With its economy in shambles and its national currency in steep decline, Venezuelan citizens are adopting alternatives to survive—chief among them the crypto-currency Bitcoin. But that’s not the only option that’s popping up.
In the wake of the financial collapse, valuable Rare Pepe digital trading cards have become a viable alternative for some savvy businesses. Each Rare Pepe is linked to Bitcoin, providing scarcity not present in worthless paper money.
According to Crypto Insider, the trend began as a joke last year when someone issued a “Rare Pepe” digital trading card with monetary value in Bitcoin. The meme, sometimes tied to the “alt-right,” features green cartoon frog named Pepe, which is altered by users to create “rare” variations.
As digital trading cards, the Rare Pepes grew in popularity as people issued their own cards to trade with others, running them through a certification process controlled by the Rare Pepe Foundation. The cards are then traded and distributed through the Bitcoin-linked Counterparty decentralized exchange.
Though initially intended to be played as sort of a game by Bitcoin holders, Rare Pepes have taken on a life of their own. They are now saving businesses in Venezuela, where some locals have come to depend on them for transactions. As digital trading cards, they act as a substitute to paper money—one that isn’t tied to the poor Venezuelan economy.
Speaking to the site, an anonymous Venezuelan game developer for Rare Pepe Party attributed his company’s continued existence to business transactions conducted through Bitcoin, using the meme-based trading card. The game he’s developing is said to play like Blizzard’s popular trading card game Hearthstone, but with Rare Pepe trading cards.
“We’re based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times,” he said. “In that timeframe, thanks to bitcoin related business, we’ve grown our employee base from just 5 to 10. We’ve air-conditioned our office. Year-over-year we’ve been improving, so we’re banking big on bitcoin and now over Counterparty assets.”
Venezuela’s economic collapse is one of the most devastating in recent years, and its inflation rate is expected to top 1,600% in 2017.