The crypto community suffers from a surplus of zeal. Around every corner is an anarcho-techno-libertarian proclaiming that nothing will ever be the same thanks to Bitcoin and/or the blockchain. The world banking system (sinister) will collapse. Trillion dollar industries (old fashioned) will crumble. Everything from dentistry to religious faith is destined for disruption. Many could stand a good joke to break up the breathless utopia mongering.
With that in mind, here are four less than serious cryptocurrencies that have cropped up over the past few years.
Ponzi Coin (PONZI)
Like Charles Ponzi, renowned swindler and popularizer of the scheme that bears his name, Ponzi Coin is dead. Don’t fret, investors, it was never more than an ironic stunt to begin with.
Launched in June 2016, Ponzi Coin was a commentary on the proliferation of confidence artists slinging bunk, flimflam, and bilge to suckers new to cryptocurrency, but in an absurd twist of fate, the joke coin turned into a white-hot conduit of speculative insanity, going from worthless to a per coin value of $.20 and a market cap of $178,059 USD by January ’18.
When the creators saw their performance art / prank was being taken seriously they pulled the plug, leaving a message on their website urging users to “be careful when investing in shady cryptocurrencies, especially ones that look like pyramid schemes – it’s a zero sum game and money doesn’t appear out of thin air.”
For those with a passionate and enduring commitment to irony, you can buy the remaining joke coins for around two cents a pop on the YoBit exchange. But remember, a fool and their crypto are soon parted.
Pepe Cash (PEPECASH)
Teasing apart the history of the Pepe meme is as easy as concluding a sightseeing tour of the Cretan labyrinth. Originally a creation of artist Matt Furie, this sleepy-eyed frog was forcibly adopted by the 4chan message board, where he underwent a hard semiotic fork, becoming a symbol of crypto-fascists on one side, and the basis for a series of trading cards known as Rare Pepes on the other.
Rare Pepes are rare thanks to the blockchain, where the same technology that prevents double spending applies to the unique provenance of works of art. Similar projects are Crypto Kitties, Crypto Punks, and the Rose Coin. Rare Pepes can depict anything as long as the titular frog is involved. A poster of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis, for example, is redubbed Pepeopolis, with Pepe in place of Maria, the Maschinenmensch. If none of this sounds like art, then may I remind you that despite the febrile protestations of computer science majors everywhere, all creativity exists in the eye of the beholder.
The least rare of the Pepes is Pepe Cash, a digital card represented in further abstraction by an altcoin. It serves as the payment method for discerning collectors of blockchain-based meme art. In early 2018, a live auction of Rare Pepes took place in New York City, where a frenzied round of IRL bidding ended in the rarest Pepe of them all, Homer Pepe, selling for almost $40,000 in Pepe Cash. Since then, the coin’s value has dropped to a single cent, meaning Homer Pepe is worth a pitiful $3,808 as of writing.
Cthulhu Offerings (OFF)
According to his creator, H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu is a colossal abomination, a grotesque hybrid of humanoid, octopus, and dragon, a vector of gibbering madness whose awakening all living beings dread. He goes by many names: High Priest of the Great Old Ones. The Great Dreamer. The Sleeper of R’lyeh. Cathy.
He’s also the proud owner of his very own cryptocurrency. Framed in the language of religious sacrifice, Cthulhu Offerings are nearly as mysterious as their namesake. Ostensibly traded on Cryptopia, the circulating supply has swung wildly from 5,000 to 5,000,000 with no explanation why.
The coin’s twitter page is nominally active, and a new website appeared this year with a promise of a ‘social reboot,’ but the coin’s creator hasn’t been heard from in years. Coin Market Cap lists its value at .004 cents, far less than one would expect from the official currency of a Great Old One.
Lest you think this means the coin is defunct and abandoned, remember: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.”
The grand-doggie of all unserious coins, Doge was created in 2013 by Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer. By adopting the Shiba Inu meme of the same name, and creating an open, welcoming community on Reddit, DogeCoin’s original purpose was to help newcomers familiarize themselves with what was (and still is) a confusing new technology.
As of writing, DogeCoin is worth around $0.002, with a market cap of $278,599,228, although those numbers were much higher during the great crypto gold rush of early 2018. The currency has had its ups (DogeCoin sponsored race car) and its downs (DogeCoin owners gulled by a scam artist who’s now in jail), but the community remains active. As of writing a Doge/Ethereum bridging project is underway.
Above all, DogeCoin shows the staying power of crypto. If the technology was just a fad, surely a joke coin based on a meme would have vanished into the ether long ago. Yet, four years later, both remain, more popular than ever. Wow.