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Cheezburger’s experiment with an online currency and collectibles program has ended in … failure. The Seattle company announced this week that it will pull the plug on the Cheezburger Collectibles program and discontinue the use of Cheezburger Coins on January 15th.

“Though we have greatly enjoyed running the Collectibles Program, we are not able to devote the resources needed to turn the program into something truly special and uniquely Cheezburger,” the company writes in a FAQ. “As a company, we want to make sure that we’re focusing our efforts on creating programs and features for the whole Cheezburger community.”

Those who owned Cheezburger coins, a digital currency that users accumulated for achieving certain milestones on the network of comedy Web sites, will get a full refund, store credit in the company’s LOLmart store or a gift certificate. Fans of the program will be able to trade their collectibles with friends through April 15th, though coins are no longer available for purchase.

Users could accumulate collectibles such as Celebkittehs or HallowMeme, and add the small icons to their profile pages.

The company’s trophy program will continue, with users able to accumulate the digital rewards for hitting certain milestones.

The decision to shut down the program should not come as surprise, though several Cheezburger fans have voiced their disappointment in the comment thread of the post announcing the move.

“boooooooooooo! you should’ve given more warning. now i’ll never make a full set. boooooooooo!,” wrote one user.

However, in a blog post earlier this summer, Cheezburger hinted that the efforts to gamify the site wen’t taking off.

“Though the program had a number of fans, it was not popular enough and we either had to change the Collectibles program or discontinue it,” the company wrote in July. “We decided to try some changes.  And one of the changes was to make more sets available on a regular schedule.”

However, despite that change and reducing the cost of acquiring collectibles, the company still couldn’t get enough participation.  In this week’s blog post, the company wrote that collectibles remained a “niche program for our audience of more than 20 million users.”

Cheezburger raised $30 million in venture capital financing earlier this year from Madrona Venture Group, Foundry Group and others. In October, the company unveiled a new program called Cheezburger Sites that allowed users to create their own comedy channels.
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