Numeric Domains, Chinese Culture and How You Can Profit From It
My fascination with numbers in Chinese culture started in front of a newspaper stand in Shanghai. I was about to purchase my first Chinese sim card associated to a phone number and the clerk presented me with a number of options. Oddly enough, I noticed that the numbers had different prices, with the numbers containing more 8s being priced higher.
I asked the reason why – my Chinese friend promptly explained to that the number containing more 8 were more expensive because considered lucky. Coming from Italy, which is a very superstitious country where we usually think about luck: “It’s not true – but I believe in it”, I resorted to paying the equivalent of $7 to get a phone number containing 3 consecutive 8s.
THE MARKET OF NUMERIC DOMAINS
Coming back to the domaining industry, Elliot Silver recently quoted in a recent blog post that the value of numeric domains seem to have peaked in the past few months. Almost every broker or aftermarket newsletter is now featuring premium numeric domains for sale at increasingly higher prices.
I think there are several reasons for this peak in value:
The ability to quickly cash in on an asset considerably increase its value. If you add to this the buzz about bitcoins and other forms of virtual currencies you understand why numeric domains are becoming so popular. There are only a few domains that have this attribute, namely LL.com, LLL.com and CVCV.com – with numeric domains being the more “appraisable” ones. The current market FLOOR prices (using very conservative values) for these type of assets are:
- NN.com – $100k
- NNN.com – $15k
- NNNN.com – $2k
2. High Demand/Limited Supply
Numeric domains are sought after mostly by Chinese buyers – we can safely say that 80% of the players in this market come from China. The reason for this is because Chinese businesses have historically used numbers or pinyin versions of Chinese characters to brand their websites. English keyword domains are difficult to remember for native Chinese speakers, therefore most of the popular websites in China use numbers (eg 163.com) or pinyin (Baidu.com, Youku.com etc.). Add to this the limited supply of only 100 NN.com and 1000 NNN.com, then you can quickly understand the rising value.
3. Recent Transactions
We have seen quite an increase on the average price of numeric domains recently with some of the most notable transactions including:
- The domain name 1001.com sold for $100,000.
- Frank Schilling’s Name Administration sold 88888.com for $245,000.
- 114.com sold in early 2013 for 2.1 million dollars, getting in the top 5 disclosed transactions in 2013.
- 55.com to this date is the numeric domain sold at a highest price – $2.3 million in 2011.
MEANING OF NUMBERS IN CHINESE CULTURE
A couple years ago I had a conversation with one of my Chinese clients – when asked about his criteria to price numeric domains he said: “you should spend many more years in China to understand the meaning of Chinese numbers”.
Not discouraged by his statement and, feeling a bit like in the movie Lost in Translation, I made my own research. While it is impossible to cover the whole subject in a blog post, this is what I found:
0. The Number 0 (零 or 檸, Pinyin:líng or níng) is a whole number and it is also an even number for the money ends with 0.
2. The number 2 (二 or 两, Pinyin:èr or liăng) is most often considered a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying: “good things come in pairs”. It is common to repeat characters in product brand names, such as double happiness, which even has its own character 囍, a combination of two 喜.
3. The number 3 (三, Pinyin: sān) sounds similar to the character for “birth” (生, Pinyin: shēng), and is considered a lucky number.
6. The number 6 represents wealth in Cantonese, this number is a homophone for (祿 Lok). 6 (六, Pinyin: liù) in Mandarin is pronounced the same as “liu” (溜, Pinyin: liù) and similar to “flow” (流, Pinyin: liú) and is therefore considered good for business.
7. The number 7 (七, Pinyin: qī) symbolizes “togetherness”. It is a lucky number for relationships. It is also recognized as the luckiest number in the West, and is one of the rare numbers that is great in both Chinese and many Western cultures. It is a lucky number in Chinese culture, because it sounds alike to the Chinese word 起 (Pinyin: qǐ) meaning arise, and also 气 (Pinyin: qì) meaning life essence.
8. The word for “eight” (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means “prosper” or “wealth” (發 – short for “發財”, Pinyin: fā). There is also a visual resemblance between two digits, “88”, and 囍, the “shuāng xĭ” (“double joy”), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (“xĭ” meaning “joy” or “happiness”). The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky. To give you an idea about the obsession that Chinese have with the number 8, here are a few interesting facts:
- Most airlines, including United Airlines, KLM, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific and Singapore airlines reserve their flight numbers starting with 8 for flights to Asian destinations, especially China and Korea.
- A telephone number with all digits being eights was sold for USD $270,723 in Chengdu, China.
- The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on 8/8/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm local time (UTC+08).
- A man in Hangzhou offered to sell his license plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million (roughly $164,000 USD).
- The Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia each have 88 Floors.
Even the online poker and casino operator 888 Holdings (owner of 888.com) chose its brand carefully to attract Asian gamblers.
9. The number 9 (九, Pinyin: jiŭ, jyutping: gau2), was historically associated with the Emperor of China, and the number was frequently used in matters relating to the Emperor. It also symbolizes harmony.
4. The number 4 has such a negative implication that Asians in general, and in particular Chinese, go as far to have a pathological fear called Tetraphobia. The reason is because the number 4 has the same sound of the word “death” (死 pinyin sǐ). Due to that, many numbered product lines skip the “4”. In East Asia, some buildings do not have a 4th floor. (Compare with the Western practice of some buildings not having a 13th floor because 13 is considered unlucky.). In Hong Kong, some high-rise residential buildings omit all floor numbers with “4”, e.g., 4, 14, 24, 34 and all 40–49 floors, in addition to not having a 13th floor.
5. Five (五, pinyin: wǔ, jyutping: ng5) is associated with “not” (Mandarin 無, pinyin wú, and Cantonese 唔). If used for the negative connotation it can become good by using it with a negative. Also, any number of repeated 5s: “五” (wǔ) sounds like an onomatopoeia for crying, and is sometimes used in internet slang to express unhappiness.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NUMERIC DOMAINS?
Now you might be thinking – ok, this is interesting, but what are the real life application when buying or selling a numeric domain?
The general guidelines for pricing a numeric domain can be summed up in 8 lucky rules:
- The less digits, the higher value. This is an obvious rule – there are only hundred NN.com versus a thousand NNN.com and so on. Therefore 75.com is more valuable than 750.com.
- Numeric domains ending in zero have usually a higher value. The more zero’s at the end, the higher the value (i.e. 800.com is more valuable than 810.com etc).
- Conversely, numeric domains beginning with a zero have usually a lower value. A domain like 065.com would usually bear less value than 650.com.
- Lower numbers are usually more valuable than high numbers. The reason for this is the Benford’s Law (link) which explains how low numbers are more frequent than higher numbers in a variety of data sets like street addresses, stock prices, population numbers, etc. Therefore each domain starting with 1 is usually more valuable than a domain starting with 2; each domain starting with 2 will have a higher value than a domain starting with 3 and so on.
- Numbers that appear in a sequence are usually more valuable than numbers with no specific order. For example 123.com is more valuable than 132.com or 231.com.
- Pairs are considered lucky and therefore more valuable, i.e. 2233.com is more valuable than 2273.com or 3223.com
- Any numeric domain containing a 8 has a higher value. The more 8s in the domain, the higher the value: 888.com > 788.com > 718.com > 712.com.
- Domains containing a 4 have a lower value. Any 4 decreases the value of the domain up to 50-70% less than a similar domain without a 4 (eg. 672.com vs 674.com).
If you like to consult with us about how to invest in a numeric domain and what are the available opportunities on the market, just send me an email to [email protected]
Right now we have available one of the “luckiest” domains on the market, 80.com. And, if you are wondering about my US phone number, it contains three 8s as well 🙂
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Thanks for the very informative article, Giuseppe.
In the past I’ve stayed away from numerical domains, in spite of the escalating sales, due to what I perceived as the impenetrability of the topic to a non-Chinese person such as myself. So many opportunities in the domain industry exist, that it has been easy for many of us to be a bit lazy when it comes to learning about the “N” market. But this essay clarifies the subject enormously.
Wow. Thank you so much for this valuable guide.
This was a well written article that could only come from years of real-world experience.
Thank you for sharing your invaluable insight on a very relevant topic.
Wishing you continued success.
This is a great breakdown for numeric domain names. Very thorough thanks
Thanks Giuseppe for this insightful article. I have never investment in these numeric domains because I don’t understand them. You have opened my eyes to another area of opportunity. I really appreciate!!!
A good read, thanks!
Thanks for the great article. I’ve been trying to get a better grasp of numeric domains lately and this sure helps.
In my opinion the prices of some type of coms will decrease because of the you-know-what, but numeric domains won’t be among those. Chinese won’t be embrasing new gees any time soon imho.
Gosh! Giuseppe what a fabulous resource you have provide here! Thank you very much. Invaluable information for the domainer starting out in the Chinese market.
I also deal in 19th century Chinese import porcelain, and having knowledge in the symbolism of such items is highly important, great stuff, thanks again Giuseppe!
Great informative article. I had never bought numeric domain names before.
After reading this article, I bought 4 numeric domains with $1.99 each Godaddy promo codes.
Thank you for sharing your insight knowledge in numeric domains.
Thank you so much for the nice words, glad it added value 🙂