Memecoins Dogecoin (DOGE) and Shiba Inu token (SHIB) have shown they have real staying power after leading the market rally this past weekend, begging the industry to ask: “Are they too big to be a joke?” Collectively, memecoins gained more than 20% during the rally at the beginning of the week, while SHIB gained up to 30%, though along with DOGE has since retreated somewhat.

DOGE’s Twitter account just clocked over 3 million followers as it briefly dipped back into the crypto top 10 and SHIB is currently the most widely held ERC-20 token among the largest 1,000 Ethereum wallets.

“I’m definitely not surprised [by DOGE and SHIB],” said Craig Jackson, head of growth at micro-investments firm Bamboo, telling Forkast that as memecoins are so heavily driven by hype, they typically show the most dynamic price movements, both positively and negatively. “Two of the top memecoins are in the top 15, there’s a large market cap that are probably not going away anytime soon. They’re a part of the ecosystem at this point.”

The fractional value of memecoins allows investors to dab into high reward assets, leading to an ever-increasing number of new tokens hoping to capture DOGE and SHIB’s success. But with this increased number comes a diluted probability of breakout for each.

Both DOGE and SHIB have built their success on a strong sense of community and a feeling the coins have real use cases, though industry experts say this is little more than good branding.

“The way we should think about Dogecoin is that it is a stray dog,” said Ben Caselin, head of research and strategy at cryptocurrency exchange AAX, in an interview with Forkast. “It is an abandoned project and then somehow it was found and taken care of, and it lives primarily on the back of its brand power and kind of the mass appeal that it has a social media meme.”

Named after a popular meme at the time, DOGE started as a joke in 2013 and launched the idea of a memecoin in the wake of the GameStop saga.

“The meme was certainly what gave it legs initially — but by itself wouldn’t have been enough,” said a DOGE community member, known by their Discord name as The1stImmortal. “Being open-source and community-supported (not corporate in origin or organization) means there’s a decent community around it too.”

Another Discord user, Melifpoom, agreed: “This community is the most accepting community I’ve ever seen, we all support each other no matter who we are … & I’m sure everyone can agree.”

The1stImmortal acknowledges DOGE isn’t ideal as a long-term store of value like Bitcoin but says its frequent price fluctuations incentivize spending and earning the tokens, which in turn generates further interest in the token and the community. Unlike SHIB, which exists as a token on Ethereum, DOGE operates on its own blockchain and can be traded peer to peer between its own wallets.

DOGE proponent and Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced the company would begin accepting the currency for merchandise, though beyond a few other novelty commercial purposes DOGE has yet to hit widespread commercial adoption as Bitcoin has.

“It’s a currency — it’s quite good at being that,” The1stImmortal said, adding DOGE is not trying to be an all-purpose blockchain. “Being merely a cryptocurrency keeps Dogecoin out of most of the financial regulation risk too as it’s just an asset being mined and traded.”

But Caselin says Bitcoin has already won the race to become the global reserve digital currency, offering a hedge against rising inflation, providing financial services to the unbanked or for solving remittance inefficiency — among others — meaning there is little utility left for the pair.

“[Bitcoin’s] competitors now are kind of laughable in the most serious way: DOGE and SHIB,” he said, arguing without a genuine use case, all that is left is the hype surrounding the token, which he does not believe will last in the long term. “What they target is basically being a currency of the people. OK, then we need to be real. What does it do as a currency?”

SHIB has flipped DOGE before in a weeklong tear when it reached its all-time high in November, before soon dropping back below DOGE in the dynamic cycle of memecoin price fluctuations. Jackson believes the pair, sitting in 12th and 14th place at press time according to CoinMarketCap, are due to flip again as younger investors continue to move into the space, enticed by SHIB’s low cost.

“The new retail buy SHIB, but the really experienced smart money also buy it because they recognize it’s the retail trend,” he said.

DOGE was trading at US$0.1557 and SHIB at US$0.00003082 at press time.