When I conducted a little experiment recently for an article to highlight a corner of the cryptocurrency world, I knew I was creating something that would live on after the piece was published. But what happened still took me by surprise.
As a business reporter based in London, I have been riveted in recent months by the booming popularity of so-called hype coins. These are the down-market, volatile cousins of Bitcoin, the graybeard of the cryptocurrency world. There are more than 70,000 of these coins — with names like Klaytn, Chiliz, Helium and others you’ve never heard of — and a few dozen new ones are created each day.
On its face, the hype coin phenomenon is one of the most baffling financial crazes in history. At least if you went bust during the tulip mania in the 17th century, you could end up with some tulips. Hype coins have no intrinsic value. But investors and venture capitalists have swooned for them. More than 80 have a market value in excess of $1 billion.
To enlighten readers, and myself, I made my own hype coin. I spent about $1,000 of The New York Times’s money — yes, I first cleared this outlay with editors, and we discussed the legal issues of this project with Times lawyers — to create and promote it.