Research Pride is a celebration of all aspects of our wonderful profession, and the thing I probably love most about prospect research is that we’re constantly learning. Lots of times it’s about odd things that you never knew existed but discover quickly that they are an up-and-coming thing. Take for example today’s topic, NFTs – non-fungible tokens.
I started seeing the acronym NFT flying through my social media feeds about a month ago. The articles were relating to wealth and art, and just like with SPACs a few months ago, when I start seeing a mystery acronym that pertains to wealth, naturally I have to know more.
What I found was that there is an increasing amount of digital artwork being traded via blockchain for astonishingly high amounts of money.
Okay, let me back up and start at the beginning.
I first saw the term “non-fungible token” or NFT in relation to an auction that Christie’s is doing of a work of digital art, The First 5000 Days, by Mike Winkelmann, an artist who goes by the name Beeple. Christie’s website touts that it is the first time they are offering at auction a piece of digital artwork, and it’s also the first time they’ll be accepting cryptocurrency – Ethereum, specifically – as well as more standard forms of currency from the eventual buyer.
Now, you might be thinking, “Wait. If it’s a piece of digital artwork, what’s to prevent it from being copied a billion times or displayed on the internet for free?” and in fact that’s a very good question because The First 5000 Days currently is being displayed on the internet and you can go see it for free. Go ahead and check it out. I’ll wait here ‘til you get back.
Here’s how it works: this specific piece of digital artwork is being sold as a token, a small piece of digital real estate on a blockchain, which forever authenticates it as being a unique thing, an intangible, tangible thing, in the same way that Bitcoins (and Ethereum, and Dogecoin, and all cryptocurrency) are also things – tokens on a blockchain with a value that’s determined by the market.
Because they’re tracked on a blockchain, these specific things can’t be forged or hacked. But while there are more than 18 million interchangeable (aka “fungible”) Bitcoins, there is only one original of any single piece of artwork, which is why they’re non-fungible: one piece of artwork can’t replace another one on a 1-to-1 basis. It’s apples to oranges – they’re both fruit/both art – but not the same thing.
So why do we care about NFTs?
Well, for one thing, within one hour of going up for auction on the Christie’s website, bidding on The First 5000 Days went from $100 to $1 million. As of March 5th bidding was up to $3.5 million but the auction closes today, March 11, so we’ll know the final price as soon as Christie’s publishes it.
UPDATE: It sold today for $69 million. SIXTY. NINE. MILLION. DOLLARS.
It’s clearly a hot new market for art lovers who are also tech savvy, like Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, and Chamath Palihapitiya, the chief executive of the technology holding company Social Capital and former Facebook executive. Both are NFT collectors, and it’s clearly a fast-growing market, too.
In fact, the market for NFT art was $342 million. Last. Month. That’s more than all of the NFT sales in 2020 combined and up from $12 million just in December. NFT art sales are hot and moving like a high-speed train on a 700 mile-long prairie. People are even burning extant art to make NFT art!
But back on the ground, and perhaps more importantly for our purposes: nonprofits are benefiting. A Banksy-style artist (is it actually Banksy? He says not but the works are verrrrrry Banksy-like) created NFTs that recently sold for $900,000 and a portion of the proceeds went to Save the Children.
Also, part of the sale of a lightly-animated Wonder Woman NFT created by veteran comic book artist José Delbo recently sold at auction and netted a $23,196 donation to the nonprofit Girls Who Code. So philanthropic tech art-philes are finding creative ways to fund their favorite charities!
So check out NFTs and do some mining to discover if you have any prospects that love them. This might be a good time for your nonprofit to look into accepting cryptocurrency, too, if you haven’t already.
Post-sale explainer from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/12/nft-beeple-christies-blockchain/