Meme-makers of the early 2000s are getting in on the action when it comes to cashing in on non-fungible tokens (NFTs), selling off their viral moments for thousands of dollars.
An NFT is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist’s signature and which verifies its ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece.
It allows ‘original’ versions of popular online content – like viral memes and tweets – to be sold as if they were physical pieces of art.
Chris Torres, creator of Nyan Cat, sold his iconic meme for roughly $590,000 earlier this year and finally gained attribution for the artwork – which he said was a huge factor in why he first sought out NFTs.
Nyan Cat – which shows a gray kitty with a Pop Tart for a body, flying through space – first went viral back in 2011.
‘Nobody knew who owned it,’ he said to Los Angeles Magazine. ‘It was just kind of free-rein on the internet. It didn’t just appear even though memes are kind of thought that way sometimes.’
Chris Torres, creator of Nyan Cat, sold his iconic meme for roughly $590,000 and finally gained attribution for the artwork
Even though Tartar Sauce the cat died in 2019, the NFT of her notorious Grumpy Cat meme sold for $100,859.54
Chris Crocker has sold his infamous Leave Britney Alone video as a NFT for more than $43,000
It’s just the latest popular web character to sell for thousands.
Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, became the most beloved cat in the world and has been featured in all types of work. Even though she died in 2019, the NFT of her notorious meme has sold for $100,859.54.
Chris Crocker’s infamous ‘Leave Britney Alone’ video dominated when it first hit the scene in 2007, getting parodied in movies and on television. With the #FreeBritney movement in full swing, Crocker has sold the video as a NFT for more than $43,000.
NFTs – sometimes pronounced ‘nifties’ – are a unique digital token encrypted with the creator’s signature which verifies its ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece.
The tokens are similar to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum in that they live on blockchain networks – a decentralized, distributed ledger that records transactions of digital assets.
But unlike traditional cryptocurrencies, NFTs are non-fungible, meaning that one cannot be exchanged for another. The digital assets have collectors value, and can represent items including still images, GIFs, videos, music and more.
For creators like Torres, the selling of the NFTs has inspired the internet artists to buy up other NFTs, even going as far as to help set up an auction for meme-makers to sell their work. (Torres pictured left in 2012)
More than $10 million in NFT transactions are now taking place daily, according to the website DappRadar. The exchanges happen in cryptocurrencies on specialist sites such as Nifty Gateway and OpenSea, on the fringes of the art world. Sales of NFTs are made in Ether, a cryptocurrency that has a fluctuating value.
What are NFTs?
What is a NFT?
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a unique digital token encrypted with an artist’s signature and which verifies its ownership and authenticity and is permanently attached to the piece.
What do they look like?
Most NFTs include some kind digital artwork, such as photos, videos, GIFs, and music. Theoretically, anything digital could be turned into a NFT.
Where do you buy them?
At the moment, NFTs are most commonly sold in so-called ‘drops’, timed online sales by blockchain-backed marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, Opensea and Rarible.
Why would I want to own one?
There’s an array of reasons why someone may want to buy a NFT. For some, the reason may be emotional value, because NFTs are seen as collectors items. For others, they are seen as an investment opportunity similar to cryptocurrencies, because the value could increase.
When were NFTs created?
Writer and podcaster Andrew Steinwold traced the origins of NFTs back to 2012, with the creation of the Colored Coins cryptocurrency. But NFTs didn’t move into the mainstream until five years later, when the blockchain game CryptoKitties began selling virtual cats in 2017.
The phenomenon is now becoming more mainstream with traditional auction houses keen to cash in, lending the craze, and digital artists, even more credibility.
For creators like Torres, the selling of the NFTs has inspired the internet artists to buy up other NFTs, even going as far as to help set up an auction for meme-makers to sell their work.
‘It’s digital trading cards, but it’s also a new way for artists to make art. Every artist kind of struggles,’ Torres added. ‘They’ll make art and then it sells, but NFTs give you the option where when you sell your art, if it gets sold again, you still get a percentage of that sale.’
Bad Luck Brian, the meme of Kyle Craven’s hilariously bad yearbook photo, sold for more than $45,000.
Success Kid, the photo of photographer Laney Griner’s at the time 11-month-old son Sam, has sold as a NFT for approximately $35,000. Sam is almost 15.
Overly Attached Girlfriend, spawned from a YouTube video of Laina Morris satirically showing her love for Justin Bieber, has sold for $459,260.
And in March, Twitter boss Jack Dorsey’s first tweet – ‘just setting up my twttr’ – sold as an NFT for just over $2.9million.
It was snapped up by Sina Estavi, the CEO of Malaysia-based blockchain company Bridge Oracle.
Each NFT has its own blockchain-based digital signature, which serves as a public ledger, allowing anyone to verify the asset’s authenticity and ownership.
Valuables’ parent company Cent confirmed Dorsey’s tweet-turned-NFT was sold to Estavi, who told Reuters he was ‘thankful’ when asked for comment about the purchase.
It was bought using the cryptocurrency Ether, for 1630.5825601 ETH, which was worth $2,915,835.47 at the time of sale, Cent CEO and founder Cameron Hejazi said.
Estavi was also rumored to be eyeing an NFT of one of Elon Musk’s tweets, before the eccentric Tesla CEO turned down his $1.1million offer.
Musk had tweeted out a two-minute original song on March 15 that he claimed he was willing to sell to the highest bidder.
Overly Attached Girlfriend, spawned from a YouTube video of Laina Morris satirically showing her love for Justin Bieber, has sold for $459,260
‘I’m selling this song about NFTs as an NFT,’ he stated above a clip of the dance track.
Lyrics from the song included: ‘NFT for your vanity. Computers never sleep. It’s verified. It’s guaranteed.’
The tweet also featured a graphic of a trophy with the letters ‘NFT’ on top.
Musk’s announcement quickly sparked a bidding war among moneyed tech aficionados who were hopeful of snapping up a digital artifact.
But just four hours later Musk announced he was rescinding his offer to sell the tweet, writing: ‘Actually, doesn’t feel quite right selling this. Will pass.’
Musk may have been inspired to sell an NFT by his partner, the musician Grimes, who netted nearly $6million in just 20 minutes by selling her digital artworks.
The 32-year-old musician sold 10 items from a collection called WarNymph that included dramatic illustrations of winged baby goddesses battling in apocalyptic skies.
While NFTs have been around for years, their popularity has grown rapidly this year thanks to a few sales with very high price tags.
An artist named Pest Supply has netted more than $1million auctioning off his NFTs featuring Banksy-style graffiti, including one piece that sold for 60 Ethereum coins (ETH), or about $100,000.
And before that a man paid $208,000 for a NFT with a clip of LeBron James dunking through an auction by NBA Top Shot, which mints basketball highlights into NFTs.
A whole new venue for NFT sales opened in January when Christie’s became the first major auction house to put up a piece of digital artwork carrying a token.
The piece entitled ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ comprises all of the works that an American digital artist known as Beeple has made over the course of 13 years.
The auction opened with bids of just $1 before the piece sold for a staggering $69million.
As the NFT craze continues to heat up investors have warned that the market could represent a price bubble doomed to burst.
Like many new niche investment areas, there is the risk of major losses if the hype dies down, while there could be prime opportunities for fraudsters in a market where many participants operate under pseudonyms.