Minting native assets

One of Cardano's best features is supporting native multi-assets. These are user-created tokens on Cardano that have the same treatment as the native coin (Ada).

This might not seem like a big deal but this offers serious advantages over Ethereum tokens (ERC-20 and ERC-721). But to understand the benefits you have to understand how user-defined tokens work on non-UTxO blockchains.

ERC-20 Standard

On Ethereum, tokens are defined using the ERC-20 standard. In this standard tokens are managed by a contract that stores all of the token's metadata and all user balances in a mapping (hashmap) called _balances. All transfers of an ERC-20 token are function calls to the contract to modify the _balances.

Any error in the implementation of the ERC-20 standard can lead to the loss of user funds.

UTxO Native Assets

On Cardano and other eUTxO blockchains user-defined tokens are first-class. Tokens on Cardano are stored in token bundles which can contain Ada and any native asset. This allows Cardano to do in one transaction what would normally take multiple contract calls on Ethereum.

Note: A token bundle must always contain a minimum amount of Ada.

Minting Policies

Minting policies are a lot like spending scripts. These policies validate attempts to mint or burn a tokens of that policy.

There are a few key differences wrt. spending scripts:

  • Minting policies are not directly linked to any UTxO they are included in the minting transaction directly.
  • Minting policies take two arguments (the ScriptContext and the Redeemer), they have no input UTxO and therefore no Datum.


Native assets are identified by their AssetClass this is a combination of:

  • a MintingPolicyHash: the hash of the minting policy of the token. Sometimes referred to as the CurrencySymbol or the PolicyID.

  • a token name: this is used to distinguish different assets within the same policy (e.g. multiple NFTs using the same minting policy)

Note: The MintingPolicyHash of ADA is an empty ByteArray (#). Since nothing can hash to an empty string Ada is the only token that can't be minted/burned using a minting policy.