Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, … – Memecoins are the latest trend in the never-boring crypto-scene. Elon Musk, one of the worlds richest people, and his infamous tweet from April 2nd 2019 around the “pretty cool” Dogecoin “might” being his “fav” (= favorite) cryptocurrency started this development. Since then, memecoins are celebrated by some, claimed as “scams” and “get-rich-quick-schemes” by others.
Yet…are memecoins as innocent and “fun” as their cute memes make them seem? Why their appeal and boom? We will take a detailed look at the phenomenon of memecoins and discuss their unique aspects and risks. Moreover, we will introduce the 5 most popular memecoins in more detail.
Let’s begin by first answering the question…
What exactly is a Memecoin?
Memecoins are cryptocurrencies with no inherent utility (except being means of exchange), themed around memes on the internet. Memes are usually humorous and entertaining pictures or videos shared in and going viral on social media networks. Yet, some “memecoins” can also be inspired by popular phrases or expressions in the crypto community.
Memecoins have become a leading phenomenon in the crypto-space over the last months. In fact, new memecoin projects have mushroomed, their only appeal being – or rather the claim – that they are “people-focused”, instead of the sometimes more technical focus of blockchain platforms like Ethereum, Cardano, Polkadot and others.
What is the appeal of memecoins?
The real appeal of memecoins, however, is a result of the intergalactic rise of the parody coin Dogecoin. The price of Dogecoin has increased by over 10.000 % alone between January 1st and May 4th 2021.
After incessant tweets by Elon Musk, popular mainstream media was happy to jump on the bandwagon and write questionable articles with headlines like “Dogecoin’s price has risen more than 100 times faster than Bitcoin’s in 2021”, “Dogecoin up 12.000 % since January” “$1 Dogecoin looks almost inevitable now” and others.
The implication is clear: “Buy the next big memecoin and you will make riches overnight…”. A dangerous and misleading proposition…
The 5 most popular and well-known Memecoins
Since the unstoppable rise of Dogecoin, memecoins have mushroomed with projects trying to be the “next big coin” to throw Dogecoin of its throne. In an increasingly less transparent jungle of memecoins, these 5 coins/tokens do stand out due to their market capitalization and level of adoption.
Started in 2013 by software engineer Billy Markus, Dogecoin began as a parody of Bitcoin. Its prominent meme/symbol features the infamous Shiba Inu doge meme. The term “doge” is intentionally mistyped from the actual word “dog”. Unlike Bitcoin, Dogecoin has no maximum supply (hard cap), its inflation rate of currently around 3,85% per year is set to decrease over time.
Dogecoin is an open source, decentralized peer-to-peer network using the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism. Dogecoin is not Turing-complete and is not capable of hosting and executing smart contract (like e.g. Ethereum blockchain). The coin has no other utility than the transfer of money.
The Dogecoin blockchain is highly centralized with 53% of all mining power being concentrated in just 4 big mining pools.
SafeMoon is an altcoin launched in March 2021 on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC). Branding itself as “community-driven”, the project wants to discourage pump-and-dump-behaviour and encourage long-term-holding (“hodling”) by charging a 10% transaction fee, half of which goes to existing SFM hodlers and the other half used to supply market liquidity.
SafeMoon became infamous for hitting trending hashtags on Twitter on April 20, as users incessantly tweeted about the coin to attract new holders. SafeMoon has drawn a lot of critique for its token economics which is set to favour existing hodlers at the expense of newcomers to the project.
Shiba Inu Token
Shiba Inu is a crypto-currency and ERC-20-token launched by the anonymous developer “Ryoshi” in August 2020. 50% of all initially minted tokens were sent to Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin to give thanks for his creation. Inspired by Dogecoin, Shiba Inu seeks to replace Dogecoin in usage and popularity. Shiba Inu (SHIB) is merely an exchange utility token, there is no smart contract utility or capability in the network.
Despite lacking utility, it has attracted enormous price action in Q2 2021, following the enormous publicity around Dogecoin. The maximum supply (hard cap) is 1 quadrillion SHIB, roughly half of that (~ 498 bn) are currently already in circulation. SHIB cannot be mined.
MonaCoin is a cryptocurrency launched in 2013, it is based on a cat-like creation called Mona, an ASCII character-based meme popular on the Japanese social community “2channel”. Launched as part of the Mona project, the token was created by “Mr. Watanabe” whose real identity remains unclear to this day.
Mona Coin is a Litecoin hard fork, it uses the Lyra2RE hashing algorithm and creates blocks every 15 minutes. It has a hard cap (max supply) of 105.120.000 tokens. Mona Coin is particularly popular in Japan where many online and retail stores accept it as a form of payment. There is no smart contract utility, it is a pure means of exchange.
Dogelon Mars is a digital currency and ERC-20-token that was launched on April 22, 2021. Its meme shows a Shiba Inu dog in suit and tie, mimicking Elon Musk, the self-proclaimed “Dogefather”. 50 % of all created 1 quadrillion ELON tokens were sent to Vitalik Buterin as a thank you for developing the Ethereum blockchain. ELON has no utility other than being a means of exchange.
Further skepticism is appropriate, given that its creator claims to be called “Elon”. Practically all information about the project is displayed on a single page of info on the project’s website where it envisions to be used to pay crypto-enthusiast who fell victims to scams, rug pulls and fake tokens.
Unique Risks and Rewards – Are memecoins worth a shot?
Meme coins come with a unique set of risks and rewards. Most cryptocurrencies are rather volatile and risky, memecoins are the extreme version of this. The allure of memecoins is their massive price increase like Dogecoin that gained over 10.000 % in a couple of months. However, the risks are enormous and plenty:
Exaggerated claims and best-case scenarios
Firstly, the insane price increases frequently discussed around memecoins actually are over-exaggerated best-case scenarios (between bottoms and all-time-highs) that don’t apply to practically a single investor of these coins. It tends to lead users astray with false hopes as the majority actually buys at much higher prices and often ends up losing money instead of even making small gains.
The enormous volatility poses great risk of horrendous losses. During Elon Musk’s infamous SNL performance on May 8th 2021 alone, the price of Dogecoin plummeted by over 30% in just a little above 1 hour.
Lack of futility eliminates all fundamentals
All presented memecoins are merely a way to exchange money, there is no ecosystem or smart contract-capability that could give the tokens some inherent value based on the size and growth of the actual speaker system. This also makes abrupt price loss more likely.
Fake sense of community
Memecoins like to talk a lot about being “community-driven”. This is a lofty and laudable goal but far from reality. Typically, there is less of a community but rather a bunch of users seeking to encourage more users to buy the coin to increase the value of their own token. Real communities are found in real crypto projects with network effects and inherent utility like e.g. Ethereum or the BAT token.
Lack of transparency
Most memecoins lack transparency. This is less about the sometimes anonymous development team but creators not showing proof of statements like the correctness of smart contract code or how many tokens the creators actually own.
Risks of rugpulls and manipulation:
Many memecoins bring the risk of “rugpulls” – a phenomenon where the founders of a project run away with investor’s money quickly after a project launched. The creator’s first get many investors to buy their token and then suddenly sell all of their tokens at the high price. The investors are left behind with nearly worthless tokens that have dramatically plummeted in price. A more complex version of this is to remove token liquidity from liquidity pools with decentralized crypto exchanges like Uniswap, stripping investors of the ability to sell their tokens at all.
Parodification of investment:
Only the irrational hope of enormous price increases can explain why some people would put big investment into memecoins. The trend of turning investment into entertainment is highly troublesome. People must remember they put their hard-earned money and – in some cases even life’s savings – into the strangest of schemes: How could this possibly go right?
For every one “Dogecoin millionaire” there are thousands of latecomers that have lost money they can’t afford to lose.
Memecoins are an interesting, somewhat entertaining but highly questionable trend that is currently sweeping through the crypto-space. What started with Elon Musk’s tweets and Dogecoin hype has evolved into a dangerous development with countless tragedies caused by the greed-fueled desire to “get rich quick”.
The biggest tragedy is that it has already caused thousands of people to lose money they couldn’t afford to risk in the first place. A smaller but big tragedy nonetheless is that it distracts media and users from the groundbreaking revolution and game-changing crypto-projects with substance and real use cases. Unfortunately, the crypto-space is at risk of losing in credibility as a consequence of the current Memecoin epidemic.
This is not financial advice. Mentioning coins and tokens is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or participate in the associated network. We would like to encourage you to do your own research and invest at your own risk.