In his regular column, veteran journalist A. Craig Copetas asks if Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin are modern equivalents of sneezing powder and whoopee cushions.
Samuel Soren Adams felt it was time to stop rushing around in a New Jersey pool hall. So he put down his billiard cue and, in 1905, accepted a job as a coal tar soap salesman.
âDad noticed that distilled coal tar had extremely high sneezing potential,â his son Bud said thirty years before the iPhone’s âSneeze Appâ came along. âSo, for fun, dad squirted powder through keyholes in hotel rooms and inside cafes.â
Elder Adams bottled and marketed his carcinogenic concoction under the name Cachoo. Within three months of its introduction, a Philadelphia retailer had purchased 70,000 bottles. This triumph was followed by the Snake Jam Jar, which, when opened, unleashed a meter-long imitation snake. Then came the Dribble Glass, then, of course, the Whoopee Cushion. Exploding matches made another big boom.
Bud Adams said his family’s leap from gags to wealth proves the public will buy anything no matter how shady, ridiculous or dangerous the gadget is. And all these years later, it’s still hard to dismiss the marketing wisdom of a prank mogul whose records show he sold 10,000 Super Joy Handshake Buzzers in Kuwait each year and kept locals coming back for more. .
The Adams family gadgets paved the way for all sorts of silly stuff currently available through a smartphone, such as Ajit Khubani’s massage slippers ($ 27.99); Witty Yetis Dehydrated Water ($ 13.30) and Arnie McPhee’s Yodeling Pickle ($ 12.99). A box of “slightly radioactive” uranium ore on Amazon costs $ 39.95 and a $ 5 per month fee lets anyone play Wall Street tycoon on the Robinhood Gold stock trading app.
“The trick,” said Bud Adams, “is to come up with a product that captures what the audience wants and can bring that dream to life, however briefly.”
Like everyone wants to be a millionaire, how about a $ 32,000 Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto. The price of Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum to enter your digital wallet is $ 3,073 per Ether. Too steep for your pocket? Dogecoin is a deal at 17 cents per doge, especially since software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer say they created gimcrack – which today has a market cap of over $ 32.65 billion – in 2013 as a joke to make fun of cryptocurrencies.
Although the Wizard of Oz advises to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb nonetheless claims that cryptocurrency pranksters are peddling a “gimmick” and a “Ponzi scheme”. Taleb should know. The economist’s 2007 best-selling book, The Black Swan, described highly improbable events and their potential to trigger serious cascading effects.
Indeed, the celebrity multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffet described Bitcoin as “probably rat poison,” the poop cryptocurrency as a non-productive asset. âAll you depend on is if the next person is going to pay you more because they are even more excited about another person’s arrival,â was the verdict of the Oracle of Omaha.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues that cryptocurrencies play almost no role in normal economic activity. “Almost the only time we hear of their use as a form of payment, as opposed to speculative trading, is in association with illegal activity.”
Digital godfather and Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates adds, “Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind.”
It’s probably not surprising that all of the baby boomers’ grumbling about cryptocurrency echoed the establishment’s initial reaction to Adam’s sneeze concentrate. âCachoo has divided the country like nothing since the Civil War,â one New Jersey newspaper read. âTown fathers pass ordinances, principals preach sermons, editorial writers rise up against Cachoo. But a population hungry for laughter demands more. The eagle howls as this beautiful land resonates “under the thunder of the nasal lines”.
Still, whatever your bet on the cryptocurrency, I would highly bet that Adam’s product catalog would have branded the Digital Dough product and displayed the product alongside Suckers Soap, Squirting Flowers, and Mystic Smoke From Fingertips, a goo which became a pouf when rubbed between thumb and forefinger.
Bud Adams described his business as a “jive in the hand.” He died a millionaire in 2001.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.