THE Memes Won’t DIE: Crypto Hopefuls Seek Value in Joke Tokens After Vitalik Buterin’s Tweets

Don’t cry over it being a rangebound market.

A new class of meme tokens created over the past week has returned multiples to early investors, with market capitalization reaching over $50 million in some cases.

The memes aren’t even about food, dogs, or other animals anymore. Instead, crypto hopefuls have turned their attention to a yet unexplored, and rather niche, area of comedy – articles from the English language.

One of the most-traded tokens on the decentralized exchange Uniswap is called THE, which has seen some $10 million in on-chain trading volume and counts over 5,000 holders as of Friday afternoon.

The most popular THE token has surged some 1,000% in the past few days. (DexTools)

THE was created after Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin, presumably jokingly, said on the bird app last week: “Someone should make a project called "THE Protocol", so that their shills can say "Look, soandso mentioned THE!" pretty much any time anyone says anything.”

Twitter users rightfully pointed out that such tokens were probably on their way, shortly after Buterin’s tweet. And the predictions didn’t disappoint: someone issued and floated THE tokens on Uniswap.

This was then followed by other articles, such as THIS, THEY and THAT, all of which today have dozens of iterations on blockchains like Ethereum, BNB Chain, Solana and others.

Anyone can call a smart contract and issue tokens on Ethereum (or other blockchains) for a few cents, and the presence of decentralized exchanges means tokens can instantly be issued, supplied with liquidity and traded soon after.

The premise doesn’t matter: if there’s money to be made peddling trendy topics; expect a market for it somewhere in niche "shitcoin" circles.

THE has surged over 1,000% in the past few days, and another surged 800%. Somewhere in that process the punters even started to bet on “DIE” – the German word for “the” – with some DIE tokens attracting hundreds of thousands of dollars in liquidity.

Why are such memecoins popular?

Some professional investors told CoinDesk that memecoins, and their narratives, will always remain a part of the crypto ecosystem.

“Memecoins are huge parts of the crypto trading landscape, whether we like it or not,” James Wo, founder at crypto fund DFG, told CoinDesk. “While the biggest currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have very low volatility, it's only natural that traders will look for opportunities elsewhere.”

“Meme trading is a risky way to try to seek excessive return, but when it pans out, the upside can be very huge. So even in a bear market, some of the memecoins will have large up-swing, even if it's just short term,” Wo explained.

The crypto market is equal parts legitimacy and memes. Serious investors and developers build financial services based on smart contracts to allow global users to trade, lend assets and take out loans in a permissionless setting, in line with the ethos of relying on technology instead of third parties to access financial services.

There are then the meme artists. Dog coins, cat coins, food coins and meme coins command billions of dollars in market capitalization, data shows, each iteration savvier than the rest.

As such, THE isn’t the only instance of crypto hopefuls creating a shitcoin market.

In January, Grimacecoin tokens created after a McDonald’s joke tweet surged as much as 285,000% in a few hours as opportunistic actors jumped at the chance to make cash in a tepid crypto market. The hype faded shortly afterward – with nearly every GRIMACE falling 99% in the weeks later.