Eager cryptocurrency investors have sunk thousands of dollars into joke tokens

Ever felt like you were in a transactional relationship?
Ever felt like you were in a transactional relationship?
Image: btckeychain on Flickr/CC BY 2.0
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The initial coin offering (ICO) craze is getting ridiculous. The latest evidence: A cryptotoken called “Useless Ethereum Token” has raised over $40,000 in just under three days.

Here’s its pitch: “UET is a standard ERC20 token, so you can hold it and transfer it. Other than that… nothing. Absolutely nothing.” And the offering still has four days to go before it closes.

Useless Ethereum Token is part caustic satire, part artistic intervention. Its anonymous creator, who goes by UET CEO, told the New York Observer: “I realized that people didn’t really care about the product. They cared about spending a little bit of money, watching a chart and then withdrawing a little bit more money. So why not have an ICO without a product, and do so completely transparently just to see what happened?”

Indeed, token offerings have already raised $327 million in the first half of the year, according to research by trade publication CoinDesk. That doesn’t account for monster raises in the interim, like the EOS offering, which attracted over $200 million worth of ether in about two weeks, according to research firm Smith and Crown.

UET is not the only gag cryptocoin. Another newly launched one is FOMO Coin, which promises a remedy to speculators with a fear of missing out on the next hot ICO. “Get in before it’s too late!” its website exhorts readers. “We’ve been working on FOMO Coin for at least two hours.” FOMO Coin has only attracted $6.50 in ether so far.

FOMO Coin’s creator, a software developer in Ireland named Jamie Farrelly, told Quartz he had indeed only worked on it for a couple of hours. “It’s a real token, I had a few hours to spare,” he said. “Plus the current ICO situation is nuts. Had to make people think a bit more about it.”

Joke coins have a history of taking on a life of their own in the cryptocurrency world. Just look at dogecoin, the granddaddy of humor-based cryptocurrencies. The “doge” in question is a Shiba Inu dog named Kabosu who was photographed looking askance at the camera, an image that then transmogrified into a viral meme. In 2014, as bitcoin was becoming exposed to the mainstream for the first time, a community sprung up online to create a cryptocurrency inspired by the meme. It raised $30,000 for the Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the winter Olympics.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Since then, dogecoin’s value has risen about 20-fold, to a high of over $400 million for all the dogecoin in circulation in June—and that’s despite the fact that no one has touched its code for about two years. Joke coin investors are laughing all the way to the bank.