From OJ to the Queen: Why Degens Rush to Create Meme Coins When Celebrities Die

On Thursday morning, OJ Simpson’s family announced that the controversial former football star had died after a years-long battle with cancer. 

It was only a matter of minutes, then, before the inevitable: a flurry of themed, highly speculative meme coins capitalizing on the former NFL star and actor’s passing. 

Coins named “OJ Simpson,” “RIP OJ Simpson,” “Gently used leather gloves,” and even, yes, “Expired OJ,” shot off within minutes of the news breaking. The OJ-themed tokens quickly acquired millions of dollars worth of trading volume, with some skyrocketing in price—and most, of course, collapsing spectacularly within hours of launch. 

It’s by no means the first time crypto’s witnessed this morbid cycle unfold, and certainly won’t be the last. But why exactly is it that degens rush to create meme coins when a celebrity dies?

To state the obvious first: trending topics offer traders an enticing opportunity to ride a wave of public attention and generate buzz for a token without, really, doing anything at all.

The death of a prominent person like Simpson, Queen Elizabeth II, Charlie Munger, or Henry Kissinger, creates such circumstances. But so does a viral moment like, say, Elon Musk telling Twitter advertisers to “Go fuck yourself.”  

Crucially lubricating such opportunities, however, is the reality that it’s never been easier—or cheaper—to launch tokens on certain blockchain networks. 

It’s no coincidence that the top OJ Simpson meme coins created this morning were all launched on either Solana or Ethereum layer-2 network Base. On both networks, the cost to whip up a new token is now almost negligible. 

Making things even easier are services like Solana-based Pump, which help users with zero technical expertise deploy meme coins for transaction fees equivalent to less than $4. 

It makes perfect sense, then, why both Solana and Base have been flooded with more meme coins than they can handle in recent months. After a handful of tokens including BONK and Dogwifhat exploded into multi-billion dollar success stories in December, the race was on for the next big meme cash cow. (Or cat.) 

Some Solana users are deploying several hundred new tokens a day, in the hopes of catching something big; Base recently saw so much meme coin-related traffic that the Coinbase app, which also relies on the network, crashed

News-pegged meme coins have always been something of a trend in crypto. But back when Ethereum was the dominant chain for generating tokens, crypto users had to be relatively technically savvy to launch new coins, and needed to spend a fair amount on transaction fees to deploy them. At the time, it probably wasn’t worth it to spew whatever idea crossed a crypto user’s mind into the world as an everlasting token. 

Thanks to technological innovation, such barriers have now been eradicated. Now we have dozens of soon-to-be-worthless dead OJ tokens to sift through, which will live on-chain until the end of time.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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