A cryptocurrency or digital cash that is independent of any other blockchain or platform. The key feature of a coin is that of a currency, and the term may also be used to describe a cryptocurrency asset that is not a token.
Unlike cryptocurrency tokens, coins are not intended to serve utility functions - such as to represent votes within a community or to denote storage capacity on a decentralized cloud storage. Instead, a coin operates on its own independent blockchain and acts like a native currency within a specific financial system. Accordingly, a coin is essentially used as a medium of exchange or store of value within a digital economic network. Most blockchains work as a decentralized, distributed ledger that tracks and verifies each transaction, and their native coins can only be transferred between participants of this particular network.
A coin, as a single unit of currency, can be traded for an agreed upon value depending on current market conditions. Occasionally it can be exchanged for a different coin or token that belongs to another blockchain, either through a cryptocurrency exchange or through private transfers (like peer-to-peer and OTC trades). Decentralized exchanges and atomic swaps are also viable alternatives for coin and token trading.
Many companies and startups in the blockchain industry choose to raise funds prior to building their own blockchain, and this is often done through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) crowdsale. The majority of ICO fundraising events were performed on top of the Ethereum network, issuing tokens through the so-called Ethereum Token Standard protocol (also known as ERC20). This means that instead of issuing their native coin, these companies decided to create a digital token that is issued on top of an existing blockchain network.
Usually, these ICO tokens are offered in exchange for Bitcoin or Ethereum, but some startups also accepted fiat currency or other cryptocurrencies as payment during their fundraising. In some cases, the tokens are representative of the future project and are supposed to be swapped for native coins when the blockchain is finally deployed.