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The curious case of mystery crypto boxes

Between carefully-crafted listings of photographs of items sold as if they were the actual product and mystery boxes filled to the brim with garbage sourced from resellers and local dollar stores, the early days of eBay were a mess. A highly amusing mess for outsiders, but still a mess. We still haven't quite learnt our lesson with gambling on the internet, it seems, and now cryptocurrencies are being swept up into the same doomed trappings of early internet history.

Easy come, easy go

The concept of a mystery box isn't even remotely new, nor is it often much of anything but a gimmick in a best-case scenario. Worst case scenarios toe the line with outright scams disguised as money-making opportunities. When cryptocurrencies enter the fray, it's less a sign of the widespread adoption of emerging technologies and more a strange crossover between schemers and dreamers.

That isn't to say that all crypto mystery boxes are designed to leave your wallet hurting, of course. Crypto company CBlocks has offered crypto mystery boxes of varying values in the past, but the gimmick is less a gamble on worth and more a gamble on which currencies you receive. Each tier of the box they offer contains five random selections of altcoins of varying values and is treated more like an opportunity to draw in newcomers who aren't entirely certain how to enter the world of cryptocurrencies.

It's an idea that does have merit. Difficulties in deciding between dependable cryptocurrency wallets and exchange platforms have almost certainly driven away just as many investors as blockchain technology has attracted in the first place. There's something almost insurmountable about the buzzword-heavy state of the industry that, at its core, CBlocks seems intent on fighting.

Yet there are a few issues with this randomised approach outside of the appeal of giving away a box as a gift; The Next Web posted a follow-up article six months later about how far their digital portfolio had fallen. $50 in various currencies became $13 despite the packaged slip advertising that a buy-and-hold approach would be most wise. The colloquial HODL catchphrase doesn't always payout and this is a fairly clear example.

Buying and holding stocks often has mixed results on the stock market, let alone in a realm where prices fluctuate wildly and loose regulations lead to more pump and dump schemes than previously thought possible. Without the ability to pick and choose what currencies to invest in, buying a random assortment of currencies seems about as wise a strategy as throwing a dart at a dartboard covered in the names of currencies and hoping for the best. It's fun for a gimmick, but long-term draw is low.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are cases like CryptoMystery, an apparently defunct company of one that boasted old-fashioned mystery boxes that could have well over their purchase value in crypto prizes. Finding a paper trail linking back to this company or individual isn't easy and most references seem to point towards borderline scam behaviour if not outright lies about the lottery ticket nature of their offerings.

Unsurprisingly, CryptoMystery now pulls up blanks and it seems like the proprietor has taken his ill-gotten gains and moved on to another venture. It's an absolute shame, especially when you consider legitimate options in dipping your toe into crypto without buying into mystery boxes. For instance, some advertising companies offer crypto payouts for watching ads in a move that both rewards advertisement participation and offers a route into cryptocurrencies without putting down cold, hard cash.

Crypto mystery boxes aren't likely to catch on any time soon, but their existence is a curious footnote in the ongoing evolution of the public perception and acceptance of crypto as a whole. It'd likely be wise to invest intelligently rather than gamble wildly, but you can't really deny the temptation of buying a mystery box to add to a white elephant party.

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