Spotting a Scamcoin: An Educational Series
This week, we present our first article in an investigative/educational series designed not only to entertain but to inform as well. Using lessons of the past to predict outcomes in the future can be highly valuable, especially when investments fueled by your hard-earned money are at stake. While technology continues to build upon itself, advancing at an ever-increasing rate, the human mind remains relatively unevolved through the ages. This means that the tell-tale signs of self-serving, manipulative human psychology remain relatively the same – un-evolving – and through the course of this series we plan to help you identify what they are and how they manifest themselves in the cutting-edge industry of blockchain technology.
— ฿ryce Weiner (@BryceWeiner) March 14, 2018
Weinercoins: The Many Coins of Bryce Weiner
Bryce Weiner is a lot of things: computer programmer, entrepreneur, blockchain fanatic, controversial personality; but if there’s one thing he definitely isn’t, its lazy. He’s been the owner of a popular Kentucky coffee shop. He’s made news headlines for his (attempted) bitcoin donation via Twitter to an account held by ISIS. He’s worked at BlockTech alongside Bitcoin Core developers such as Gregory Maxwell.
Most relevantly, he’s been a prolific cryptocurrency creator and vocal figure in the blockchain development community, posting 45 software repositories to his Github page with over 100 commits (think coding alteration), and posting thousands of tweets in between. Even after having his original Twitter account removed, he continues to post several tweets a day, ranging in content from ways to improve bitcoin to random thoughts and ideas.
A Circumcised List of Weinercoins
For the sake of brevity, we are only listing coins which Weiner himself published on Github, except for RazorCoin, which Weiner forked and heavily promoted. Try to identify similarities among the coins by yourself: what do they have in common which might offer predictive insight into the outcome of his future projects?
- Amkoin (AMK) – February 2014
Bryce Weiner’s first cryptocurrency set a tone for the majority of those that followed. He released Amkoin with the stated goal of honoring the “conspiracy theory website Amerikan Konspiracy (www.amkon.net) on its sixth consecutive year of operation.” The site has been down since April 2015. Weiner had some exemplary words to say about his initial altcoin creation, posting under his bitcointalk pseudonym coinweaver:
It is a long haul coin, designed to last. Don’t expect to hit a block all the time and don’t expect it to hit an exchange any time soon. It’s designed to be a store of value, not something that you buy groceries with.
This coin was launched (and re-launched) on CPUs. I included complete, step-by-step compiling instructions for Windows and Ubuntu (Mac is coming). People compiled their own wallets who have never programmed before. People figured out how to solo mine who had never mined a coin before.
I have the screenshots they sent me to celebrate. In three years if those people keep those wallets safe they will have something they will treasure. I have no idea what the value of this coin is. I don’t think anyone does.
Now that more than three years have passed, we can affirm what the actual value of AMK is: zero. Never traded or listed on any altcoin exchange, Amkoin failed to achieve a price, and as such the number of active nodes supporting it eventually dropped to zero. While it did survive for at least 2 and ½ years – not bad for somebody’s first stab at creating a cryptocurrency – it in fact did not last, contradictory to Weiner’s assertions. Likewise, as it never had any price whatsoever, it is technically incapable of being a store of value.
- PetroDollar (XPD) – February 2014
Only three days later, Weiner announced his next cryptocurrency project: The PetroDollar. A novel concept at the time, the tagline for the coin was “Big Oil Comes To Crypto,” with coinweaver (Weiner) making the claim that the price of the coin was “designed to have a 1:10000 relationship to barrels of oil still existing in the ground.” This means that as the estimated number of barrels of oil underneath the earth’s surface declines (and will approach zero in approximately 35 years, according to Weiner’s calculations), the total number of PetroDollar coins in existence would follow, being destroyed in pre-programmed transactions.
Less than a year later, the coin was considered abandoned, as coinweaver had not posted any updates about his coin for several months. Talk of a Venezuelan oil-backed PetroDollar (different cryptocurrency altogether) surfaced in late 2017, giving Weiner’s XPD a much-needed (though completely accidental) boost, which saw trading activity surge and the coin’s market cap spike over 50-fold in a period of less than 1 month. Crypto noobs were simply buying the wrong coin, thinking they were buying the Venezuelan coin, but without doing some basic homework first.
- NautilusCoin (NAUT) – April 2014
CNBC financial analyst Brian Kelly hired Weiner to make him a coin that was “Wall Street-friendly,” hoping to attract some big-time money that had long eluded the cryptocurrency space. With the help of Weiner’s Twitter finesse, NAUT had a great start, peaking at nearly a million-dollar market cap by July 2014 (this was big money before the 2017 crypto explosion). After getting his feet wet and learning a bit more about the technology, Kelly re-hired Weiner to change NAUT’s mining process from Proof of Work (like bitcoin and Ethereum) to Proof of Stake (like Cardano and NEM). The reason for this was because Kelly likened to PoS reward system to classic stock exchange dividend payouts; i.e., the more coins you held, the bigger of a coin reward you would be issued for continuing to hold the coins. He thought this feature would attract more Wall Street types, as dividends were something to which they could relate.
Unfortunately for Kelly, for whatever reason, Weiner never delivered on his promise of updating NAUT with PoS, deciding instead to “walk away” from a Wall Street-friendly crypto, saying he valued his position as an industry “outsider” and that he didn’t need to be involved with the pressures of maintaining the coin any more because he could already “make money out of thin air.” Though NAUT did briefly surpass a $10 million market cap in 2016 after another developer was hired to switch coin generation from PoW to PoS, it ultimately crumbled during the latter half of 2017 – completely bypassed by Wall Street’s institutional investor-sized money that poured into the cryptocurrency markets all through the year. It was de-listed from its last exchange in November 2017 and now cannot be traded publicly anywhere.
- Dirac (XDQ) – May 2014
Weiner’s next coin, Dirac, was meant to help stabilize NautilusCoin, though it ultimately failed in this respect. He billed it with the following tagline, in his usual style of grandiosity:
Dirac is intented (sp) not simply as a currency, but as a stable financial instrument capable of carrying vast amounts of wealth in a safe, secure, and in a manner more economically efficient than Bitcoin.
Ironically, Dirac proved to be anything but stable, its price movements again characterized by large swings (pumps and dumps) before eventually trailing off into nothing. It was delisted from its last major exchange some 2 years later. No doubt a result of his quiet falling out with NAUT’s Brian Kelly, Weiner soon ditched Dirac’s exclusive coin pairing with NAUT, posting about the break-up in the bitcointalk XDQ thread:
Walking away from a property that’s underwater and falling apart is good business.
- RazorCoin (RZR) – June 2014
RazorCoin (not originally developed by Weiner) was one of the preliminary Tor network-based coins (many have since followed suit), initially billing itself with the following tagline:
The Razor network communicates via the Tor network natively, forever separating you from your transactions, making for the first truly anonymous network.
By utilizing the Tor network, which re-routes internet traffic through a series of anonymous hosts while masking information about the sender, RazorCoin offered advanced privacy features previously unassociated with other cryptocurrency network systems, which rely upon standard internet relay methods that can be publicly identified. The idea of enhanced anonymity was one of its major selling points, as it was to be a coin that promised a layer of secrecy that bitcoin (and most other coins) could not.
Weiner’s heavy promotion of the coin was chronicled in a Twitter account that is now deleted (due to his whole “tipping ISIS” affair). His dedicated follower base helped the coin achieve quite a run-up during its initial days after hitting the markets, even though this surge was questioned by other experts within the Twitter crypto community:
RZR price seems kinda too high, what kind of buy support is needed to support miners at this price?
— CRYPTO CO฿AIN (@CryptoCobain) June 20, 2014
By May 2015, after a series of “pumps and dumps” that ultimately rendered the coin at a 97% loss in value over the course of less than a year, the coin was declared deceased when the number of active nodes supporting its blockchain dropped to zero. Weiner’s cycle of “mine, hype dump” of coins he promoted and developed was beginning to become a rather habitual pattern.
Though a RZR node still pops up from time to time, keeping the coin in a semi-functional status, it is all-but-worthless as of the writing of this article, in May 2018, failing to appear on CoinMarketCap’s listing of the top 1600 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization value.
- GamerHolicCoin (GHC) – September 2014
Like Amkoin, GamerHolicCoin was a website-based cryptocurrency, this time for the now-defunct gamerholic.com. The idea was interesting, but didn’t make immediate sense from a sustainability-point of view:
While playing their favorite games, gamers will be able to use Gamerholic’s platform to win cryptocurrency and prize rewards. The Gamerholic arcade will allow users to earn Bitcoin and GamerHolic Coin (GHC) through their gaming, while simultaneously rewarding game developers $0.05 each time their game is played competitively on the Gamerholic platform.
An immediate question that comes to mind was: who is going to pay people to play video games that they would play for free otherwise?
Apparently, the bitcointalk community already had just about enough of Weiner’s antics, because within hours after the original announcement was posted, the conversation turned hostile, with Weiner’s pseudonym coinweaver taking to the defense in his signature, seemingly-delighted fashion.
Only a couple of days after launch, GamerHolicCoin encountered massive problems when its main node stopped accepting connections, causing the coin to fork, or splinter into 5 or 6 different chains. Instead of re-synching the main node to the longest chain with the most supporting mining power (which is protocol when coins accidentally fork), the GHC network decided to sync to a lesser fork, causing an uproar on the bitcointalk thread. Conspiracy theories were abounding that Weiner had somehow decided a fork that he was mining on should become the main fork, while most other miners lost valuable time and money pointing their hash power at what they thought was the correct version of the fork.
Weiner stopped commenting less than a month after the coin’s launch, moving into the shadows for a rather extended period.
- Tao (XTO) – July 2016
Though never really disappearing from the crypto scene, Weiner re-emerged as the “architect” for Tao, a blockchain-based solution for the music industry which aims to give artists more control over the rights to and ownership of their own music. He decided to address the first comment that followed using his real name, ditching the coinweaver moniker, armed with more confidence than ever:
As its price history chart has thus far been quite the opposite of all Weinercoins of the past, we can’t say anything bad about it. Tao seems to be on the up-and-up, with Weiner pointing to some notable artists who have decided to be a part of his latest project. XTO has increased in value over the last year and a half, and growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Has Bryce Weiner indeed turned a corner, ready for long-term commitment in a single project? It would certainly seem that way. However, we can’t help but wonder if human behavior so deeply engrained in one’s psyche can reverse course so thoroughly and so quickly. Only time will tell, and you can bet that the Tao bitcointalk thread is one on which we will be keeping a close eye.