Terry cOx
#0

You can think of NFTs as being kind of like certificates of authenticity for digital artifacts. They’re currently being used to sell a huge range of virtual collectibles, including:

  • NBA virtual trading cards 

  • Music and video clips from EDM stars like Deadmau5

  • Video art by Grimes

  • The original “nyan cat” meme 

  • A tweet by Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban 

  • Virtual real estate in a place called Decentraland  

As as Bitcoin and other crypto has boomed in popularity over the last year, NFTs have also soared — growing to an estimated $338 million in 2020. Each NFT is stored on an open blockchain (often Ethereum’s) and anyone interested can track them as they’re created, sold, and resold. Because they use smart contract technology, NFTs can be set up so that the original artist continues to earn a percentage of all subsequent sales. 

Along the way, NFTs have raised fascinating philosophical questions about the nature of ownership. Wondering why digital artifacts that can be endlessly copied and pasted have any value at all? Proponents would point out that most kinds of collecting isn’t based on inherent value. Old comic books were produced for pennies’ worth of ink and paper. Rare sneakers are often made out of the same materials as worthless ones. Some paintings hang in the Louvre, others end up in thrift shops. 

As the collector who sold the $6.6 million Beeple piece noted, you can take a nice picture of the Mona Lisa, but it’s not the Mona Lisa. “It doesn’t have any value because it doesn’t have the provenance or the history of the work,” said the Beeple fan. “The reality here is that this is very, very valuable because of who is behind it.

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