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Cryptocurrency now you lets collect digital cards for celebrities

Collect 'em! Trade 'em with your friends! But be warned that on the new Crypto Celebrities site, the Elon Musk card just went for $121,000.

Donald Trump and Elon Musk are in the top rank of virtual value on the Crypto Celebrities market.

Donald Trump and Elon Musk are in the top rank of virtual value on the Crypto Celebrities market.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Blockchain promises to revolutionize all sorts of businesses, and cryptocurrencies could help rewrite the rules of finance.

But today, let's focus on how they let you discover that Elon Musk is worth more than Emma Watson for collectors of a sort of digital baseball card.

A group of San Francisco-area programmers launched a site, unveiled Thursday, called Crypto Celebrities that periodically sells new digital cards for various notable people for $1. If you're willing to pay more, you can snatch the card away from its owner. Crypto Celebrities keeps 6 percent of the price, but if celebrities plug the system on Twitter, it'll redirect half of the take to the celebrity or the celebrity's preferred charity.

Maybe you always wanted some token to remind you of Justin Trudeau, or maybe you think the whole thing is inane. Either way, it reflects the zaniness of the cryptocurrency world.

Who's the most valuable? Right now, it's a three-way tie among President Donald Trump, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Vitalik Buterin, creator of the Ethereum Project cryptocurrency. Their cards cost 151 ether -- the cryptocurrency used in this particular marketplace -- which is about $121,000 at today's exchange rate. About 500 cards are available now, with 15 or so new ones arriving daily, Crypto-Celebrities said.

The Crypto Celebrities site lets you buy unique digital cards representing hundreds of various notable people.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Lesser beings like "Game of Thrones" actor Kit Harrington or "Valerian" actress Cara Delavigne went for 20 ether, or $16,000. Down at the bottom of the totem pole are people like Grateful Dead rocker Jerry Garcia, at 2.7 ether, or $2,200.

Another data point: the Crypto Celebrities programmers don't want to be named, even knowing their anonymity might spook people. Why? They're worried about suffering a similar fate as Pavel Lerner, an employee of cryptocurrency exchange Exmo Finance, who was kidnapped in Ukraine then released after a $1 million ransom payment.

And they do offer this assurance based on the way blockchain technology works: "The transactions are enforced automatically by our smart contract, which by the way is available for every player to review. Technically speaking, there is no way for us to 'rob' anyone out of their winnings," one of the programmers said.

Because of the inner workings of the blockchain data-storage technology that underlies cryptocurrencies, it's impossible to make copies, so each card is unique. With a guaranteed scarcity, you might see celebrity cards as a good investment, or perhaps at least better than a cryptokitty.

But be warned that crytpocurrency values have fared poorly of late. And because cryptocurrencies are considered an asset in many parts of the world, including the US, you'd better keep records of any profits for your taxes.