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A one-ton tungsten cube was just bought by a crypto cabal for $250,000

A one-ton tungsten cube was just bought by a crypto cabal for $250,000


Worth its weight in ether

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

What’s 14.545 inches across, weighs one ton (around 907kg or 2,000lbs), and just sold to a group of anonymous crypto investors for roughly $250,000? Why, it’s the biggest tungsten cube ever to be manufactured by Midwest Tungsten Service of Willowbrook, Illinois.

Confused? Yes, that’s understandable. But consider this: tungsten cubes are one of the most popular memes in the world of cryptocurrency right now, a realm where value is defined as much by attention as anything tangible. (Call it the stonk market if you like.) Tungsten, if you’re not familiar, is a metal 1.7 times as dense as lead, and since 2015, nerdy types have been able to buy small cubes of tungsten manufactured by outfits like the Midwest Tungsten Service. Owning one has been a joke on Reddit for years, but in recent months, the cubes have become fashionable among crypto aficionados.

Some say the density of tungsten contrasts with the immateriality of crypto

Why exactly this happened isn’t all that important. Some claim that the density of the cubes makes for a pleasing contrast with the immaterial nature of cryptocurrency and NFTs. Others say that the experience of holding these objects is its own reward. (I can vouch for that myself. I once had the pleasure of holding a kilogram made of an iridium alloy, which is denser than tungsten, and it was a genuinely cool experience.) The simplest and most convincing answer, though, is that buying tungsten cubes is just a good, solid meme.

The recent interest in tungsten cubes led the folks at Midwest Tungsten Service to ask themselves an important question: what’s the biggest tungsten cube they can build? From this query, their 14.545-inch cube was born, with access to the cube sold via an NFT.

As the company explained in a blog post announcing the project last month:

We will make the 14.545” cube, it will weight approximately 2,000 pounds. This NFT represents a real-world physical cube that will be stored at Midwest Tungsten Service headquarters and owned by the NFT owner. One visit to see/photograph/touch the cube per calendar year will be allowed and scheduled with a Midwest Tungsten Service representative. Unlockable content required for scheduling and proof of ownership required for entry. The cube will be stored in a room of its own that will be locked and only accessible by the NFT owner.

Subsequent owners of the NFT cannot visit the cube in a year in which the cube has already been visited. The cube will not be available to view until 12 weeks after the first sale. Burning the NFT will result in shipment to the most recent owner via freight truck, owner will be responsible for alerting Midwest Tungsten Service of the intention to burn and transport after freight drop-off.

Now that NFT has sold to a group calling themselves TungstenDAO, with the sale — which you can see here on OpenSea and which we spotted via Motherboard — going through on Monday for 56.9 ETH or roughly $250,000.

Exactly what TungstenDAO plans to do with their purchase isn’t clear (we’ve reached out to the group for comment and will update this story if we hear back). But, fittingly, it seems they bought the NFT simply to bring more attention to the group itself.

The cube’s buyers call themselves an “experimental meme incubation studio”

If you’re not aware, a “DAO” or “decentralized autonomous organization” is a type of co-operative organization whose rules are supposedly enshrined in the blockchain. DAOs are typically investment vehicles of one sort or another, and for TungstenDAO, their preferred asset is memes. The group describes itself as an “experimental meme incubation studio” and says its aim is to “amass a collection of assets that are highly memeable, then create content that reinforces their social significance and strengthens memetic desires for these assets.” Really, it’s a logical evolution for the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs. If attention assigns value and memes drive attention, then why not cut out the middleman and buy memes? In this case (and just to reinforce this point), that meme is a 14-inch tungsten cube.

Will the cube hold onto its value? Will TungstenDAO become the first trillion-dollar meme studio? Honestly, who knows. But some whispers in the crypto world suggest cubes may have already had their day, and the hot new property is the tungsten sphere. Still confused? Just roll with it.