Earlier this week, in “The Finance 2017 Time Capsule Is Something We Should Bury Deep,” we suggested that one day, when we all look back on what’s unfolded in markets over the last 12 months, it’s going to seem so laughably absurd that there won’t be enough cheap vodka in the world to drown out our collective sorrow after the massive wealth destruction that will almost invariably accompany the unwind.
One of the things we pointed out in that post is the extent to which what seems ridiculous one day seems entirely sane the next thanks to the fact that the stories are getting sillier and sillier seemingly by the hour. As evidence of that contention, we reminded you about Seth Golden, the former logistics manager at a local Target store who caught the attention of The New York Times back in August. Seth briefly became the poster child for speculative manias after the Times documented his transformation from retail store manager to armchair vol. seller. When that story was published, everyone was sure — sure, I tell you — that nothing could sound more ridiculous than this:
Mr. Golden, who is 40, lives in a suburb of Ocala, Fla. Since he has been shorting VIX, he says his net worth has gone to $12 million from $500,000 in about five years.
When it comes to his craft, he is more the pedant than boastful trader, carefully posting snapshots of his trades on his Twitter feed and churning out dense treatises and videos laying out his methods.
Well fast forward just four months from the day that article was published and thanks to the 500% explosion in Bitcoin, iced tea bottlers had become tech enterprises, bra manufacturers had transformed themselves into crypto companies and in one particularly hilarious case, the maker of a bedwetting inhibitor called the “UrinStopper Patch” moved out of the piss prevention business to pursue opportunities in blockchain.
The insanity reached a dubious peak this week when, thanks to the continuation of a rally that came in at an astonishing 32,000% in 2017, Ripple Cofounder and former CEO Chris Larsen leapfrogged Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Steve Ballmer, Larry Ellison, and a whole host of other high profile billionaires to take on Mark Zuckerberg for the fifth spot on the list of Earth’s richest people.
Well guess what? Seth Golden can move on over, because Chris Larsen now has his own New York Times piece. To wit, from an article out Thursday called “Rise Of Bitcoin Competitor Ripple Creates Wealth To Rival Zuckerberg“:
At one point on Thursday, Chris Larsen, a Ripple co-founder who is also the largest holder of Ripple tokens, was worth more than $59 billion, according to figures from Forbes. That would have briefly vaulted Mr. Larsen ahead of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg into fifth place on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people.
Mr. Larsen’s soaring wealth sparked a few congratulatory messages on Twitter on Thursday, even if the value of Ripple – and his Forbes ranking – dropped later in the day. But his net worth, and the ballooning value of Ripple tokens, mostly drew comments about the irrationality of the virtual currency markets, which appear to be largely driven these days by the fear of missing out, or FOMO.
“This is beyond insane,” said Jeremy Gardner, an investor who previously worked at the virtual currency hedge fund Blockchain Capital, which invested in Ripple. “There’s absolutely nothing driving this rally except rampant FOMO, misinformation, and speculation.”
Yes, it’s “beyond insane.” And it gets even more insane when you consider the following, from the same article:
Ripple has said it has signed up more than 100 banks to use the company’s technology, including American Express and Banco Santander.
But banks do not need to use Ripple tokens for Ripple’s software to transfer dollars, euros and yen. That point appears to be lost on many small time investors who are buying Ripple tokens.
Several virtual currency hedge fund investors said that they have talked to banks and heard about interest in Ripple’s software, but not its tokens.
“I’m not aware of banks using or planning to use the XRP token at the scale of tens of billions of dollars necessary to support XRP’s valuation,” said Ari Paul, a co-founder of the hedge fund BlockTower Capital.
That echoes what pretty much anyone with any sense has been shouting from the rooftops for the past month as Ripple’s “value” has exploded.
There is absolutely nothing rational about this and indeed, there’s an argument to be made that there really isn’t anything here. It seems more likely than not that once the FOMO dynamic wears off, Ripple (the currency, that is) will go to zero.
That won’t matter all that much for Larsen, who will of course remain rich irrespective of how this plays out. But for the lemmings piling into this thing with visions of Italian sports cars dancing in their heads, the “lambo” lament is probably just around the corner…
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