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Cryptocoin are way more than just virtual currency.
It all started with Bitcoin, imagined in 2008, released in 2009. And since then, the source code being open, many more coins have been created by individuals and companies.
The general idea is a bit technical but can be summarized as this:
Each user gets an address (but you can and should generate several) corresponding a wallet working, to the end user, as a regular wallet.
Once you have a wallet adapted to the coin of your choice (you can find them for Windows, MAC OS, Linux, IOS, Android, ...) you will get an address to and from which you can send and receive funds.
Exchanges allow you to change USD or EUR, RUB, ... to almost any coin in an instant.
The value of the coin is fixed by the asking price against the buying one on those exchanges much as the stock market works.
You can pay and accept payment using crypto-currencies with a lot of different applications.
Moreover the value of Bitcoin, for instance, is raising sometimes to skyhights: from a few cents to over a thousand USD a few months ago.
Buying coins can therefore be very expensive, but there is a way to produce them: it is called mining