Rare Pepe Cards are pretty interesting. You trade (probably) Rare Pepe memes that look as trading cards on the Bitcoin blockchain (using Counterparty).
Since I’ve been working on curation & meme market designs, I decided to evaluate it and wanted to figure out if its model can be re-used.
It’s pretty janky, but it works, and its model is worth exploring for other applications.
How do Rare Pepe cards work?
Each Rare Pepe card is a tradable asset on the Counterparty system (on Bitcoin). The asset itself is tied to an image. Users can then buy & sell these Rare Pepe Cards. Because tradable assets on Counterparty are tied to a unique namespace, each card will have a unique identifier.
You *can* decide to create multiple finite copies of the same meme. eg, minting 400 SIMONPEPEs. If it is locked and not inflatable (in Counterparty), then that’s it. You can’t create more SIMONPEPEs. You can also create only a single issuance of a card.
PepeCash is another asset. It is used to pay to submit your cards to be verified by a “foundation” to ensure that the asset is actually rare (eg, they didn’t fool the Counterparty system and other users by not setting the asset to be locked). These are then compiled into a series and released by this foundation. The accompanied image is also then logged as being attached to the specific Counterparty asset.
PepeCash had a unique issuance scheme, detailed here: essentially a combination of selling it and giving it away.
After RAREPEPE, GOXPEPE, AND SHITCOINCARD were sold to buyers on the market, PepeCash was distributed to all of those holders. A portion of PepeCash was also donated to FoldingCoin miners. After some giveaways on Twitter and in the Telegram chat, the rest was burned. (About 300 Million).
In some instances, these trading cards have been sold for more than $6300.
It’s very interesting in the sense that despite it being quite janky: multiple currencies, very slow blocktimes, shit interfaces, there’s a thriving community around it.
Before I get to a generic design of this, there’s perhaps another interesting thing to evaluate first.
Why do People Participate in Internet Memes?
This is primarily my own assessment, but to my mind, it’s a conversation: a language in its own right. Internet memes allows us to connect through inside jokes. There’s many theories of humour. Robin Dunbar (one of my favourite researchers), states that laughter increases our pain threshold & increases social bonding.
…provides a bridging mechanism (i.e. a form of grooming at a distance) that enables humans to bond social communities that are much larger than those that primates can bond by social grooming alone.
…and so by inducing top kek with these online groups, we not only increase the feeling of bonding with this group, but also with others who find them funny. We participate altruistically in the creation of them, because it makes us feel connected.
We also feel vindicated, even behind a pseudonymous veil when our meme gets popular. A sense of belonging to an in-group. If it keeps going, the bonds grow deeper, since it keeps getting reciprocated. Sending doge or saltbae alternatives to friends? It’s an inside joke. But inside jokes with the world.
Seeing a meme take off that you CREATED as part of the co-creation process makes you feel better and more connected to the group, because it’s like creating an inside joke within your group of friends and it seeing it sticking.
Our metric for success of this bonding exercise online is seeing how well it goes viral. This correlates to upvotes, retweets, etc. It’s usually unheard of, of people creating internet memes to expect copyright and remuneration. It’s a mostly permissive, creative movement (akin to Creative Commons Zero). We don’t attempt to restrict it, because doing so, is like purposefully restricting language. The goal is to bond.
What’s interesting about Rare Pepe cards is that you now have a new signal: by making the meme digitally scarce, it also introduces an additional bonding tool that has aided coordination substantially in the past: that of collectables for the in-group. Historically, collectables have been an excellent way to bond groups together, and is regarded as the earliest form of money.
This collectable game boosts the internet meme, much in the same way Dogecoin boosted the doge meme, because having a collectable makes you a clear part of that in-group.
What makes Rare Pepe even more interesting (over something like Dogecoin) is that each specific iteration of a meme, now also has a tradable value. Besides upvotes and retweets, a successful Rare Pepe card has deeper skin-in-the-game signal for just how top kek it was. If I create a Rare Pepe that sells/trades for a certain value, it’s a lot clearer signal than a retweet or an upvote on how successful my contribution was. Besides it being perpetuated and shared, there’s now a direct signal to how successful my inside joke was to my in-group.
Additionally, besides the game of collectables to bond, the cards themselves also signal the memes you find interesting. Owning the content is as much a signal to show who you are, like using Facebook likes to signal potential partners in Tinder. I own *this*. This is who *I* am. With Rare Pepe Cards & Dogecoin, the meme itself is now clearer skin-in-the-game.
I kek, therefore I am?
I think it’s a fascinating collection of incentives, and it’s worth exploring this as a generic design (and try to make it less janky): mint a token to curate a set of rare/tradable content.
Generic Pepe Economics Design:
It’s uncertain if this model would work for generic content. Perhaps only for internet memes? eg, would I want to own a limited edition Forbes article and trade that? Or would I want to own a limited edition song and trade that? Rare Pepe cards are useful in the sense that it represents trading cards. But trading generic content (whatever that may be), is uncertain. Worth exploring this maybe?
In the current model, the creators of the cards don’t get financially rewarded except if they hold some of the cards and hope it goes up in value. However, there could be a model where the transfer of the content could include an additional fee paid towards the creator?
I love the organic surge of Rare Pepe Cards. It’s a wonderful intersection of the work I’ve been busy with making *all* memes tradable in some way. As I’ve previously said before, the design space is incredibly broad. Rare Pepe Cards provide a new and interesting insight.
Who knows, perhaps we are still course on making a faustian bargain with the giant joint-stock pepe? ;)
Send me some Rare Pepes if you want to get rid of them: 1CWaSpVcv9M8cA2dBEgq5qbePc2Mb13Eab.