by Evan Sixtin
Trading cards, a hobby that goes back centuries, have now found their way onto the Bitcoin blockchain in the form of RarePepes.
In the 1800’s the first trading cards were found in paper cigarette packs and helped to keep the packs stiff to protect the cigarettes. Companies printed lithograph images related to topics that they thought interested smokers to give these stiffeners novelty value and promote their brand. By 1900, hundreds of cigarette companies were offering trading cards. The first baseball cards came in cigarette packs. However, World War II ended this era because of limited paper resources.
After the war, trading cards popped up again as tea cards in the UK and bubble gum cards in the US. In 1950, Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. started printing trading cards with TV and film stars on them. Then, Topps owner and founder, Sy Berger, created the first true modern baseball card set, complete with playing record and statistics. Berger’s collection is one of the most sought-after of all time because it contained Mickey Mantle’s rookie card.
Trading cards, which started out as giveaways, eventually became expensive collector’s items. Just like bitcoin, their value increased over time, relative to scarcity. Two of the top-selling non-sports trading card series were Star Wars and Garbage Pail Kids. Garbage Pail Kids (1985) were a parody of Cabbage Patch dolls and contained some ghastly, sarcastic, and disgusting images.
In the spirit of Garbage Pail Kids, a digital trading card has come along for digital currency enthusiasts and is creating a small economy of its own. RarePepe digital trading cards exist as immutable tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain. To start collecting RarePepes, you need a wallet, which is a customized Counterparty wallet. First, you will need to copy and store your 12-word passphrase in a safe place, then you can deposit bitcoin, counterparty, or Pepe Cash and browse, buy, and sell 15 series of RarePepes within the wallet, or you may also view them at the RarePepe directory site.
If you want to collect RarePepes on your smartphone, there is also a mobile wallet for Android and iOS called Book of ORBS (ORBS=Ownership Revolution on the Blockchain). Both the mobile and desktop wallets use the Counterparty protocol.
Pepe the Frog is an internet meme which was originally created by Matt Furie and was first seen in his comic, Boy’s Club #1, originally posted in a series of blog posts on Myspace in 2005 along with the infamous Pepe catchphrase “Feels good, man.” In 2008 Pepe was uploaded to 4chan. It took off among 4chan users, who adapted Pepe’s face and the catchphrase to fit different scenarios and emotions. In 2015, Pepe popularity was on the rise and users began declaring certain variants as rare. These particular Pepe’s became known as a “Rare Pepe.” Several RarePepes, some of them physical paintings, were put up for auction on eBay and posted for sale on Craigslist.
Alternatively, the appearance and growth of the Pepe scene is described by one blogger as the accidental resurrection of Kek, an ancient Egyptian deity. Kek is portrayed as having the head of a frog and considered to be the deification of the primordial concept of chaos and darkness “who embodies the time right before the dawn, making him the bringer of light.” Proposed evidence of this deity’s magic is characterized by repeating numbers in 4chan posts.
In 2016, Pepe was co-opted by alt-right neo-nazis and made into a white nationalist symbol which made it very offensive to a lot of people. Miles Klee explains in his article entitled, “Pepe the Frog is not a Nazi, no matter what the alt-right says” that this representation of the meme is not correct. Pepe’s creator, artist Matt Furie seems to agree and has commented in an interview, “It’s just a phase, it’s not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil, and no one will care about it come November. I predict that his sly, lovable, and charming status will be intact as early as next week.”
To understand RarePepes better, we should consider a definition put forth by Chris DeRose. DeRose expounds, “RarePepes have a weird property in that they are designed to fit into the opposite of whatever you value.” This quality of RarePepes to challenge the politically correct Zeitgeist might be what makes them popular. Although some might feel that Pepe has the qualities of a nihilist, it seems more likely that the real value, and what makes RarePepes an asset (besides their Pepe Cash price tag), is their ability to force us not to take ourselves too seriously.