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Alternate asset classes: NFTs

Alternate asset classes: NFTs

Would Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey have ever imagined that his first tweet (AKA the first tweet ever posted) would be worth $2.5m years down the line? Probably not, or he would have come up with something better than “just setting up my twttr,” don’t you think?!

But, you might wonder, since when have tweets been “assets” that you can monetize, per se? To answer that, we bring to you the latest craze in alternate investment asset classes: NFTs.

While NFTs have been around since 2017, in the first few months of 2021 there’s been an explosion (to say the least) in demand — a 55% spike from last year’s $250m market, to be exact. By now, you’ve probably come across this abbreviation all over the internet and media outlets, but maybe still don’t know exactly what it means yet (nothing to be embarrassed about, it took us a while to wrap our heads around too).

NFT stands for “non-fungible token”, and they are basically cryptographic tokens representing a unique value. This means that, contrary to fungible assets that are interchangeable for commercial purposes (such as dollar bills), they are not replaceable with identical ones of the same value. Also, they are built on the blockchain, which makes them trackable — so cool, right?! So, basically, NFTs are documented, one-of-a-kind digital assets.

Digital assets work like any other speculative asset: you buy them, hope they go up in value, and then sell them for profit. But what exactly can be sold as an NFT? Pretty much anything that is on the world wide web, we’d say. From digital artworks, to audio files, to plots of virtual land, let’s have a closer look at some of the hottest selling asset categories in the NFT asset class category right now.

Digital Art

Digital art could become the next chapter in art history. While it has been created and talked about for years, it’s now truly entering the mainstream. Last week, the artwork “Everydays: The First 5000 days,” a JPG collage of drawings by the digital artist Beeple, was sold for $69.3m during a Christie’s (CTG) digital auction!

Other multimedia art pieces are also going for big bucks. Beeple’s latest sale came just weeks after his 10-second clip “Crossroad” was purchased online for $6.6m, while musician Grimes sold a collection of his digital works at $6.3m. It’s no surprise then that the music industry wants in on the NFT action too — the rock band Kings of Leon just sold their latest album as an NFT!

What’s truly revolutionary about art sold as NFTs is that, historically, the legitimacy of art assets has been quite tricky to validate against so many copies and fakes. But, by publishing work on the blockchain, artists tackle this issue and create an immutable, verifiable public record of authenticity.

Sports clips and trading cards

Can you own a “moment”? Apparently, if it’s part of the NBA’s best-of, then yes! NBA Top Shot, a site where people can buy video highlights of the most memorable moments in basketball history is the new craze among fans and has sold over $260m in NFTs in the past month alone, CryptoSlam reports. A LeBron James dunk was bought at $208,000, setting the record for the most expensive Top Shot sale. 

Sports memorabilia too have seen a boom in demand from collectors since Covid-19 kicked-in (we guess people have gone back to old hobbies to entertain or re-discover themselves during lockdown). In particular, many fans have been at it again with trading cards — both modern and vintage, of sports from baseball, to basketball, to hockey. Collectors Universe (CLCT), the largest authentication company in sports memorabilia, reported examining and grading an average of 68,000 cards per week recently. And how much do these cards go for, you may wonder? Well, a Mike Trout rookie card that sold for $3.4m last year currently holds the record going-price.

Fantasy sports also contributed to a good chunk of NFT sales. On Sorare, the online fantasy soccer game, people can now buy, sell, and manage virtual teams with digital players. Between trading cards and virtual sports matches, has the pandemic got us all a bit more nostalgic?

Collectibles

Meme queens and kings out there, get ready, you can finally make a profit out of your creations. In fact, NFTs apply to texts, images, holograms, and even memes! If you have a talent for snappy writing, for example, you could consider auctioning off your tweets as NFTs via the platform Valuables — and don’t worry, you don’t have to be Jack Dorsey to sell them (it does help, though!).

But, if you are simply dying to own one of those pixelated GIFs of animated cats, now that’s possible too (well, as long as you have $590,000)! Just head over to OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, where you can find over 200 categories and 4 million items to select from. Surely you’ll find your fave CryptoKitty somewhere in there!

Along this line, great opportunities are in store for anime fans as well. Securing a spot among the top 10 most popular crypto-collectible platforms, there’s Axie Infinity, the website where you can purchase your favorite Pokémon’s avatar and set up fights (looks like it won’t be too long before we start embodying them like in a Black Mirror episode). Many more arcade games like Street Fighter and Altitude Games (ALTUU)’s Battle Racers are sparking NFT collectible trends too. Time to buy your martial arts hero of choice and smash game opponents!

why it matters
The NFT trend comes on the back of a few larger blockchain-backed movements, like cryptocurrencies (thanks for the push, Elon!). However, as Covid-19 has all-in-all digitized our "new normal" and we find ourselves profoundly plugged into virtual spaces, it seems like the investment world has shifted gears in that direction as well. And so, NFTs make for a new way to diversity your investment portfolio, and you may even have a bit of fun with it as you scavenge for digital art, sports clips, or collectibles.