When bitcoin was launched back in 2009, anyone with a computer connected to the internet and with the right software could mine it. Early users gathered thousands of coins with ease, but because they were worth a tiny fraction of their current value there was no real incentive to mine them more quickly.

But now, huge gains in value over the last six months mean the problem with bitcoin - and, to a lesser but growing extent, litecoin - is how difficult the cryptocurrency has become to mine.

In the early days of 2009 any miner could earn coins using their own computer, but as bitcoin's value rose and more people started mining, the difficulty to extract the currency increased, leading to an arms race where the winners spent tens of thousands of pounds on dedicated hardware known as ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit).

Why is vertcoin different?

David Muller's Vertcoin hopes to offer an alternative. By taking the foundations of bitcoin and making some adjustments, vertcoin punishes miners who use powerful machines and work together in 'pools' to monopolise the mining market.

Muller writes in a brief essay introducing vertcoin: "Now that bitcoin computational power is handled almost entirely by large data centres, the currency has rapidly changed from a distributed, decentralised currency, to one that is much more centralised and vulnerable."

By preventing, or at least lessening, this 'centralisation' of mining power, vertcoin aims to level the cryptocurrency playing field.

What is vertcoin worth?

As with most cryptocurrencies, vertcoin had an almost worthless valuation when it was created at the start of 2014, but while others have seen small peaks and troughs since then, vertcoin has soared from mere cents to more than $9 per coin, increasing by several hundred percent every day.

Vertcoin value

Although a long way from bitcoin's circa $900 valuation, vertcoin's triple-digit growth is reminiscent of bitcoin's own success in early 2013.

Cryptocurrency fans eager to turn a quick buck on vertcoin's rising value have flocked to the currency, driving its price up further and crippling the vertcoin.org website.

Where can I buy vertcoin?

Because it was only launched earlier this year - and is resistant to industrial-scale mining from powerful computers - vertcoins are somewhat scarce. Due to a lack of bitcoin-style ecosystem of exchanges where coins are traded for real-world currencies like dollars, sterling and the euro, vertcoins are bought in exchange for bitcoins on sites like CoinedUp.com.

At the time of publication, CoinedUp is offering vertcoins for 0.009 bitcoins each, but if you are hoping to turn a quick profit you will have to act now, as even in the time this article was written, vertcoins rose and fell by several dollars.

Once your vertcoins have been bought, it is strongly advisable that you encrypt the digital wallet in which they are held - or better still, create an offline paper wallet where access to the coins is only possible if someone has physical access to wherever it is stored. More information on creating paper wallets can be found in this YouTube video.

What happens next?

There are more than 85 cryptocurrencies listed on the CoinMarketCap website, and while many of these are unlikely to become as widely recognised and accepted as bitcoin and litecoin, some will undoubtedly shine through.

Given its anti-ASIC mining construction and soaring value, vertcoin could well be one of the few to make it out of a Reddit sub-forum into the mainstream.