There are hundreds of altcoins (CoinMarketCap listed 478 at the time this guide was written), and more appear each day. Most altcoins are little more than Bitcoin clones, changing only minor characteristics such as its transactions speed, distribution method, or hashing algorithm. Most of these coins do not survive for very long. One exception is Litecoin, which was one of the first altcoins. In addition to using a different hashing algorithm than Bitcoin, Litecoin has a much higher number of currency units. For this reason, Litecoin has branded itself as “silver to Bitcoin’s gold.”
Now imagine that I pose the "guess what number I'm thinking of" question, but I'm not asking just three friends, and I'm not thinking of a number between 1 and 100. Rather, I'm asking millions of would-be miners and I'm thinking of a 64-digit hexadecimal number. Now you see that it's going to be extremely hard to guess the right answer. (See also: What is Bitcoin Mining?)

By October 2009, the world’s first Bitcoin exchange was established. At the time, $1 was the equivalent of 1,309 Bitcoin. Considering how expensive Bitcoin is today, that was a real steal. Bitcoin traded at a fraction of a penny for quite some time. Things started changing in 2010; as the distribution of Bitcoin increased, the digital currency became inherently more valuable.