The world seems to be going crazy. Why else would a traditional looking 4-inch, 41 pound of metal be driving investors crazy? Traders, investors, and speculators alike are going all in for Tungsten cubes, in sizes ranging from 1 centimeter ($19.99) to 4 inches ($2,999.99), with cryptocurrency enthusiasts in particular splashing the cash.
“Tungsten cubes are patient zero in the crypto-industry,” said Nic Carter, a partner at blockchain investment firm Castle Island Ventures. He’s been collecting cubes for about four years, both for himself and as gifts. “It’s classic crypto stuff,” he said of the recent spike, “taking hilarious concepts and enormously taking the joke too far.” (His Twitter handle has now been changed to “Nic Cubeter.”) The cubes appeal to Carter in part because of their sheer materiality. “I appreciate Tungsten’s atomic characteristics, the density, and the hardness,” he remarked.
One of the most common justifications for crypto-enthusiasts sudden interest in cubes is that they simply desire something solid as a counterpoint to crypto. Carter explained, “We deal with this immaterial virtual world—the metaverse, as we like to call it. We’re working with synthetic commodities and non-financial tokens (NFTs), both of which have monetary value but are utterly ethereal. (Sometimes) It’s good to get back to the atoms.” Perhaps there is something to be said for the sheer heft and solidity of a metallic cube, and it offers a tangible counterpoint to the financial abstraction of crypto trading. Perhaps it’s just a version of the memorabilia bankers get for completing successful IPOs and deals.
But this is something else at work here—a loosely-tied online community that more or less mimics each other’s enthusiasms, whether about particular NFTs or the joy of holding a heavy cube in your hand. “It’s a very close community in the sense that everyone just hangs out on Twitter and Discord a lot,” said Dan Matuszewski, Partner at CMS Holdings. “It’s a very large online community that acts together, so things just pick up steam quickly. It’s a hive mind.”
The unlikely winner of this hive mind’s recent activity has been Midwest Tungsten Service, which is based in Willowbrook, Illinois, and describes itself as a company “providing high-quality refractory metal”—raw materials including tungsten, tantalum, and molybdenum, in forms like rods, wires, and sheets. Founded in 1958, they make aircraft parts, x-ray shields, and vacuum furnace elements in their factory. The cubes were always a novelty product. Tungsten cubes remain a relatively small part of the company’s business, so although some sizes are sold out, there’s no immediate danger of a supply shortage.
Sean Murray, an employee at Midwest Tungsten Service, said he’s been thrilled with the way people are conveying their enthusiasm. “We’ve always thought that getting Tungsten into people’s hands sells it immediately, and people on Twitter, especially in the crypto community, are good at conveying the sense of wonder and awe that people experience when they hold Tungsten cubes,” he said.
Perhaps the craziest part is that, despite various plausible explanations, none of it seems to be happening for any reason at all. “There’s no angle to any of it,” Dan Matuszewski said. “No one is many any money or selling these higher. It’s just fun. I was walking to someone who wanted to know: what’s the angle? If there is one, I don’t know it.” A crazy explanation for a crazy world that we live in.