This presented a problem to me because unlike say, a bond, a stock, or a rental property, currencies (crypto or not) do not produce income. They are a tool of economic exchange, a store of value, and naturally forming and evolving economic phenomenon since humans existed. Silver bars do not poop out little silver coins and gold coins do breed to make little gold coins. And since all currencies produce nothing, there is no means by which to value them. The value of currencies are therefore determined by their rarity relative to one another, whether they have intrinsic value (precious metals), utilitarian/commodity value (silver is used in electronics), purchasing power (the Big Mac Index) and the amorphous, whimsical, and impossible-to-measure trust and faith of the entire world's people.
So what I employed was a technique used to value traditional currencies where a stable currency (such as gold or the US dollar) was used as a base and the historical exchange rate or "ratio" between that base currency and the one I was attempting to value established an average. This average would then allow me to determine whether a currency was overvalued or undervalued relative to the stable base currency and we would have a rough estimate as to what a currency should be "worth."
For example, historically (when allowed to trade freely) the gold to silver ratio has been 47 to 1. During my lifetime the British Pound would fetch 1.8 US Dollars. And the Euro vs. Dollar exchange rate has been around 1.2. These exchange rates have been volatile, but you can ever so roughly determine a currency to be undervalued or overvalued depending on how far away from these averages they trade. But instead of using gold or the US dollar as the base, I used Bitcoin as the "base currency" by which all other cryptocurrencies would be valued.
This presented some obvious drawbacks.
Bitcoin, the eldest of all cryptocurrencies, isn't even 10 years old, providing little if any kind of historical performance by which a stable, long term average base can be established. Also, for the short 9 years it's been in existence, its price performance has been HORRENDOUSLY volatile as such a revolutionary idea as a cryptocurrency would be. Further complicating matters is that new cryptocurrencies are younger than bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies tend to move in concert with one another. This has relegated the pricing of various cryptocurrencies merely a theoretical exercise and me admitting to the client that all I could provide was a methodology that might work in 50 years time from now, but was completely worthless today.
In short, it was impossible to value a cryptocurrency today.
But my research had an unintentional side benefit. And that was a look into the INSANE underworld of crypto-currencies. A look that immediately flashed me back to 1998 because the parallels between the cryptocurrency market of today and the Dotcom market of 1998 are eerily similar.
First, both cryptocurrencies and dotcoms were revolutionary advances in technology that promised to revolutionize the economy. They were so new and society had yet to figure out what role they would play in the future economy and world, their values were impossible to assess. But we did know they were going to play a major and upheaving role in the future economy. There was profit to be made, but we didn't know precisely where, or how.
Second, there was a flood of them. Dotcom Mania had so captured the nation companies who never produced a profit in their entire existence were getting hundreds of millions in financing from venture capitalists. IPO's were celebrated when there was no profits to celebrate. And if you simply put an "e" or an "i" in front of your company's name, your market cap would septuple overnight. It was so bad you had Gen X'ers acting like millennials - achieving nothing, while being highly rewarded for it.
This easy money merely attracted more money as everybody thought they would transfer the entire world economy from bricks and mortar to digital in a mere year. And soon every industry, sector, and facet of the economy was going online. If I recall my dotcom history correctly, there was even a fish company that decided to sell shoes online. Yes, it was that insane.
However, the same insanity has infected the minds of the cryptocurrency market.
I'm no economist, but as far as my logic takes me, the world should only need ONE cryptocurrency. Maybe three or four in order to account for the fact people would want to diversify out of being reliant upon just ONE cryptocurrency. But when I did the research for my client...now approaching 4 months ago...there were....(drum roll please)
But wait, it gets better! In those four short months the number of cryptocurrencies has increased by 200!
Do not tell me this isn't Dotcom II all over again.
Third, and perhaps more eerie is how the cryptocurrency market has morphed from what should be a currency market to its own culture or society. And even the words "culture" or "society" understates this morphing. More like "religion" or "cult."
In doing my research I happened upon discussion boards, comments sections, facebook pages, and all other forms of social and not-so-social media where its participants were so far removed from the fundamentals of currency economics, it was now their daily personal hobby they'd obsess about because (as far as I can tell and I hate to sound so harsh) they really had nothing going on in their lives.
"Did you hear they're coming out with a new cryptocurrency with DOUBLE encryption???"
"I like BloggerCoin because they're backing up their currency with the intrinsic value of blog posts!"
"I heard about BloggerCoin, but I like FARTCOIN better! They're capturing people's farts so you can exchange your cryptocoin for human methane!"
In other words, people were discussing, talking, and buying cryptocurrencies not because of any economic fundamental value, but more like trading cards or Beanie Babies. It was novelty, a hobby, a culture unto itself that had nothing to do with intrinsic value. This too was the case during Dotcom while CNBC and the various "professionals" they had on were talking about Krispy Kreme donuts, upcoming IPO's and ill-understood technologies that had ne'er been tethered to profits or reality.
Which perhaps leads to the eeriest similarity of them all - ICO's and technospeak.
While the Dotcom bubble heralded IPO's (Initial Public Offerings) of the latest dotcom company that traded dog manure for Styrofoam widgets, this same "crypto-cult-culture" heralds "ICO's" (Initial Coin Offerings) with the same fanfare AND complete lack of profitability, intrinsic value, and sanity.
Never mind there's 1100 currencies out there already.
Never mind these coins don't produce dividends, rent, interest, or income.
Never mind the world really only needs 3-4 cryptocurrencies.
Nope, you got yourself an ICO! Let's uncork the champagne while cashing in our 401k's to buy FECESCOIN!!!
Worse, coupled with this unwarranted fanfare is the scariest hallmark of Dotcom Mania, "technospeak."
If you're too young to remember (or just too ashamed to admit you got duped by it) in order to get financing aspiring dotcom companies would talk over investment bankers' and investors' heads with technical jargon. Remember, the internet was relatively new technology and you could easily fool a Harvard MBA at a bulge bracket investment bank that you knew what you were talking about.
"If we increase the RAM on the baud information super highway, then the TCP protocol packets will be redirected to our mainframe servers, resulting in increased bandwidth and profit for our firewall. And if you invest $1.5 billion in 'E-genuity' you'll get a 20% share of our firewall profits!"
In a very Dilbertian way you could almost also guarantee funding by uttering the phrase "I understand if you don't get this technology, because it's pretty complex and over most people's heads." Bankers, investors, finance professionals and other incompetent egotists would trip over themselves to cut you a check to save their pride.
The same thing is happening in the crypto-currency market. In a desperate attempt to differentiate themselves from already-established crypto-currencies increasingly petty, even pointless technological traits and characteristics are being added (and heralded) as a reason to give THAT cryptocurrency at $4 billion valuation and not Bitcoin.
"Double encryption, triple encryption, double blockchain technology." I'll admit I don't know what that is and I don't care. But I know it stinks to high heaven when you're desperately trying to tie blog posts, tweets or some other faux-commodity to a cryptocurrency to vainly give it "intrinsic value." It's like I'm 24 all over again, they just happened to change the vocabulary this time.
The real question is: does all this mean the cryptocurrency market has no value? And the answer is "no, of course not." Just like Dotcom Mania there WERE companies that DEFINITELY had value and they are some of the largest and most successful companies today. Amazon, Google, Betterment, not only do these companies have value unto themselves, but brick and mortar that are explicitly "dotcoms" inevitably incorporated digital/internet technology universally. But like the dotcom market, it will only be a small minority of cryptocurrencies that have value today and will be around tomorrow. The question is how to determine who these are?
While there's no way to predict this or guarantee one cryptocurrency that's around today will be around tomorrow, I came up with a final, albeit simple metric for my client. The "We Accept Index" aka the number of Google search results of "We Accept Bitcoin" or "We Accept Dogecoin" etc.
Very simply "The We Accept Index" reconnects and measures the only thing that matters with a currency - whether it is accepted as such. Whether you can use that currency to purchase ACTUAL TANGIBLE PHYSICAL THINGS IN THE REAL WORLD. Whether other people deem it to have value. And it is here we find out just how few cryptocurrencies have value.
In all honesty, only two, MAYBE four have value:
Dogecoin (and this was started on a lark!)
The remaining 99.7% of cryptocurrencies, in literal economic terms, have no value.
Thankfully, the entire cryptocurrency market is only $150 billion (today anyway) and does not present the threat to the economy the $6 trillion crash in dotcoms did. You don't have to worry about this article tanking the cryptocurrency market and then next, the world economy. But do be reasonable and rationale when it comes to "investing" in cryptocurrencies. You are gambling on a market that is eerily similar and stable as Dotcoms in 1999. If you must, invest in a diversified portfolio of them and do not cash in your 401k. Even I own a full Bitcoin that I paid $800 for some years ago.
The only problem is I can't find the digital wallet and have completely forgotten how to access that @&%*ing Bitcoin.
Which is of course another drawback to cryptocurrencies.
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