In the days following the queen’s passing, more than 40 types of meme coins were minted, industry data and media reports show. These virtual forms of currency are often created by anonymous people with access to coin-creating websites — and an idea for a clever name. And they are notorious for wild swings in value.
This includes Queen Elizabeth Inu coin, which broadly honors her death and is built and available on various cryptocurrency platforms. The coin is currently priced around $0.000003, after a nearly 30,000 percent rise and fall from where it started. There is also Long Live the Queen, a coin that lost steam within hours of being minted.
Experts said most of these coins are typically a joke or a scam rather than legitimate forms of payment — or even akin to gambling in the new decentralized world of the Internet, known as web3.
“It’s no different from people selling T-shirts outside Buckingham Palace,” said David Hsiao, the CEO of crypto magazine Block Journal. “It’s just the web3 version.”
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By most accounts, meme coins originated around 2013, as an image of a talking Shiba Inu puppy named Doge gained viral fame. A pair of software engineers released a themed digital currency called dogecoin, with the intention of satirizing the cryptocurrency market.
But in 2021, when crypto gained mainstream acceptance, the sector began to boom. Prominent personalities, such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, have touted meme currency, such as dogecoin, online.
Some currencies, such as dogecoin and Shiba Inu, have endured and are accepted as payment by Tesla and GameStop. Most, like Space Kim — a sign satirizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — are jokes and a risky investment without any tangible purpose.
Even bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that has been around for more than a decade and is considered more mainstream, is prone to sharp swings in value. And the sector is largely unregulated, leaving it wide open to scams.
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Meme currencies are often limited in value, with many going for less than a fraction of a cent. Their value has limited financial underpinnings and is often based on the belief that “other people will buy it from you for more than you paid for it,” said crypto critic and web3 blogger Molly White.
“If it goes viral, that’s the best-case scenario because … people see it go up a lot in price and so they want to buy it,” she said. “It makes sense that people basically just wait for any topic that they think has a chance to go viral so they can capitalize on it.”
For coins like Queen Elizabeth Inu, the price swing can be sharp and fast. The coin began trading a few hours before her death was announced, as Buckingham Palace announced that she was ill. Shortly after her passing, the value of one coin was approximately $. 000185, according to crypto data website Dexscreener. As of Friday afternoon, the coin has fallen even closer to zero value.
But on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, where investors talk about the coin’s performance, some remain bullish. “$50k is EASY with this coin! I do believe when the funeral comes this coin will get $500k,” one person said. Another person was more direct: “Funeral day coming in. FILL THOSE POCKETS,” they said.
In recent days, the tone of the channel, which has almost 900 members, has shifted.
“The queen and this sign are dead,” one user wrote. “Let them rest in peace.” Others encourage patience as the coin’s price falls in value: “Guys! Trust the process!”
Moderators for the Telegram channel did not return a request for comment.
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“People who hold these signs try to get other people to hold these signs [and] believe the sign will go up for some reason,” White said. “It’s in [their] best interest.”
Crypto entrepreneurs have also created a slew of Queen-themed non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, including God Save the Queen, a memorial that depicts colorful cartoons of the monarch holding a bitcoin-logo staff. NFTs are digital tokens that essentially function as internet land deeds that let owners lay claim to digital art, music and photos, and have experienced similarly wild swings in value.
Ethan McMahon, an economist at crypto-research firm Chainalysis, said interest in web3 products related to the Queen has received less interest than he expected. For example, the NFT called RIP The Queen, which appeared shortly after her death, had 1,817 people buy it the first day, Chainalysis data showed. As of Thursday morning, it had dropped to one. This comes as transactions on leading NFT marketplaces hit historic lows.
Coins and NFTs related to the Queen don’t seem to have a specific purpose to them, other than novelty, McMahon said. More importantly, there is less confidence in the broader cryptocurrency market than a year ago, when coin prices were sky high and the extra revenue from pandemic stimulus funds gave people more disposable income to spend on similar investments.
“People probably just don’t have the highest conviction in crypto right now, and maybe don’t have the most disposable dollars or capital,” he said. “So things like this aren’t going to get the same amount of sustained hype that they might have about a year ago.”
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Despite that, crypto critics, analysts and experts agree that the government needs to step in and regulate, especially given scams that have happened recently. In November, creators of the Squid Game memecoin saw it rise in value to $2,860 over 11 days and then left the project, dropping its price to near zero and walking away with $3.3 million in investor funds.
White, who writes the blog Web3 Is Going Just Great, said viral cryptocurrencies have significant consumer protection flaws.
“With these memes and things like that, there’s no level of disclosure or transparency about who’s behind it, what their goals are or who they even are,” she said. “As [creators] ran away with a sign, there is no way to find out who they were, or to track them down and pursue legal action.”
Hsiao, of the Block Journal, agreed, but noted that the money that bad-faith actors swindle people from is often not enough to get attention from government regulators.
“It’s definitely a sweet spot for cash grabbers,” he said.