Digital asset traders FOMO’d into buying heavyweight tungsten cubes last year based on a joke by Castle Island Ventures partner, On The Brink podcast host, and Bitcoin mining apologist Nic Carter.
The fad benefited the largest direct-to-consumer tungsten manufacturer, Midwest Tungsten. It landed thousands of cubes onto the desks of Bitcoiners and crypto traders who likely have more familiarity with digital asset charts than metals markets.
They bragged about becoming “cubers.” They laughed about how tungsten was just as delightful to handle as gold.
It was a joke all along.
Although some members of the Bitcoin community initially thought Carter to be trolling gold bugs, waving the similar physical properties of tungsten in the faces of underperforming gold investors, Carter clarified that his tungsten advertisements were not making fun of gold. As he explained on his podcast, “I am simply a fan of the incredible density of the metal,” (our emphasis).
On October 12, 2021, Coin Center communications chief Neeraj K. Agrawal joined in on the fun, tweeting a fake Bloomberg headline.
Soon afterward, rumors of a tungsten shortage started to appear true as Midwest Tungsten’s website noticed a jump in sales.
Although there’s enormous supply of tungsten due to persistent industrial demand, Midwest Tungsten Service briefly sold out of some of its tungsten cubes on its Amazon storefront.
However, Midwest Tunsgsten Service denied any shortages in its actual factory. It simply clarified that it was working on delivering more tungsten cubes to Amazon’s warehouse.
Nic Carter inspired tungsten cubers
Nic Carter played an endearing role in the pump of a global commodity with his frequent, tongue-in-cheek ads for the metal. He discussed it in numerous On The Brink podcasts and tweeted about it periodically.
When Midwest Tungsten General Manager Kevin Anetsberger appeared as a guest on On the Brink in November 2021, the company had begun work on accepting bitcoin as a payment method and had recently minted a cube NFT.
Midwest Tungsten still sells Bitcoin-engraved tungsten coins today.
Nic Carter admitted that he enjoys giving away tungsten cubes as holiday gifts. He says people like it because the metal is surprisingly heavy, with a density similar to gold.
Eventually, months after his initial pump of the commodity, Nic Carter might have capitulated into a seller.
What is tungsten metal, anyway?
If you’ve ever tried memorizing the atomic table of the elements, you might remember seeing the word tungsten. It has a chemical symbol of W and an atomic weight of 74. It also goes by the name of wolfram, which was derived from the name of its ore, wolframite.
- Its incredible density and hardness makes it useful for making grinding tools, saws, and drill bits, where it can reduce wear and tear on the cutting edge.
- It typically combines with boron, nitrogen, and silicon for strong and flexible compounds that conduct electricity well, making it a useful element in electrical applications like light bulbs, welding electrodes, and x-ray tubes.
- Ceramics manufacturers also use tungsten compounds in pigments.
- Tungsten is also useful as a weight in space-constrained placements like pinewood derby cars.
- Some tungsten compounds have fire-resistant properties that make them useful for fabrics. However, pure tungsten dust from industrial activity like grinding can catch fire if allowed to pile up.
Although the NIH’s National Library of Medicine says trace amounts of tungsten have use as a nutritional micronutrient, it’s dangerous and potentially fatal to ingest large quantities of tungsten metal. Protos doesn’t recommend eating nor licking tungsten metal.
Some people have expressed concern about toxins that could seep into human skin from simple handling of tungsten. However, Midwest Tungsten General Manager Kevin Anetsberger clarified on Carter’s podcast that generally speaking, it is safe to touch tungsten. He added that even after years of handling it, he has never heard of any tungsten-to-skin health incidents from his employees.
If Bitcoiners or other traders bought tungsten cubes intending to flip them for a profit, as usual, they missed out on far better opportunities. Nic Carter clarified that finished consumer products made of tungsten are typically priced at 10X the cost of the metal anyway.
The redeeming part of the story? At least the toys look and feel cool.