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Photo: Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

The 17,000+ cryptocurrency enthusiasts who collectively funded a losing $40 million bid to purchase a copy of the U.S. Constitution last week face a new hurdle in getting their money back: transaction fees.

How it works: The ConstitutionDAO group used Ethereum to build its war chest, and contributors paid "gas fees" — essentially, network transaction costs — that observers estimated to run about $50 per transaction.

  • That didn't mean much to big-ticket participants, but took a big bite out of smaller contributors. The median contribution size was a little over $200, according to the ConstitutionDAO site.
  • Participants in the bid collectively spent nearly $1 million on the gas fees, according to one estimate.

The catch: Organizers announced over the weekend that they'd be returning contributors' Ether contributions, but each participant would have to pony up another gas fee for this new transaction.

Between the lines: Transaction costs have long been the bane of all sorts of currency and payment innovations and are one reason that micropayments have never taken off.

  • Crypto supporters point out that credit card systems still take a hefty 2% to 3% per transaction.

What's next: Ethereum has plans to streamline its system in ways that might reduce transaction costs, while a slew of new systems are competing to take its place with more efficiently-tooled blockchain systems that cost less to run.

Go deeper: A billionaire's crypto win

Go deeper

Meet the modern crypto venture capital

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Crypto venture capital is a different game than traditional venture capital, which isn't something that every participating firm has yet to fully appreciate.

Why it matters: The key is matching the asset class in which you're investing.

Updated 13 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 15 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.