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Our colleague Caitlin Ostroff covers currency markets, meaning she spends her days writing about money, the dollar, the euro, that type of stuff, and then occasionally crypto currencies.


But most of the time you're covering kind of real money, right? The type that I guess nine out of 10 people would sit there and they would go, oh, yes, like that is money. But that is not what Caitlin has been writing about lately.


Caitlin has been digging into a niche cryptocurrency, one that caught our eye during the GameStop mania in January. We were covering the frenzied trading of games tops going up. AMC is going up, cost is going up. And I was sitting there one morning.


I'm on a couple Dischord chats and some forms, and I notice that all of a sudden people are talking about this thing called dogecoin, dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that was soaring in value, up fifteen hundred percent at one point. I hadn't heard of it.


Usually when I cover crypto currencies using Bitcoin, you think of theory. And so I sat there and was like, OK, let me just do some initial Googling. And it turns out that, like, the entire thing is a joke.


Dogecoin, Dogecoin, duche coin. Does coin help make those coin toss a coin? Originally started as an Internet parody based on a viral dogma.


This cryptocurrency came about from the 2013 meme of the Shiba Inu dog, which is a joke.


Everyone's looking at Doge making jokes about those.


Except these days the joke is becoming increasingly real and increasingly valuable.


All of the dogecoin in circulation are worth about seven billion dollars right now. Welcome to the journal, our show about money, business and power. I'm Kate Lindborg. It's Wednesday, February 24th. Coming up on the show, why a cryptocurrency created for laughs is now worth billions of dollars. This episode is brought to you by Lenovo, Lenovo provides small business owners with the tools they need, like the think Pad X1 yoga to help you focus and get time on your side.


Learn more at Lenovo dotcom time on your side. If Dogecoin is a joke, cryptocurrency, the comedian behind it is Billy Marcus, he's a software engineer in the Bay Area.


I think I would best describe myself as a big nerd. I've been a video gamer for pretty much my entire life, just kind of an ordinary tech nerd type.


Billy got into cryptocurrency around twenty thirteen. I really wanted to mine. Like, I found it interesting that you could use your idle CPU cycles to do something. I thought it was.


Looks like you want to see something. No, no, no. I find the whole idea of being fascinated by using CPU power. It's just not a thought that's ever come into my mind.


Yeah. Like just the idea that, you know, I had a like a beefy gaming computer that just sat around. So like the idea of using that to, like, do something or another was kind of cool.


When he wasn't gaming, Billy would use all his extra computing power to mine cryptocurrency. Basically, he'd set up his computer to solve complex mathematical puzzles that unlock new Bitcoin. It was pretty slow work.


I think it took like a week to mine, like zero point zero one Bitcoin, and at that time was worth like a dollar. So I was like, yeah, for like eight dollars of power, I mined one dollar of Bitcoin, you know. So that was really silly.


And then one weekend, Billy decided to get deeper into crypto currencies. He decided he was going to make one, which Kaitlynn says isn't actually as hard as it sounds.


The Bitcoin code is open source. There's other coins of the time that you could see their code on a website called GitHub. You can copy it and make your own and see if you can just actually get it running.


Billi named his cryptocurrency Bel's after the money in the video game. Animal Crossing. In your mind when you were releasing Bel's on these cryptocurrency boards, did you see it as a legit cryptocurrency? I mean, it's kind of hard to say. Like there's a hacker term called like haha only serious and only serious is kind of like the Onion or something like that. It's like a joke, but there's kind of like truth behind it. Right. Like if you get it, if you get that, like this is an actual like functional thing that works, but it kind of has like a parody element to it, then that's what it is.


Belles was meant to be funny, but when Billy released it on a cryptocurrency forum, the joke kind of fell flat. For one thing, not many people were playing Animal Crossing back in 2013. No one knew what Animal Crossing was at the time. So, like, everyone's like, what is this dumb thing? Like this won't make me rich. And I'm like, OK, never mind, I'll retire from making crypto coins.


But a few months later, Billy saw a post by an Australian programmer, Jackson Palmer. Palmer had joked that someone should create a dogecoin, a cryptocurrency based on the Doge meme, that those meme in 2013 was really popular.


It's just a funny picture of a cheeba, you know, who lives in Japan and it's just kind of making a funny face. And people started putting all this like comic sans text over it, like much wow, very currency or, you know, like silly things like that. And at the time it was like, you know, the most popular meme is like one of the few memes that wasn't like super annoying. And the only real thought I had was like, oh, I have to do this.


Like that was like like that has to be done. And so Billy did it. He took Bel's made a few changes and in three hours he had Dogecoin.


What I spent the bulk of my time on was trying to change the client to be comic sans font. So that terrible looking font that's associated with those related things. Like Bell's Dogecoin was kind of a joke, it was ha ha, only serious, but unlike Bells, people actually got the joke.


People like instantly kind of put a bunch of infrastructure around it, like there is mining pulls for it. Like almost instantly people made websites for it. You know, I started getting emails from, like Business Insider and stuff, and I was like, this is so wild. Caitlyn says compared to other cryptocurrency, Dogecoin was accessible. For one thing, it was cheap. Some would say worthless dogecoin cost less than a cent. So there was no barrier to entry.


And because Dogecoin was so obviously for fun, people had fun with it.


People buy Dogecoin. They wind up banding together to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi Olympics. What? Yeah, there's a Jamaican bobsled team and they need sponsorship to actually go to the Sochi Olympics. And this community of Doege believers come together and actually start raising money and raising dogecoin to, like, actually go and send them to the Olympics.


And at the halfway stage, Jamaica set four point for one second behind Russia and Occupy last place in the competition.


And they also did this with a NASCAR Speedway driver. And it's the Doge car.


For Josh Wise, Doege is a Internet cryptocurrency, they wound up sponsoring a racer on one of the NASCAR speedways in Alabama.


It's not Dogecoin, even though there's a dog on the hood and the tail that is a Shiba Inu. Well, it's a cute little dog. Yeah. It was just meant to be fun. Billy loved the Dogecoin community, he loved the NASCAR stunt, the bobsled team, the ha ha only serious spirit of it all. But as Doge coins popularity grew, new people got involved, people who Billy says were more interested in making money than in having fun.


So in 2014, Billy got out, a new group of volunteer developers took over the coin and Billy sold his dogecoin.


Actually, all his crypto, I would say, like holding crypto is not for me. Like, I don't really have the fortitude to, like, hold these speculative assets. It's not like stocks where the market closes at 5:00 p.m. It's like you can go to sleep and wake up and it's down 60 percent. You're like, well, that's that's I don't like that. So it is what it is, is very capricious. And basically when I needed the money, I, I sold it.


How much did you make? Like a little over ten thousand is like enough to buy a used Honda Civic is what I've said.


Little did I know that in just a few years his joke coin would shoot up in value thanks to tweets by one guy, Elon Musk. Coming up, Dogecoin gets its big break. This episode is brought to you by Lenovo, if you're a small business owner, you have to do it all and all that takes time. That's why reliable technology is vital for small and medium businesses, because when people are working with the right technology, they can focus on productivity.


Lenovo provides small business owners with the tools they need, like the think pad X1 yoga to help you focus and get time on your side. Learn more at Lenovo Dotcom time on your side. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, patron saint of retail investors everywhere, has been interested in Dogecoin for a while.


He's talked about it since twenty nineteen. He was tweeting about it in December. Twenty twenty.


But the musk tweet that sent Dogecoin to the moon dropped last month.


He tweets a fake magazine cover that's kind of a mess off of Vogue. OK, and instead of the V in vogue, he puts a D and he puts like a fake dog image. The tweet was not obviously about dogecoin. In fact, the fake Vogue image has been around for a while. It shows a dog in a stylish red turtleneck flanked by satirical headlines like 10 Tips on how to get the Best Treats.


It wasn't actually a Shiba Inu.


Weirdly enough, I don't want to get into dog breeds, but it looks like a greyhound.


It's definitely not a sheep anyway. But because it said doege and because he had expressed interest fire, people immediately went, Oh, this is Dogecoin. Like Elon Musk is telling us that Doge is the next thing.


Musk's tweet hit at a very particular time, right when Robin Hood and other brokerages had temporarily stopped people from buying hot stocks like GameStop.


And so people were sitting there at that moment, all of these people who just got told they couldn't buy GameStop and they were sitting there and thinking, you know, what do I binocs like? What is the next thing that can go up? And at that moment, you have Elon Musk basically show up with that on the silver platter, like this is the next thing that's going to go up.


Were there other Elon Doege tweets? Obviously, there's been like a dozen of them, at least at this point. He tweeted a meme of like him. As for Feki from The Lion King holding Simba, but instead of Simba, he like Photoshopped the Doege dog on Symbol's face.


I'm just looking now. And he tweeted today with a Doege astronaut on the moon. Yeah. And that's all he has to do to see a price rise of some kind. Like people pay attention to his tweets. He has millions of followers on Twitter. He has a voice that can actually help push an asset higher and people piled into that.


So how big is Dogecoin now? All of the dogecoin in circulation is worth about seven dollars billion. The reason that sounds insane to most people is because there's an infinite amount of dogecoin that can exist. It's what's called an uncapped cryptocurrency.


This is one thing that makes dogecoin different from, say, Bitcoin. Bitcoin is kept only twenty one million Bitcoin can ever be mined, but there can be an infinite number of dogecoin.


That's why people have, to a large degree, never really taken it seriously. I mean, how much value are you going to assign something that has this infinite amount of it that can possibly exist? And so for Dogecoin to go from, you know, half a penny to eight cents, it's just insane. It shows how much demand there has been for this asset. All of this has been a lot for Billy Marcus to absorb. I think, like, this is not a perfect analogy, but I think it might be like let's say you drew a picture of a dog and you're like, oh, that's funny.


And he gave it to somebody and they were like, oh, that's funny. And then eight years later, the richest man in the world was like, this dog is awesome. It's going to take over the world and it's worth a billion dollars.


It's wild, but you don't get to ride to the moon on your dogecoin because you don't have any. No, no, no.


I have some that has been tipped to me recently, but like, not too much. It's kind of like I think there's that lady who made the Nike swoosh. And, you know, Nike has used that for the last two years and made this giant company and she got paid like thirty bucks for it. So, you know, is what it is. So, Caitlin, based on where we are now in this saga, how seriously should we take Dogecoin?


Yeah, so I mean, I guess that's the question, right? Like, this thing started as a joke was never intended to have any actual value. And now it's actually got a decent market cap. It's got the attention of Elon Musk like, is it still a joke? And it's hard to answer, but it looks like, you know, Dogecoin has been around for years and it might continue to stay around and maybe even stay at its current valuation.


What does it say to you that the joke? First of all, cryptocurrency has become so valuable? I mean, there certainly people who, like, completely discredit all cryptocurrency and maybe like dogecoin is the absolute best example of why cryptocurrency is ridiculous and shouldn't have a value. But it's precisely because of that, that it does like people are buying into it because they know it's ridiculous, because they want to say something about the way that you think society should work isn't how we think it should.


And if you were looking for a cryptocurrency to basically say that, what else do you buy then? A cryptocurrency? That quite literally is a joke. What better exemplifies that?


That's all for today, Wednesday, February 24th. The Journal is a co-production of Gimblett and The Wall Street Journal. If you like our show, follow us on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. We're out every weekday afternoon.


Thanks for listening.


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