Perhaps in a few years they will be spoken of as one of the great bubbles in history. Or maybe whoever spent a little or a lot of their money on NFTs today will be the smart bunch of friends in a while. Or they may just normalize and be as common as having a magnet on the fridge or a picture on the wall.
The only thing we know for sure is that the NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) are representing one of the great news of the technological world and crypto so far in 2021.
This application of the Ethereum-based blockchain technology It has enabled digital artists to see in it a safe and reliable way to sign their works or prove their origin. It has also caused memes to be sold for the equivalent of thousands of euros, that a PNG is auctioned at Christie’s for 69 million dollars, that anyone can sell their tweets or that large brands and organizations such as the NBA have launched a system of sale of what would be the equivalent of digital cards that has been a success. Any file and digital creation, in short, is likely to be an NFT.
The underlying philosophy of the NFTs is somewhat the same that makes humans value an extremely rare Pokémon pack, a limited edition stamp, or a Picasso. The social convention that it has value in itself to a group of people. The fundamental difference is that here we are talking about digital and not physical products, which could activate barriers, alarms and doubts about the majority of buyers. Which is, in fact, what is happening.
That’s why in Engadget we have wanted talk to buyers or collectors of NFTs, to ask them what led them to invest in them and what expectations they have for the future. Also, how was their shopping experience on the platform they chose and if they have decided to host them on their own server where they can be more secure. Do you expect it to be an investment that appreciates in the future, such as buying a Bitcoin in 2012? Have they paid because they really admire the digital piece they have acquired?
For this we have chatted with three different profiles. Without wanting to pigeonhole them, a early-adopter who has not wanted to lose the opportunity to experiment, a person who bets on them to make your own art gallery, and an expert in the conjunction between legal and crypto issues who can give us a more technical vision, and who has acquired NFTs to understand them in depth … and also because she liked the work itself.
From experimentation to digital artistic patronage through sports collecting
Our first buyer of NFTs is Juan Encinar. This Asturian of origin is a financial advisor by profession, and surely for this reason, his approach has been from caution and observation, although he did not want to stop experimenting.
“I already had some experience in Bitcoin and Ethereum, although on a very small scale, and always cautiously, and although at first when I found out about NFTs they did not interest me too much, then they did capture my attention,” he tells us.
Specifically, what caught the attention of Encinar was Top Shot, the NFTs platform created by the NBA where very quickly he has managed to generate millions of dollars selling clips of dunks and plays that resemble what would be digital cards. “Yes, on this platform it is basically like having trading cards, and I’m a fan of the NBA. There are more special and less. So far I have bought four at a price that we can say is affordable for players that I like, ”he says.
The next question is, logically, why: “At the moment pure collecting. There are friends who tell me that the video I have bought can be seen on YouTube, but I feel it differently. I think it won’t take long before I can put it in a digital frame and that I will be able to feel it as my own “, he explains, remaining in pure collecting, although as a good financial advisor …” I would be lying if I didn’t say that a couple of the clips that I have acquired are of players who can be MVP this year and who could revalue. But it is not something that I have as an obsession ”.
The purchase process in his case was comfortable, since the NBA has enabled a fast payment gateway tool that allows you to pay in dollars, and not in Ethereum. And when I asked him about trust… “I got interested and created an account in OpenSea -one of the largest NFT marketplaces- and between the waiting list and others it was somewhat complicated. In my case, that behind what I have acquired is the NBA gives me a lot of confidence, “he says.
“I have my own digital museum with NFTs”
From Asturias we traveled to California to speak with Mario Valle Reyes. This Mexican businessman has more than two decades of experience in the video game sector and after working for Electronic Arts, for a few years he has been a founding partner of Altered Ventures, an investment fund and support for studies, esports and augmented reality initiatives and virtual.
Mario does not hide that as his career has been going well, he has been acquiring hobbies that he probably did not have in mind before. “You can tell that I am a novice mini-art collector. My most beloved (physical) piece is one by the Barcelona artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo. Then, when I discovered NFTs and the possibilities it had in digital art it interested me from the beginning“, tells us.
Valle Reyes also had previous experience in buying cryptocurrencies, was aware of the wave of CryptoKitties a few years ago – for many, the direct predecessors of the current boom – and began to take an interest in digital art pieces through portals such as SuperRare, today also one of the largest art-focused NFT markets.
“I started to hear about NFTs and their possibilities about three months ago, and I quickly connected part of the points in which I work in my day to day with the possibility of opening a kind of museum or gallery of digital art,” he tells us. .
That gallery is not yet 100% accessible but you can start to see a small preview. “The gallery was designed by me in collaboration with the development team we have at Altered Ventures. The idea is to expose NFTs that I have acquired, but also to show the work of emerging artists that they look for where to exhibit their works ”, he tells us.
The virtual gallery of @AlteredVentures just updated the background at https://t.co/3fdeUySJlY. We are very close to launching the first phase. This goes far, far beyond the NFT hype. The best of all has been meeting so much talent from around the world. Fun times! pic.twitter.com/7fMJz23OVh
– Mario Valle Reyes @mariovallereyes 🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@bilbeny) April 2, 2021
But until he got to the gallery Mario has also been setting up his own collection of NFTs. And it started in reverse. “The first thing I did was see if a physical work of art was possible that I have tokenize and pass it to NFT, again with the support of my team, which vectorized it and then passed it to a 3D object. And from there I have been acquiring. Some from well-known artists like Steve Aoki, because I like their music, and others from artists not so massive, but whose works I have genuinely liked.
Part of the Valle Reyes collection now has a kind of adaptation of Jesus Christ on the cross but versioned as a Digimon and a wide sample of digital art of different styles. “I do not have an investment profile, I simply transferred my passion for physical art to digital, where it has been easier for me to put together a small collection and I have also been able to find that space with the gallery in which to promote small artists and their works ”, he says.
Regarding his shopping experience, Valle Reyes has bought NFTs in Nifty Gateway, OpenSea and several of the markets that have been known in recent weeks. He already had an Ethereum wallet, which speeded up the process, although he believes that in the future, “everything will happen because there are payment gateways adapted for all the public, who can pay with their Visa or through Paypal for small or large works in a much more practical way. Because although I have not found too much friction, it is obvious that the purchase process is not suitable for everyone right now ”.
A Batman on my nightstand
Cristina Carrascosa placeholder image is a Valencian lawyer and is a founding partner of the legal advice firm specialized in the digital and crypto world ATH21. Carrascosa has one of the Twitter accounts and a newsletter that have most disclosed the synergies, meeting points and frictions that exist between the business world, the legal world, and cryptocurrencies. And logically -he tells us- “I wanted to buy at least some NFT to test everything and experiment.”
“Right now I have two: one they gave me as a gift, in a kind of private airdrop, and the other I bought. It is a limited and unique edition of Batman. I bought it because on the one hand I like it (I wanted to buy one from Toki Doki but I was late, and of what they offered Batman was the only one that I liked) and I bought it because it is unique and I wanted to try the user experience of collecting a NFT ”, he tells us.
Carrascosa got his Batman on VeVE, “and it was ultra simple. Without wallets, without Blockchains… the UX is easy, attractive and the purchase process is fast ”.
“There is a lot of hype to debug, but I think in the digitization of assets and I believe that NFTs are currently the best tool to make unique assets that until now have been totally fungible. It is a natural evolution of the economy, in my opinion.”
Your expectations in your case do not go beyond your own experimentation to know the environment for your work facet, and compare them with any other piece of decoration that you may have in your home. “I have it in my file, and I have no expectations of doing anything with it, as I have no expectations of doing anything with any of the pieces that I have at home. Neither the pictures nor the figures that I bring with me from every trip I make… I just have them ”.
In the case of his Batman, he placed it with augmented reality on a table in his house. So far it has been his way of enjoying it.
Those of you who know me know that I don’t like to play by ear. So here I have my first NFT, an “uncommon” Batman that I have placed at home thanks to the AR with my two elephants from Thailand. pic.twitter.com/d6e9twgY76
– Cris Carrascosa ⚡️ (@CarrascosaCris_) March 19, 2021
As a legal expert, we took the opportunity to ask you about the doubts that have arisen along with the possible bubble about the accommodation of these digital pieces. “You can never have full confidence in a company that is not yours. Of course I have doubts, especially in a sector that has just been born and that has a lot hype to debug. But I do trust what is being proposed. I believe that in the digitization of assets and I believe that NFTs are currently the best tool to make unique assets that until today have been totally fungible. It is a natural evolution of the economy, in my opinion ”, he explains.
In their consulting firm they have already begun to receive the first doubts and proposals about what could be done with NFTs. Given this, Carrascosa recalls caution and emphasizes understanding well how far this technology can go. “We already have customer approaches, both to create lines of NFTs in their business models, and to request a market report on which projects can have more legal and regulatory strength and thus be able to invest in them. And if we also see the rounds and funds that are entering some of them, I think it is not crazy to think that it is a sector that is going to consolidate, as soon as we process all the current noise, “he concludes.