If there’s one thing that crypto enthusiasts love more than the digital assets themselves, it’s memes. A frenzy of crypto-based memes have gained fresh momentum last week as Bitcoin rallied.
Growing expectations that the US Securities and Exchange Commission will authorize exchange-traded funds that invest directly in Bitcoin pushed the largest crypto by market value up by more than 25% over the past two weeks to around $35,000 on Wednesday — its highest level in about 18 months. The breakout gives bulls some hope even as reminders of the industry’s recent woes linger. Just last week, Sam Bankman-Fried took the stand in his own defense of criminal charges stemming from the collapse of his crypto exchange FTX. He has pleaded not guilty.
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Memecoins like Pepe Coin (PEPE) surged along with Bitcoin. The coin based on the internet meme of a green anthropomorphic frog that has been around since the early 2000s increased 77% on Friday from the week before, according to data from crypto market tracker CoinGecko. Pepe Coin, which was issued this year, soared to a market value of more than $1 billion in May before reversing course and plummeting more than 60% in the following days, according to data tracker CoinMarketCap.
“The bear market put a dampener on meme activity, especially in terms of market value, but it stayed quite lively anyway,” Noelle Acheson, author of the Crypto is Macro Now newsletter, said. “Now that sentiment is feeling more confident, the meme tokens will come to represent even more the fun, YOLO side of crypto investing.”
Memes, from Baby Yoda to Bob Ross, have been a part of the cryptocurrency space since its early beginnings — and in 2013, they began trading as digital tokens known as memecoins. Dogecoin, often cited as the first memecoin, was valued at as much as $50 billion in 2021, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.com. Dogecoin ascended to stardom when Elon Musk tweeted memes based on the coin, inspiring other dog-themed memecoins such as Shiba Inu. Now, there are hundreds of memecoins that range from being worth almost nothing to having market values of $100 million or more.
“Crypto attracts rebels who believe that money is not serious, legacy systems aren’t to be trusted, the future is uncertain and those in charge are corrupt, so they might as well have fun,” Acheson said.
This is not the first time that memecoins are in lockstep with overall market sentiment. During the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most popular memes, “money printer go brrr,” was about how the Federal Reserve was “printing” an endless amount of dollars and how that enhanced the value of Bitcoin, which has a capped amount of tokens. The demise of that meme came in October 2022, leaving the average investor caring little whether there is a finite amount of the digital asset.
“We can roll our eyes at these tokens’ lack of fundamental value, but in my opinion that overlooks that, in the end, the market decides,” Acheson said. “Meme tokens are cultural expressions with monetary value, and in the crypto market there will always be a degree of eager participation.”
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