They may not be able to pinpoint why they’re so obsessed with these dense metal cubes, but crypto enthusiasts can agree on one thing: Holding a tungsten cube is an experience like no other.
In the past few weeks, the cryptocurrency world has become obsessed with the cube’s tangible density.
The near-ubiquitous affection for the cube in crypto circles has been compared to cult-like behavior, driven largely by a fear of missing out (FOMO) on the next big thing, a sentiment deeply woven in crypto trading.
“Seeing the cubes pop up on my timeline triggered an itch within me,” Torkel Rogstad, a software engineer for the digital finance platform Arcane Crypto, told NBC News. “I understood that this was a surprisingly heavy cube, but pretty soon came to the conclusion that I’d have massive FOMO if I didn’t act on this.”
He received his cube last week, tweeting that the two-week wait “without the intensity of density” was “heart wrenching.”
He described holding his tungsten cube as an “intensely physical” sensation,” which was a refreshing experience in the “age of a rapidly expanding metaverse.” For now, his cube rests on his nightstand — it greets him every morning with its sheer density.
The cubes are now a meme in cryptocurrency circles thanks to a now-viral joke from CoinCenter communication director of communications Neeraj Agrawal, who tweeted about a “global tungsten shortage.”
Tungsten, which weighs approximately 1.74 times more than lead, is often used in metal alloys to reinforce hardness and strength.
The manufacturer Midwest Tungsten Service typically sells tungsten sheets and tungsten wires for industrial uses, but also sells the material in cube form as a desktop novelty. The cube sizes range in size and price; a 1 centimeter cube weighing 0.64 ounces goes for $19.99, and a 2-inch cube weighing 5.2 pounds costs $449.99. Its largest cube, clocking in at 41.6 pounds, retails for $2,999.99.
Following Agrawal’s tweet, Midwest Tungsten Service saw a 300 percent increase in sales and its Amazon storefront inventory wiped clean, the company told CoinDesk.
Cube enthusiasts even made pilgrimages to the company’s facility in the suburbs of Chicago, which prompted Midwest Tungsten Service to publicly ask followers to stop doing so in a blog post.
The demand for an even larger cube inspired the company to sell a 1,784-pound version as an NFT, which will allow the “owner” one annual supervised visit to touch the cube at Midwest Tungsten Service’s Illinois headquarters.
The company’s director of e-commerce, Sean Murray, told NBC News that the “unprecedented” surge in sales has been “incredible,” even if overwhelming.
“We’ve had to add extra staff and arrive a bit earlier at times to handle the huge increase in demand while trying to maintain a high level of customer service,” Murray said. “At times that has meant diving (not literally) into piles of boxes looking for the one that was canceled a few minutes before a carrier’s pickup window.”
Last week, Justin Paterno tweeted a photo of a matte gray cube sinking into his matte gray bedspread. He told NBC News that he “saw them go viral” and bought one for himself.
“The cube has arrived,” the former Stocktwits COO captioned the image. Stocktwits is a social media platform for investors and traders similar to Twitter.
The veneration surrounding the knickknacks only reinforces the cultish assumptions, but owners swear that there’s nothing quite like holding a tungsten cube. It’s a unique tactile experience, they say, because the cubes are deceptively dense.
“Holding a tungsten cube is truly indescribable, with its massive presence immediately felt upon picking it up” Rogstad said. “It gives you a sense of awe, immediately thinking, ‘I will utterly destroy whatever this falls on if I drop it.’”
“It’s wild,” CoinShares chief strategy officer Meltem Demirors told NBC News. “[You] think it’s going to be light. But it’s so heavy. Like mind-blowing.”
Demirors held a cube for the first time last week and tweeted that her “life changed forever.” The experience was such a delight, she ordered her own cube.
“I love the density,” she said, adding that it’s “just a fun meme.”
And to most others online, the perplexing obsession with tungsten cubes among crypto enthusiasts has become a joke in itself.
Demirors doesn’t take the cubes — or the online jabs against cube owners — too seriously, but she does think that the cubes’ popularity is part of a larger cultural shift.
“This community memed Bitcoin into existence and made it into a global movement,” Demirors said. “Cubes are no different. Never underestimate the power of memes and communities!”
The pressure to be ahead on trends undoubtedly contributed to the cube’s rise in fame, especially in crypto circles. Rogstad said he thinks “bitcoiners” are more prone to “FOMO-dispositions” than the “general population.”
“Bitcoin FOMO is probably a more profitable endeavor than cube FOMO, but it’s the same kind of feeling deep down,” Rogstad continued.
As for the cube naysayers, Rogstad believes they’ll come around once they experience the rapture of holding a cube themselves.
“I’d wager that those people haven’t experienced the cube, but only observed from a distance,” he said. “Everyone has their own cube journey, but all cube journeys start with physically experiencing one.”
In the meantime, cube owners will continue to preach of the joys of tungsten cubes.
“We love the cubes,” Demirors said.