Rabies is a highly transmissible disease spread to humans through dogs and other animals. Its symptoms can include fever, uncontrolled excitement and muscle spasms. While there is no direct evidence to suggest investors in Doge NFTs have contracted the virus, there is a lot of excitement with the meme in the industry at the moment, and many seem to be displaying similar symptoms.

The tokenized ownership of a non-fungible token of the original Doge meme is now valued at over US$400 million after its owner split the NFT into billions of tokens and put them up for auction on Wednesday. Despite selling for 0.0000035186 WETH (US$0.013), the total valuation for the tokens was US$412 million at press time, according to data from Fractional.

A collective of decentralized finance leaders named PleaserDao paid 1,696.9 ETH — US$4 million at the time — for the NFT of Doge in June. That ownership is now split over 16,969,696,969 $DOG tokens. In this meme-heavy space, even the price and number of tokens created seem like a joke. According to figures on Miso, the marketplace where the auction took place, 1,796 buyers paid 11,942 Wrapped Ethereum — almost US$45 million — for 20% of the total supply. The remainder will now be available through decentralized exchanges SushiSwap and Uniswap.

A good investment, or barking mad?

If this new form of investing seems strange, rest assured, you are not alone; Financial News outlet Zero Hedge summarized the situation quite succinctly in a tweet: “The new normal: owning a fractional share of an NFT of a joke cryptocurrency based on a dog.”

In the $DOG Discord channel, unsurprisingly the attitude toward the project is much more optimistic. When asked why they were so enthusiastic about the project, one user replied, “We’re here to own the most iconic meme of our times.” Another put it even more simply: “I’m here because in DOGE we trust.”

Others took a much broader perspective for what attracted them to the community and the technology. “All of this is a test use of fractionalized NFTs,” a Discord user named Rannier said. “Imagine a future where the deed to an apartment complex is an NFT, fractionalized, and whoever holds fractions gets that % of revenue dividends. Plus, because it is all built on Ethereum to ERC standards it is composable and able to be leveraged in DeFi.”

A meme is born

The internet was a very different place in 2013, but that was the year one of the most enduring internet memes was born when a hitherto relatively unknown breed of Japanese dog called a Shiba Inu was photographed with a very knowing look on its face. Since then, the meme has been applied in almost every context imaginable, including a cryptocurrency.

Dogecoin was created as a joke on Bitcoin in 2013 but exploded in popularity earlier this year in the aftermath of the GameStop saga, which introduced the notion of “memestocks” to the world of share trading. Likewise, Dogecoin became the world’s premier “memecoin.” While it has just been overtaken by Solana in terms of market cap, Doge remains the eighth-largest token today.

Coming full circle, Dogecoin has spawned its own copycat coins, like Shiba Inu token and Baby Doge, hoping to catch the same wave of enthusiasm which saw Dogecoin jump over 1000% in under a month.

Similarly, the NFT market is also booming at the moment with this week seeing multiple NFT trading volumes hit all-time highs. Bored Ape Yacht Club rose almost 70% in the past week to reach a trading volume of more than US$131 million, while one of the earliest NFT projects, CryptoPunks, recently exceeded US$1 billion in total sales.

All of these factors combined this week to make digital tokens representing fractional ownership of a joke cryptocurrency based on a dog worth almost $45 million. From the outside, it might seem absurd, but the community is dedicated to the project — that’s what took it to these heights to begin with.

As another Discord user JapesD said: “$dog is not an investment, it is a membership, we are building something much bigger here — stick around.”