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Overstock.com goes for largest digital coin offering ever at $500 million

  • Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne announced Tuesday the company's majority-owned subsidiary tZero is planning a token sale later this year.
  • The company confirmed to CNBC it plans to raise up to $500 million in the coin sale, or initial coin offering.
  • Such token sales are highly contentious as investors pour billions into projects that have yet to prove their value.

Overstock.com's majority-owned subsidiary tZero plans to raise up to $500 million in what could be the largest initial coin offering ever.

Initial coin offerings, or ICOs, are sales of new digital coins for projects based on the blockchain technology of digital currencies bitcoin and ethereum. Technically anyone with an internet connection and bitcoin or ethereum can participate, although fears of government crackdown have prompted several ICOs to prevent U.S. investors from participating officially.

The token sales have raised at least $3.04 billion, according to financial research firm Autonomous Next.

Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne announced Tuesday that tZero is expected to launch a digital token sale on Nov. 15. The sale is scheduled to last until Dec. 31.

The company confirmed to CNBC it plans to raise up to $500 million in the coin sale. If they reach their goal, the ICO will surpass the largest token sale to date, Filecoin's $262 million ICO in September.

"While many doubted, the tZERO team worked hard to be at the tip of the spear in creating and launching credible, capable and institutionally scalable blockchain technologies for crypto assets," Byrne said in a release. "Today those efforts are attracting interest from both the crypto community and the largest global institutional funds."

Initial coin offerings remain highly contentious. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued an investor bulletin this summer warning about the risks of ICOs, while China banned them outright in September. Poorly developed ICOs, some of whose projects are barely more than a white paper right now, have been hacked or clogged the ethereum network, causing the price of ethereum to drop.

Overstock launched its Medici Ventures division in 2014 to oversee the e-commerce giant's work in blockchain technologies. Medici has majority ownership of tZero but reported a pretax loss of $3.3 million in the second quarter, $400,000 more than the same quarter last year.

The e-commerce company's stock has swung in the last several weeks as the company announced plans to launch a digital coin trading platform and investors bet on the stock as a way to profit from the latest in blockchain technology.

WATCH: What's an ICO?