Spotting a Scamcoin: FREE Coin
In this edition of our Spotting a Scamcoin series we examine an Ethereum token with probably the most unusual price history we’ve ever seen. It’s a token that, literally overnight, achieved a valuation higher than many longstanding tech companies traded on NASDAQ, shot up in the crypto charts like a nuclear powered rocket, gained some attention and celebrity on the way, only to plummet back down to earth with the speed of a white hot meteorite only a few days later. And then it did it again. We present to you the story of FREE Coin.
What happens when you max out the number of decimal places allowed during the creation of an Ethereum token smart contract? You get a token with a total supply of 10 trillion, each unit divisible up to 16 places! For a frame of reference, this is over 476,190 times a greater supply than the total number of bitcoins to ever be created, with each one divisible by twice as many places as a single bitcoin. What kind of logic could have spurred such incomprehensibly large figures in the design of a token?
In its whitepaper, FREE Coin (FREE) – a token which has these above-mentioned parameters in its design – lays out some numbers to justify its own. It is aiming for truly widespread adoption, meaning it wants to create enough tokens so everybody on planet earth can have 1,400. A brief description of the token found in a DEX listing request on GitHub has the following to say:
“The FREE Token is (almost) free (0,000000001 ether) and will stay almost free due to its high supply. This token has 2 objectives : A) Stimulate mass adaption [sp] of cryptocurrencies, by providing potential investors without crypto knowledge the possibility to play with wallets and exchanges by using a crypto without value (and so testing crypto without financial risk) and B) because of its mass adoption be a selection criteria for Airdrops (which no [sp] become very important, since new projects can no longer make publicity on Facebook, Twitter or Google)”
This sounds relatively harmless, and almost like the altruistic provision of a service for novice-level crypto enthusiasts. However, as is often the case in the world of crypto, things are not necessarily what they appear to be when it comes to FREE Coin. While we can’t outright say this project is a “scam,” it certainly has some ever-shifting goals, premises and philosophies, and potential investors should be wary about the possible negative outcomes of what might happen if they put their money into it.
The first two things that need to be known about FREE Coin is that it is not “free” nor is it a coin (though only mentioned in a handful of occasions, it turns out the coin’s name is Freedom Coin – though you wouldn’t know this from looking at it on exchanges or CoinMarketCap). It is a standard Ethereum token and its initial cost (as being listed by the developer on exchanges) is between 0.00000001 ETH (1 gwei) and 0.00000001 BTC (1 satoshi). The website and Bitcointalk forum announcement thread says that this is because the token cannot feasibly be given away “for free” and that the low sale price is necessitated to cover the cost of distribution.
However (and somewhat particularly oddly), you can also purchase one million FREE Coins directly using PayPal for the low, low price of $1.20. Sounds like a pretty great deal, right? At only $0.0000012 per token this sounds like a bargain, until you compare it to today’s actual trading price of $1.84e-7, or $0.000000184 per token. This means it is roughly 6.5x more expensive to buy it from the website than the open market – a tad much of a premium for a token that is meant to be of such low value that it can basically be given away for free.
The smart contract for FREE Coin was deployed on April 6th, 2018. For the first few months of its existence, it remained completely unknown, before landing its first decent-size exchange on October 5th. By November, it had had reached a respectable market cap of $6 million. Then something incredible happened. On November 5th, the FREE market cap exploded to $50 million, its price climbing several thousand percent over the course of 24 hours. Four days later, it had dropped back to $6 million, and by November 25th, the market cap was all the way down to $500,000.
However, this was not the end of FREE Coin’s statistically-induced glory. By the beginning of December, the token was back on a tear, shooting straight skyward with seemingly no end in sight. On December 5th, it reached an astounding $130 million market cap, placing it in the top 40 coins according to coinmarketcap.com. Then, in the blink of an eye (or 4 hours later), it was back down to a market cap of less than $2 million, falling back somewhere into the top 600 coins by market cap size. Over the course of 2 days it had fallen a jaw dropping 99%, with its dramatic gains vanishing as fast as they had arrived.
So, just what the heck had happened to make this run-of-the-mill token’s price action form one of the weirdest-looking charts anybody has ever seen in the world of cryptocurrency trading? Well, to be honest, not much. Turns out there’s a lot you can accomplish with a very basic website, an un-compelling whitepaper, and a token that has a supply of 10 trillion and minimal market support.
True to its mission statement, FREE Coin was being sold on its exchanges for between 1 gwei (0.00000001 ETH) and 1 satoshi (0.00000001 BTC) – commonly the smallest prices supported by the orderbook of any given exchange. Given that the price difference between BTC and ETH is quite dramatic (1 ETH = 0.0261 BTC as of the writing of this article), this means that the potential cost of 1 FREE varies between $0.00000084 and $0.00003167… Its initial price was therefore over 37x more expensive in terms of BTC than ETH.
As FREE Coin got added to more exchanges and got a bit more wind in terms of publicity, it gained listings on additional exchanges, and its price slowly started to climb (though it remained well below 1 satoshi). A few investors (though not many — perhaps one or two) began to make purchases of FREE using the BTC pairing at the Mercatox exchange, and voila, just like that, its average price as determined by CoinMarketCap jumped thousands of percent.
Suspiciously, during the periods of price escalation (November 6-9 and December 1-5), trading volume was down sharply, and it averaged less than $5,000 in trades per day. It took literally only a few hundred dollars to move FREE Coin a few hundred percent in price! As there were several trillion coins counted in circulation by CoinMarketCap, the FREE market cap jumped exponentially along with the price, and along with that came the recognition, fame and FOMO (“fear of missing out”) a coin is likely to receive during its entrance into the coveted top 100 coins ranked by market capitalization value.
It should be noted that throughout the frenzy, the price of FREE never exceeded 1 satoshi. Huge sell walls prevented (and will continue to prevent as the token has a supply of 10 trillion) any upward movement beyond this number. On December 5th, FREE was suddenly delisted from CoinMarketCap, only to re-appear with re-adjusted figures that did not include Mercatox prices into its averaging. FREE Coin had fallen from a top 80 coin to a top 800 coin overnight, and this time, it would not be re-entering the stratosphere. Its market cap had been adjusted along with the price, and it is currently valued at less than $500,000 — a shell of its former self.
The physical address provided in the FREE Coin website points to an office building in the Seychelles, owned by a company that specializes in the creation of offshore corporations and bank accounts. The two team members listed on the website are Ben Bervoets (“IT all-rounder & social action”) and Emmanuel Adams (“Crypto Advisor, Lead Ambassador, Marketing Expert”). While Adams does have an extensive history acting as the promoter and advisor for a number of ICOs, there is almost no publicly available information about Bervoets. There is also no information available about the company behind the token, FREE Crypto Limited.
In addition to the lack of leadership specifics, there is an unsettling lack of clarity about how the project plans to achieve its extremely lofty goal of becoming a universal, globally-accepted cryptocurrency. Let’s take a look at FREE Coin’s 3 main objectives, as stated on the project’s homepage, and break them down one-by-one:
“1) Pave the way for the GLOBAL MASS USAGE of cryptocurrency. Our mission is to make cryptocurrency accessible to every interested person on earth. The FREE coin is the only cryptocurrency with the correct level of supply to support worldwide usage of crypto.”
Hmm.. There’s a few things wrong with this statement. First of all, bitcoin (the most expensive) cryptocurrency can already be broken down into very small units, meaning people can still conduct business in terms of even tinier fractions of bitcoin than they already do. There are currently over 103 million ether in circulation, and each one of those can be broken down into yet tinier fractions, as ETH supports 16 decimal places as opposed to BTC’s 8. Ergo, the “correct level of supply” is a completely arbitrary number – provided you can divide your coin/token by an adequate number of decimal places.
The other problem is that FREE Coin is an Ethereum token, which means everywhere that it wants to go, Ethereum has to go too. If anything, FREE is more of an ambassador for Ethereum than itself. As FREE is an Ethereum token and costs ETH in order to transact (gas), it can only be moved by those who also possess ETH.
At present, the average Ethereum transaction costs around $0.05, which is roughly the equivalent of 134,000 FREE at current market prices. If the price of Ethereum goes higher and FREE does not, this ratio will only become more lopsided, making it impractical to move around sums of less than 100,000 FREE, as the transaction fee will outweigh the value of the tokens being used. So, why would people who already have access to ETH and an Ethereum wallet not simply use ETH as a means of monetary exchange rather than FREE?
“2) Make cryptocurrency INCLUSIVE : allow access to cryptocurrency profits also to people with less financial means. Therefore we do the initial distribution at a low price.”
The real problem with this statement is the word “profits…” Who is profiting? The people who purchase the token during the “initial distribution”? From whom are they profiting, and how? And sure, while it is easier for people with “less financial means” to purchase whole units of FREE than say ETH or BTC, they are purchasing a token with an extremely low value and an enormous supply. Owning 100 FREE isn’t exactly the same thing as owning 100 ETH or 100 BTC.
“3) CREATE GLOBAL WEALTH by distributing a cryptocurrency that will increase very fast in value.”
This objective is pretty much a sales pitch that is doubling down on objective #2, and one of the oldest tricks in a scammer playbook: promising instant wealth with unrealistic returns. How fast is “very fast”? Well, let’s take a look at what the project whitepaper has to say.
“How will the price of the FREE coin evolve over a longer period of time ? We do of not have a crystal ball to precisely predict how Demand and Supply will work, but we took 2 assumptions : 1) The price of the Ether will continue to increase (value per year see chart below) 2) The price of the FREE coin expressed in Ether will multiply each year with a factor 10”
Whew, that’s a pretty bold assumption! Based on this (and according to their nifty Excel table), FREE Coin will be on par with the U.S. dollar, at a 1-to-1 conversion rate, by the end of 2024. That’s an estimated market cap of $8.3 trillion dollars, or over 950 times bigger than Ethereum’s current market cap! It’s pretty inconceivable to think of the value of an Ethereum token surpassing that of Ethereum, but what can we say, except for that FREE Coin has big, big plans. Probably the biggest ever put into a whitepaper, on purpose…
FREE Coin is truly a unique story of a token that managed to work CoinMarketCap just perfectly enough to make it famous. As we’ve discussed, the fame is probably undeserved and the result of a glitch in the system. Its moonward ascent that allowed it to surpass hundreds of truly technologically innovative projects in status was ultimately not built on anything more than a well-capitalized statistical anomaly.
Fortunately, only a few people actually got suckered into buying FREE at 1 satoshi, those who didn’t realize that you could also buy it for more much cheaper using an ETH pairing. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a long grind for those who bought in at any other price before it once again comes anywhere near its former glory. With a highly-unspecific whitepaper, lack of realistic goals and heavy emphasis on “potential profits” being the only thing it really has to offer, it’s incredibly unlikely FREE Coin will go on to achieve anything, and we recommend avoiding it altogether.
Even though the thought of being a “token millionaire” for only $1.20 may sound like a lot of fun, it’s not really much of an investment model, especially after knowing there are potentially 9,999,999 other FREE Coin millionaires out there.