Why Collect NFTs?
When my friends read this they are going to use it against me like a cudgel. I have paid a lot into that karma by busting chops about crypto and NFTs for a long time. Years. That I am now writing in defense of buying, collecting, selling, and admiring NFT are is about as much of a 180 as one can do. But, I am here doing it, and I want to explain why.
Collecting as a Practice
I already collect a few things in the physical world. My primary, largest, and most costly collection is books. I have hundreds of them — probably upwards of 500 or so physical books. I haven’t read them all and I suppose that I never really intend to have ever read every book on my shelves. In fact, even though I read around 40–50 books a year, I buy more than that to either stash, read, or give away.
If you were to ask me why I have so many books, and why I collect them, I don’t know that I’d be able to come up with a better answer than “I just like to.” Yes, I know there are public libraries. I also know that I can sell them to Half Price Books when I’m finished. But there’s something about having books that I can pick up and read any time I want, and loan to friends, and my kids can finger the spines of and pick up off the shelf and flip through that really feels good to me.
Until very recently there was no real digital corollary. The concept of scarcity was laughable — everything was copyable, nothing was the original. Hell, Metallica went to war over it. But with NFTs, that’s different. There is now the concept of provable originality for pieces of digital content — art, songs, movies, books, photographs, whatever. Sure, those things are still copyable, but one of them will always be the original. There will always be a way for someone to prove they have “the one”. And so, suddenly, you can collect digital things.
There’s Some Really Cool Art
I also like to buy art. I wouldn’t call myself a real collector, per se, but I do have several large original works that I have bought from local artists. I’m very much a fan of great art — I’m one of those tourists that hits up the art museum if I can fit it in on any given trip. And I’ll tell you, there are some insane pieces of art in the NFT space.
Consider the point that anything an artist can create digitally, think even basic animated GIFs, you can’t pick up at your local craft fair. So, when someone says “but you can’t hang it on the wall!” it’s a bit disingenuous. Maybe true (for now), but that’s apples and oranges. The fact that you can only view it through a screen is more about what kind of access you’re comfortable with, not whether or not it is real art. See these few examples:
You can grab one of these pieces, of which there are thousands, place it in your collection, and if you choose to keep it until then you can gaze at it fondly on your death bed. It’s yours.
It Might Pay Off
Right now people are spending typical money to buy crypto money to buy NFTs, and it works in the other direction. People are selling NFTs for crypto money and then selling crypto money for typical money. Then they are buying things like coffee or automobiles.
And, unsurprisingly, what people are paying to buy NFTs for and what they end up selling them for is often different. With forced scarcity and a truly tempestuous market, valuations on digital art are all over the place. Artists and collectors are making serious bread. Look at this article on the top NFT sales of 2021. These have sold for many millions of dollars.
Now — that’s a sphere I’m not playing in (as if it bears mentioning). I might spend the equivalent of $50 on a piece and later sell it for $150. Not a bad deal. Like any other collectible largely dependent on a combination of a healthy trading market and peoples’ tastes, it’s always a gamble. The chance is there, however, and for savvy collectors and traders, there’s money to be made.
It’s Extremely Approachable (while maybe not being straightforward)
You don’t even need to leave your couch to do every single step from deciding you want to to owning an NFT. From signing up for Coinbase (or equivalent) to getting Tezos or ETH or whatever to finding a piece you like to pulling the trigger, it’s all done on your cell phone. If you want to buy a painting of an ape smoking a pipe, you need to deal with real human beings and mount it on your actual wall. NFTs are a hell of a lot less labor intensive.
I’m Guessing This is the Beginning
If i had to make a guess, I would say this crypto stuff is only going to become closer to ubiquitous over time. NFTs will be big in the gaming world, they will probably make a foray into digital authentication and provenance, they will become valuables for affluent people, they will make their way into galleries, and they will become a sort of social currency.
This by itself is not a reason to care about NFTs. But with that in mind, and with a curiosity about technology and about the future, I can’t help but dabble. I’m not going to replace my 401k with NFTs and crypto. I’m not even going to buy anything expensive. But I will traffic in some neat things that I can find for a deal. And I’ll certainly look at cool art with my friends.