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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The cryptocurrency market is becoming one of the few places where internet meme culture can translate into serious money.

The big picture: "Joke" cryptocurrencies can thrive when bored people who have cash to spare look for new ways to entertain themselves with seemingly benign bets — hoping that one of those bets could turn into a lucrative investment

Catch up quick: A meme coin or token is a cryptocurrency inspired by internet memes, jokes, notable personalities and existing cryptocurrencies. They are typically worth fractions of a penny, and have no utility. 

The market cap of meme coins and tokens is now about $33 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

  • Dogecoin, the most valuable of the meme coins with a $27 billion market cap, is just one of possibly thousands of meme cryptos that have been created since around 2011.

Yes, but: 90%-95% of jokes coins end up dead, according to dead-coin tracker Coinopsy.

State of play: Launching new cryptocurrencies has become easier over the past few years, making it possible for someone to do so without expensive equipment or technical knowledge — sometimes in less than an hour

How it works: Many joke cryptos are available to trade on exchanges like Gate.io and PancakeSwap.

  • Dogecoin was created in 2013 and features the Shiba Inu dog from the "Doge" meme as its logo. But it didn't soar in value until earlier this year, when it became a target for the Reddit crowd.
  • Other joke and meme cryptos have monikers like Loser Coin and Sad Cat Token. Both of those are worth fractions of a penny, and combined, are held by more than 100,000 addresses.

What they’re saying: Outside of crypto, there aren't that many real-world examples of literal jokes that turn into something of monetary value, says Guan Yang, a data scientist who launched Stalwartbucks as an inside joke with journalist Joe Weisenthal in 2014. 

  • Like baseball cards or NFTs, joke currencies can be viewed as collectibles, Yang says. When enough people are interested in them, and assign them monetary value, they morph into an asset class.
  • “We have a craving to do that with almost anything," he says.

What to watch: Regulators are taking notice as pump and dump schemes and losses tied to crypto scams spike.

Go deeper: The world's largest regulatory arbitrage

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Aug 5, 2021 - Economy & Business

The downside of Robinhood's upside

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals

One definition of a meme stock is this: Any publicly listed company whose stock becomes a speculative vehicle beloved of retail investors armed with small-dollar Robinhood accounts.

Driving the news: To no one's surprise, Robinhood itself has now become one of those stocks, just a few days after going public last week.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker