I Sold a 24k Gold Wii to GameStop for $4 in 2008, Why Are They in My Newsfeed Now?
An explanation of crowdsourced keyboard monkeys pillaging Wall Street.
I sold a 24k gold Wii to GameStop for $4 in 2008, why are they in my newsfeed now?
GameStop’s stock has been the subject of a high-profile trading strategy led by r/WallStreetBets, a Reddit-based community of self-aware, vulgar nerds igniting their student loan money to see if it multiplies. They’re memes with finance degrees from WebMD. However, this particular strategy seems to be working with the stock price up over 10x in 2021.
What’s so newsworthy about this strategy?
The crowdsourced keyboard monkeys discovered an opportunity to pillage Wall Street. Hedge funds (corporate casinos unrelated to botanical partitions) placed bets that GameStop’s stock would plummet, but instead lost billions of dollars. Don’t feel bad though! You may recognize hedge funds from their consequence-free culpability in the 2008 financial crisis.
In a David vs. Goliath moment, the internet united against hedge funds with a “short squeeze,” one of many investment strategies seemingly named after Pornhub titles. (Google: “option straddles and strangles”)
I’m on my work computer. So what’s going on with this short squeeze?
It started with hedge funds indirectly cheering for the unemployment of pandemic stricken GameStop workers. A huge surprise. They placed these two bets:
- They borrowed an absurd percentage of all GameStop shares and sold them, hoping to rebuy and return the stocks at a lower price (maybe even $0, muahaha!) while pocketing profits. Also called “short selling.”
- They sold an investment allowing people to buy GameStop stock at ostensibly unreachable prices, called “call options.”
By buying and holding GameStop shares, Wall Street Betters caused the stock to skyrocket and forced hedge funds to buy back at higher prices to return shares to the original owners in investment #1. This rebuying also increases the stock price. BAM! Goliath gets continuously pounded by millions of projectiles.
On top of the short squeeze, high prices let buyers of investment #2 force hedge funds to provide GameStop stock at huge discounts. This also raises the stock price! Sit back with a gin rickey and watch the money print, baby. It’s the 1920’s and nothing bad could be coming down the line.
It’s like an infinite money loop! Where do I sign up?
Hold up there, buster. Realty’s back with a vengeance. Hedge funds are crying “market manipulation!” and the Securities and Exchange Commission — SEC for insiders — is monitoring the situation.
Wait, the short squeeze strategy is illegal?
Nope, not at all. There have been several successful short squeezes throughout history conducted by prominent investors and funds.
You mean they’re saying normal people aren’t allowed to do the same things as hedge funds simply because they’re not egregiously wealthy? That doesn’t seem fair.
You’re getting it now! Welcome to late stage capitalism. Let’s make things worse. Enter: Robinhood.
I’ve heard of that! It’s that cool trading app. I’m downloading it right now.
It’s a company with a video game-like app that allows easy access to high risk investments with commission-free trading. For this reason, it’s a favorite of r/WallStreetBets. It sounds useful, but is often dangerous, like someone offering you a knife knowing you’re prone to stabbing yourself.
But surprise! The app, and others like it, collect data on orders placed by customers and sell the data to hedge funds. As the senators say, it’s Orwellian. This data can be used against Robinhood’s own users if they were, say, conducting a short squeeze at the expense of these hedge funds.
I have no skin in the game, but my BPM is getting real high.
It gets even worse. In a sad day for wealth redistribution, Robinhood and many other applications decided Thursday, January 28th to restrict buys of GameStop stock (along with several others short squeeze targets, like companies with revenue models based on selling popcorn). This caused GameStop stock to crash below its all time high, and provided opportunities for short sellers to collect from average Joes.
Hold up. Is that as illegal as it sounds?
Amidst the backlash, Robinhood and other brokerages allowed some buys of GameStop on Friday the 29th. I guess we should forgive them and not file a class action lawsuit. Oh wait! Folks already filed.
So what is the ending of this dramatic financial story?
Because this is the first time millions of investors are conducting a short squeeze with the same tool we use for distributing pet GIFs, no one knows for sure, not even the Redditor who turned $53,000 into over $45 million with GameStop. But below are some of the movie-ready endings:
- Underdog Story: Average Joe stockholders drive the stock price high enough and long enough that hedge funds experience massive losses. We get 9 YouTube channels from newly-minted millionaires.
- The Villain Wins: Classism prevails as our protagonist stockholders sell off in close succession and bring the stock price crashing down to the benefit of yacht-owners.
- Deus Ex Machina: Regulators arrive in an anticlimactic finale.
Does that mean it’s not too late to get a piece of the action?
It’s a risky investment because it’s technically a bubble. This stock price is way too high for the company that spared $4 for your gold Wii.
Well I know what I’m doing when my next stimulus check arrives.
I’m starting a hedge fund!