Some Australians have made a fortune on Dogecoin, but they say it’s not all about the money

Seven years ago, when today’s king’s ransom of Dogecoin could barely pay for a bottle of kombucha, a PhD student in Melbourne saw an opportunity.

“To fellow Australian Shibes,” he posted on Reddit (a Shibe is someone interested in Dogecoin, or Doge) under the username FruitAndNutDelight.

“We have a direct Australian dollar to Doge exchange.”

That anonymous user was Regan Gallagher, and the exchange he set up in 2014 is responsible for distributing to Australians a volume of the cryptocurrency he estimates would now be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

“That was the pull for Doge — it was a new thing,” says Mr Gallagher, who spoke to the ABC this week after the value of Doge had risen a few thousand per cent in a few months.

“No-one had it really in Australia.”

The exchange has since closed down, but the trades it facilitated have created small fortunes for those who had speculated on the value of Dogecoin.

So who are these Shibes?

And how did they know to buy Dogecoin?

Upon investigation, the world of Dogecoin is a strange mix of people who bought the currency on a whim so long ago that they can’t find their wallets; newcomers who are riding the hype and want to get rich quick; and others who are almost the opposite: they’re there for the long haul and believe cryptocurrencies will change everything.

And though their belief in a coin that was started as a joke and based on a meme of a dog may seem outlandish and absurd to some, the Shibes are laughing all the way to the bank: the currency is now worth tens of billions of dollars.

These are the stories of some of the people who got in early.

“There are horror stories as well as Cinderella stories,” Mr Gallagher says.

“And I’d say that, unfortunately, the horror stories are in the majority.”

‘I am one happy doge-illionaire’

Posts from 2014 casually confirming orders to exchange a few hundred dollars for hundreds of thousands of Doge are still up on Reddit.

In the years since, the value of the coin has gone from a tiny fraction of a cent to close to one US dollar ($1.20), meaning those orders have paid off nicely. Most of the rise has happened this year.

Reading back through these posts with the benefit of hindsight is like watching footage of a series of people buying winning lottery tickets.

“I just ordered 177000 Doge through PayPal,” one user wrote seven years ago.

Another wrote: “5 transactions & over AUD10K later … i am one happy doge-illionaire.”

The Doge meme
Wow. Such Doge. So meme.

With the rise in the value of Doge, Mr Gallagher has recently been contacted by long-ago users of the exchange.

One man, now a “poor uni student”, spent $150 he’d earmarked to invest on Dogecoin on a night out clubbing in 2014. Though he’d bought some Doge and this had later helped pay his uni fees, he regrets that night out.

“Those coins would be valued at around $75,000 today, so I’m not entirely convinced that the beers were worth it in hindsight,” he reflects. 

Another man who lives in a small country town in South Australia has made so much from Dogecoin, he’s quit his job as a salesman and plans to open a computer repair business.

His former workmates are now asking for investment advice.

“I’ve made enough to take a few years off without being concerned about money,” he says.

Mr Gallagher says another man he knew had bought Dogecoin in 2014 and then set it aside, expecting it would amount to nothing.

One day this year he realised it was worth a quarter of a million dollars – if only he could find the electronic wallet that held the coins. 

He found it in a folder titled “Delete”.

Others haven’t been so lucky. Mr Gallagher estimates at least two-thirds of the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Dogecoins bought through the exchange have been lost.

“I get messages all the time from people who are trying to track down their wallets,” he says.

“They just have no idea where they put the wallet file.”

The narrative power of the doge meme

Mr Gallagher, who is now 32 and a neuroscientist at Monash University, says he’s made enough money from cryptocurrency investments to “probably” retire, but making money was never the point.

“The price gains are a lot of fun, and they allow me some freedom to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do,” he says.

A young man with long hair and sunglasses
Investing in Dogecoin is not the only gig Regan Gallagher has running.(

Supplied: Regan Gallagher


The “freedom” that he’s chasing involves not having his money in a bank or otherwise tied to the global financial system, which he believes is flawed and prone to collapse. 

Along with the neuroscience research, he’s the director of a permaculture farm in the hinterland of Byron Bay and a cryptocurrency consultant with Digital Currency Australia — a business that grew out of the Dogecoin exchange.

By his thinking, cryptocurrency is analogous to an off-grid farm that can survive without the outside world. Like growing carrots and rearing goats, buying crypto is a way of being more resilient.

At the same time, he acknowledges the value of Dogecoin is volatile and its appeal (and therefore its value) is based on a fickle “narrative”.

This is what drew him to the coin back in 2014, when he was completing a PhD in psychology.

The topic of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is dry and hard to understand, he says, but adding the doge meme gives it a familiar “narrative”. 

The doge meme, which became popular in 2013, typically consists of a picture of a Shiba Inu dog accompanied by multicoloured text in Comic Sans font depicting the dog’s internal monologue.

The founders of Dogecoin started the currency partly to make fun of the grand claims made by other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but their creation took on a life of its own.

People bought Dogecoin because they thought it was funny. A welcoming community sprung up.

“The way the human mind works is through narrative structure,” Mr Gallgaher says.

“When you have a doge meme on a coin … people can understand that narrative.”

‘A perfect storm’ of internet culture and crypto

This hunch paid off — eventually. The sudden rise of Dogecoin in early 2021 was a “perfect storm of internet culture, gaming culture and crypto”, says Jason Potts, a professor of economics at RMIT University.

“It’s meme-generated participation.”

The typical Doge-buyer, he says, is not a typical share or property investor.

Instead, they are often young men entering the world of finance and speculation for the first time.

They spend a lot of time online, and learned about Doge through gaming or Reddit communities.

These are nothing like the people who had bought Doge in 2014 and then forgot where they had stashed their electronic wallets. These new young buyers want to get rich quick.

For many, the idea of slowly accumulating wealth makes no sense when the economy appears to be stacked against them — from the soaring cost of housing, to stagnating wages, to the difficulty of getting permanent work.

“The housing markets are just so out of reach for so many young people, it’s a tragedy,” Professor Potts says.

“There’s a generational sense of the pointlessness of that pursuit and how long it takes.”

The week it went ‘nuts’

These new speculators collided with a Dogecoin community that had grown slowly over many years and prided itself on its generosity and honesty.

The moderators of the Dogecoin subreddit, for example, do not own Dogecoins, so that they may remain impartial.

The man who founded this subreddit in 2014, the user 42points, is a 37-year-old apprentice electrician living in a regional Victorian town.

Despite working up to 12 hours a day moderating, he owns no coins and has made no money from the soaring value of Dogecoin.

42points, who is very well known in the Dogecoin community but wants to remain anonymous, says it’s been strange overhearing people in his home town talking about the previously niche currency.

“There’s been times where people in the classroom are talking about Dogecoin and I’m sitting there wanting to say something, but not saying anything,” he says.

In a single week in January of this year, the Dogecoin subreddit jumped from a few thousand to a million users. The number of posts exceeded 2,000 an hour.

“It really went nuts,” says Fulvio, a prominent and longstanding user.

Some of this activity was coordinated by other Reddit groups, including one called SatoshiStreetBets, who were looking to drive up the value of Dogecoin.

They did so by buying the coin, but also by making lots of noise to give the impression of a rush on Dogecoin.

With enough hype, the market followed.

One of the early posts on SatoshiStreetBets read: “Let’s make DOGECOIN a thing. That’s it, that’s the post.”

Fulvio recalls bots and shills (people who are promoting a business or an investment) flooding the Dogecoin subreddit and spamming it with posts, meaning it could no longer operate as a forum of ideas and information.

As the price of Dogecoin rose, more came. Months later, they’re still coming.

Money has changed the culture of the Dogecoin community, Fulvio says.

The currency has gone from being treated as a game and a hobby to the object of high-stakes speculation.

He’s worried many young, first-time investors are over-excited and could lose more than they can afford if the value of the coin falls sharply.

Since its peak in May, the value has fallen by about half.

This coincided with Tesla boss and self-proclaimed “Dogefather” Elon Musk making a joke on Saturday Night Live about the coin being a scam.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 28 seconds

Elon Musk explains dogecoin while hosting Saturday Night Live.

A single tweet from Mr Musk can decide the fortunes of many Doge speculators.

“If you go into it thinking you’ll be a millionaire by Friday, that’s not going to happen,” Fulvio says.

“And if you have that attitude, you’re probably going to lose your shirt.”

Professor Potts says the rapid fluctuations in the price of Dogecoin are “something quite addictive”.

Buying Dogecoin is not unlike spinning the roulette wheel at an online casino.

He says speculating on its value is relatively harmless, so long as no-one is getting themselves into debt.

“I see lots of people teaching themselves finance skills and taking responsibility for their own financial investments,” Professor Potts says.

“If they can avoid the mistake of taking on debt, it’s a harmless sandbox.”

And what’s the long-term future for Dogecoin?

That’s hard to say, says Mr Gallagher, given the value is “purely psychological at this point”.

As the “joke currency” becomes more valuable, it may lose the veneer of amateurism and ironic mockery that made it popular in the first place.

“Memes are basically what’s driving all of this,” he says.

“Doge has a good meme. A very good meme. But all memes phase out.”

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