LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK

Joke Cryptocurrencies Like ‘Jesus Coin’ Are Making Serious Money

The bubble led by bitcoin is so huge that even something with ‘useless’ in the title has raised a quarter-million dollars.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Jesus Coin promises to “outsource sin,” “decentralize Jesus,” and “provide miracles exclusively to Jesus Coin owners.”

Jesus Coin is a satirical cryptocurrency, a form of digital money that can be bought, sold, and traded like stock but has no intrinsic value. And in the final days of 2017, when bitcoin prices and cryptocurrency hype are near an all-time high, even jokes like Jesus Coin are making serious cash.

“There over 600 cryptocurrencies currently traded,” a Jesus Coin representative told The Daily Beast. “None of them have any intrinsic value. Our point is that if you’re going to trade something with no value whatsoever, at least let’s make it about Jesus. He was a badass, after all.”

Promising that “Jesus would be pumped to have his own coin,” Jesus Coin is a parody of the breathless rhetoric surrounding new cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies became the object of increased attention this year when bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency, surged in value to over $15,000 per coin. The growing profile of established currencies like bitcoin and Ethereum led to a new wave of “altcoins”: smaller and more volatile cryptocurrencies, which sometimes claim to be “backed” in dubious businesses.

Take Christ Coin, for example. Unlike the satirical Jesus Coin, Christ Coin says it’s an earnest product. The coin advertises itself as “the first pre-mined Christian-based Cryptocurrency. It is used to financially reward people who read the Bible, post/view content and interact with the community on the Life Change Platform.”

In a Facebook message, Christ Coin told The Daily Beast that the product was not a joke. But a wave of satirical (but still functional) currencies like Jesus Coin are blurring the distinction between earnest and parody technobabble.

The most obvious parody to launch this year calls itself Useless Ethereum Token. The coin openly advertises as being worth nothing.

“The UET ICO transparently offers investors no value, so there will be no expectation of gains. No gains means few investors, few investors means few transactions, and few transactions means no Ethereum network lag,” the Useless Ethereum Token website reads.

“Seriously,” it appeals to readers, “don’t buy these tokens.”

Yet, inexplicably, people keep buying Useless Ethereum Tokens. As of Wednesday, Useless Ethereum Token had raised $251,500 in coin sales.

Some of those sales come with a significant price tag. On July 5, someone bought five Ethereum worth of Useless Ethereum Token, transaction records show. At the time, five Ethereum were worth approximately $1,325. As of Wednesday, those five Ethereum would be valued at more than $4,000. Useless Ethereum Token is and was, by its own admission, worth nothing.

Buyers are also shelling out for the satirical Jesus Coin. On Sept. 12, someone bought 18.8 Ethereum worth of Jesus Coin, transaction records show. The purchase was worth approximately $5,640 at the time. 18.8 Ethereum, as of Wednesday, is worth nearly $16,000.

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“As followers of the teachings of Christ, this was never about money for us,” Jesus Coin told The Daily Beast. “Don’t get me wrong, we all ended up with Ferraris and Fabergé eggs, but that’s not what it was about. Promise.”

They wouldn’t be the first joke coins to accidentally net a fortune. Exasperated by bitcoin hype in 2013, cryptocurrency watcher Jackson Palmer invented Dogecoin: a cryptocurrency featuring a shiba inu dog from a popular meme. Dogecoin was a joke at the expense of self-serious bitcoin fans, Palmer told the New York Times last year.

But buyers took the coin seriously. As of Wednesday, Dogecoin had a market cap of more than $700,000. Palmer says the ridiculous price is indicative of a cryptocurrency bubble

“The bigger this bubble goes, the bigger negative connotation it’s going to have,” he told the Times. “It’s going to be like the dot-com bust, but on a much more epic scale.”But as the bubble remains unpopped, even satirical cryptocurrencies are making sure they stay just legitimate enough to turn a profit. Jesus Coin plans to launch on a major cryptocurrency exchange early next month, the spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, serious cryptocurrencies like Christ Coin aren’t necessarily doing any better than their parody counterparts. Christ Coin has sold approximately 200,000 coins at three cents each, netting it around $6,000, a spokesperson said.

So why do cryptocurrency evangelists dump their money into obvious jokes? Do they believe they’ll actually make money? Do they believe Jesus Coin can really outsource sin?

“People are buying Jesus Coin because they understand that the only thing that drives a cryptocurrency’s value is speculation and faith,” Jesus Coin said, “and what better to have faith in than Jesus?”