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.