What Is Dogecoin, How to Say It, and Why It’s No Longer a Joke

The cryptocurrency that started out as a parody less than a decade ago had surged more than 10,000% in 2021 as of May 4, more than double the gains on the S&P 500, including dividends, since 1988. The cryptocurrency hit an all-time-high of 61 cents apiece on May 4, according to CoinDesk, before settling at almost 57 cents at 4 p.m. ET. That is up from less than 1 cent to start the year. The online brokerage eToro said May 3 that it had added dogecoin to its trading platform. The cryptocurrency exchange Gemini followed, announcing May 4 that deposits were open for dogecoin and that trading for the cryptocurrency would begin shortly.

So, what is dogecoin, how did we get here and why are people so excited about it? We’ve got answers to your questions.

First things first: How do you pronounce “dogecoin”? According to the cryptocurrency’s co-founder,

Billy Markus,

the correct pronunciation is “dohj coin.” Some prefer to pronounce the first syllable like “dog” or “doggy.”

What is dogecoin? Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency that started as a joke in 2013. It is a satirical homage to bitcoin, designed to serve no real purpose other than generating a few laughs.

It is named after an internet meme centered around the image of a Shiba Inu dog with bad spelling habits—thus “doge” instead of “dog.”

Why has dogecoin’s popularity exploded? On Jan 28, Mr. Musk, the billionaire boss of electric-vehicle maker

Tesla Inc.,

tweeted a faux “Dogue” magazine cover. It isn’t clear why or what caught his attention.

He has since continued to tweet about the cryptocurrency. Once, he shared a meme based on the movie “The Lion King,” with the Shiba Inu dog superimposed on Simba’s face. Another time, he wrote, “Who let the Doge out,” and “No highs, no lows, only Doge.” Perhaps in an effort to be helpful, he also tweeted what he described as an instructional video titled “D is for Dogecoin.”

Mr. Musk renewed his interest in the cryptocurrency in April, tweeting, “Doge Barking at the Moon.” And Mr. Musk recently acknowledged a tweet suggesting that he should do a skit on “The DOGEFATHER” during his May 8 appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

His cryptic comments have prompted the cryptocurrency’s popularity to skyrocket, with musicians including rappers

Snoop Dogg

and

Soulja

Boy as well as Kiss frontman

Gene Simmons,

sharing memes and tweets with their followers.

A mainstream consumer brand,

Conagra Brands Inc.’s

jerky snack Slim Jim, jumped on the dogecoin bandwagon, calling for it on April 13 to “go to the moon.” Other brands have also turned attention to dogecoin, with Mars Inc.’s Snickers brand tweeting “Maybe we should just #DogecoinToTheMoon” on May 3.

As of May 4, dogecoin became one of the top four cryptocurrencies by market value, according to Coinmarketcap.com. That puts it behind bitcoin, ether and binance coin. Dogecoin’s market value of roughly $73 billion exceeded that of

Capital One Financial Corp.

and the health-insurance company

Humana Inc.,

which closed May 4 with market capitalizations of about $69.4 billion and $59.7 billion, respectively.

Fans of dogecoin online are rooting for it to reach $1.

What are the risks of investing in dogecoin? Cryptocurrencies are volatile and prone to large swings in either direction.

Ask WSJJoin Wall Street Journal editors and reporters for a live Q&A as they answer your questions about what’s happening in the crypto market.

Bitcoin, for instance, has skyrocketed this year and by April 16 was trading above $61,000, compared with less than $30,000 at the end of last year. But the cryptocurrency has been prone to pullbacks, including several times this year.

Earlier this year, Tesla said it invested $1.5 billion in bitcoin and planned to start accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for its products.

Dogecoin could as easily lose 90% of its value, cautions

Garrick Hileman,

head of research at blockchain.com, a cryptocurrency transactions company. “I do worry about all the attention paid to a cryptocurrency that historically has not seen real-world traction and is a bit of a joke—literally,” he said.

How can I buy dogecoin? Dogecoin can be bought with a credit card on cryptocurrency exchanges such as Bittrex Global GmbH and Payward Inc.’s Kraken, as well as trading platforms including the popular brokerage Robinhood Markets Inc.

In February, deVere Group said it added dogecoin to its crypto-trading app as demand surged because of what Chief Executive

Nigel Green

called “The Elon Effect.” The online brokerage Webull Financial LLC added dogecoin to its Webull Crypto platform in April. And eToro said on May 3 that it had added dogecoin to its list of offered assets.

Can I buy dogecoin on Coinbase? Coinbase, which runs the largest bitcoin exchange in the U.S., went public on April 14, boosting excitement for cryptocurrencies. Both bitcoin and dogecoin surged that day, despite Coinbase not offering trading in dogecoin.

After tweets from Tesla CEO Elon Musk and rapper Snoop Dogg, the cryptocurrency Dogecoin, which started as a joke, has surged in market value. WSJ looks at why online investors are pouring money into the meme-inspired virtual currency.

What happened recently with Robinhood and dogecoin? Robinhood customers have experienced problems with cryptocurrency trading in recent weeks as demand for dogecoin has surged. In mid-April, the online brokerage tweeted that it was “experiencing issues with crypto trading” due to unprecedented volumes.

On May 4, Robinhood users reported having problems trading crypto on the platform again. A company spokeswoman said the matter was resolved in a little over an hour.

Can I buy anything with dogecoin? Most traditional online retailers don’t accept any cryptocurrency as a form of payment.

The folks behind website Shibe Mint sell copper tokens—stamped with a “D” and the year 2014—for $12 apiece. You can pay for these tokens with dogecoin, but they are currently sold out. You can also get your doge swag, such as a “doge dealer” T-shirt from dogeswag.com.

The Dallas Mavericks basketball team offers merchandise for sale in dogecoin. Mr. Cuban, the team’s owner, tweeted that it had set a 24-hour record in sales April 16. The Oakland A’s, the Major League Baseball team, announced recently that fans could buy tickets to its May 3-6 games with dogecoin.

Exchanges that trade dogecoin will also let you convert your cryptocurrency into traditional currencies.

Who invented dogecoin? Developers Mr. Markus and

Jackson Palmer

co-created dogecoin as a joke in 2013. Even the way people originally obtained the coin was meant to be ridiculous: In return for solving mathematical puzzles, dogecoin miners operating fast-running computers received anywhere from one dogecoin to hundreds of thousands of dogecoins.

Neither works on the project anymore, and Mr. Markus has said he sold all of his dogecoin in 2015. He made just enough from it to buy a used Honda Civic.

“The idea of dogecoin being worth 8 cents is the same as GameStop being worth $325,” Mr. Markus, 38 years old, said recently. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s super absurd. The coin design was absurd.”

Why is dogecoin so popular? Some argue that it is yet another sign of the market madness that has seen surges in stocks touted on online forums.

Despite nearly a decade passing since its creation, dogecoin has remained beloved by a small community that has Photoshopped the dog’s furry face onto everything from astronauts to Twinkies. That community is now growing rapidly.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com and Caitlin McCabe at caitlin.mccabe@wsj.com

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