Dogecoin, a blockchain-based digital currency named for a meme about an excitable canine, has seen its price rise by a factor of five over the last week. The price spike has made it one of the world’s 10 most valuable cryptocurrencies, with a market capitalization of $45 billion.
Understanding the value of cryptocurrencies is never easy, and it’s especially hard for Dogecoin, which was created as a joke. Dogecoin isn’t known for any particular technology innovations and doesn’t seem to have many practical applications.
What Dogecoin does have going for it, however, is memorable branding and an enthusiastic community of fans. And in 2021, that counts for a lot. In recent months, we’ve seen shares of GameStop soar to levels that are hard to justify based on the performance of GameStop’s actual business. People bought GameStop because it was fun and they thought the price might go up. So too for Dogecoin.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk may have also played an important role in Dogecoin’s ascendancy. Musk has periodically tweeted about the cryptocurrency, and those tweets are frequently followed by rallies in Dogecoin’s price. Late on Wednesday night, Musk tweeted out this image:
Dogecoin’s price tripled over the next 36 hours.
My editor suggested that I write about whether Dogecoin’s rise is a sign of an overheated crypto market, but for a coin like Dogecoin, I’m not sure that’s even a meaningful concept. Dogecoin isn’t a company that has revenues or profits. And unlike bitcoin and ether, no one seriously thinks it’s going to be the foundation of a new financial system.
People are trading Dogecoin because it’s fun to trade and because they think they might make money from it. The rising price is a sign that a lot of people have decided it would be fun to speculate in Dogecoin.
Of course, the fact that lots of people have money to spend on joke investments might itself be a result of larger macroeconomic forces. The combination of stimulus spending, low interest rates, and pandemic-related saving means that a lot of people have more money than usual sitting in their bank accounts. And restrictions on travel and nightlife mean that many of those same people have a lot of time on their hands.