NFT collectors are rediscovering these long-forgotten vintage collectibles.
Blockchain collectibles are having a moment, whether you like them or not.
It’s a work of art.
It’s a piece of bad art.
It’s both good and bad art.
People are flipping apes, robots, and pixelated punks. Tweets (which are arguably ownerless) can fetch millions of dollars to the right buyer. Literal children — we’re talking about people who weren’t even born when Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin white paper — are suddenly whales, and it may feel like everyone but you is getting rich quick on that nonfungible JPEG money.
Of course, there is something to be said about the relationship between an object’s provenance and its value. CryptoPunks, for example, a well-known example of an old, long-dead project enjoying a renaissance of financial and social appreciation, is frequently erroneously billed as the “first” nonfungible token, or NFT, series.
Nobody cared a year ago.
You could have purchased one for a couple hundred dollars.
That club is now exclusive to millionaires.
So, why haven’t many of the pre-CryptoPunks crypto-collectibles on Counterparty (and even the entire Ethereum ecosystem) experienced the same level of frenzy?
The times, they are a changin’
In the words of blockchain pioneer and CEO of software business EverdreamSoft Shaban Shaame, it all boils down to accessibility — and the times, they are a-changin’.
When speaking with Cointelegraph, Shaame explained that the coins are “on an older blockchain and are not especially straightforward to acquire.”
In the early days of the Bitcoin network, Counterparty (XCP) served as a contract layer that allowed token producers to mint and distribute their own tokens.
Because of the rise in Bitcoin’s fees and the rise in popularity of Ethereum, the tokens and contract capabilities provided by Counterparty have become mostly obsolete.
It’s now a ghost town, as one might expect. “A lot of individuals are completely unfamiliar with how to use Counterparty,” confirms Shaame.
“They’re looking for these antiquities but keep hitting a wall because they’re so used to using OpenSea.”
Pause. Consider taking a trip back in time to the year 2015 for a few moments. It is the month of September. Bitcoin is currently trading at $236.
The genesis block of Ethereum has only been in existence for a little over two months. Smart contracts, in the form that they will exist in the future, are nothing more than a pipe dream. And Shaame has just announced the start of a token sale for Spells of Genesis, the world’s first blockchain-based mobile game.
The key selling point of the project was a set of digital trading cards that would be included into the game when it was released. Each card was a proven rarity, with fantasy-themed artwork based on historical events and individuals from the early days of blockchain technology. The most coveted card in the game portrayed a purple-robed Satoshi Nakamoto, dressed in druid-like garb, creating Bitcoin’s blockchain. It was only available in a limited edition of 200 cards.
NFTs did not yet exist
These were not non-ferrous transitions in the current sense, simply because they did not exist at the time. A limited edition of interchangeable (fungible) tokens on top of the Bitcoin blockchain was used for each card design, rather than each being verified to be one-of-one (nonfungible) as was previously the case. Following a successful fundraising campaign, the game went on to create dozens of trading cards in a variety of edition sizes and levels of rarity to commemorate the occasion.
Six years have passed, and the completed Spells of Genesis mobile game is collecting dust on the shelves of your favorite application shop. While the game saw a brief burst of popularity around the time of the initial coin offering boom, it was subsequently eclipsed by nonfungible initiatives such as CryptoKitties, and the game’s valuables were all but forgotten about.
That is until recently, according to Shaame:
“In the past few weeks, our team has suddenly been overwhelmed with demand for Spells of Genesis cards. Two weeks before that, people started going crazy for Rare Pepe cards. One of them sold for $300K.”
Pepe attracting interest, too
He reported that many long-dormant NFTs, such as Rare Pepe, Force of Will, and Mafia Wars, had recently reawakened collectors’ interest after being out of print for an extended period of time. According to Pkeane4osu, a collector and merchant who operates under the alias Pkeane4osu, the growth began in February but really took off at the beginning of July. At the moment, he’s flipping 20–25 Counterparty collectibles per day, some of which fetch as much as 4.5 Bitcoin:
“The increase in sales to new buyers has been unreal. Many have never used Counterparty, and some have never used Bitcoin. Interest, in general, is higher than I’ve ever seen.”
Moreover, he observes that the shift in pricing is particularly startling in light of the fact that the Counterparty blockchain had been “near to a three-year standstill” previous to this rapid revival.
The Counterparty founder argues that “many people who were once quite involved in the community just wiped their hands of Counterparty.”
In today’s market, however, even a sliver of the most popular collectibles the size of a dust particle has significant worth to the proper buyer.
“About two weeks ago, I sold 0.1 of a Satoshi Card for 5 ETH — a tenth of a card,” explains Pkeane4osu. “It was a tenth of a card.”
It appears that a third-party solution known as Emblem, which allows anyone to wrap Counterparty tokens as ERC-721 assets — the NFT token standard — and trade them via the Ethereum blockchain, is contributing to this slow but steady increase in interest in the cryptocurrency.
Other websites, such as auction front-end Digirare, are also beginning to appear as a means of acquiring these esoteric items, which is encouraging.
The counterparty collectables rabbit hole is surreal https://t.co/WpVtrHqvFq pic.twitter.com/Fe6V16Puoz
— KingKai (@kingkaidev) March 13, 2021
While each wrapped item from Emblem is stored on the Ethereum blockchain for the sake of accessibility, they are still capable of being offloaded to the blockchain from whence they originated. According to Shaame, this is a positive development:
“People are looking to collect our original NFTs from 2015 rather than totally new assets released on Ethereum. They’re seeing more value in the original token.”
EverdreamSoft is also developing its own multichain capabilities to allow Spells of Genesis owners to move their cards across any blockchain they choose, which he acknowledges:
“We want to allow users to hold our tokens on whatever chain they want. They should be able to move cards between Ethereum, Counterparty and all of these alternative chains.”
Golden Beanie Babies?
If you feel that NFTs represent a modern-day gold rush or that they are condemned to obscurity like the Beanie Babies of yesteryear, it is impossible to dispute that they have the potential to be excellent things with long-tail value. Their edges will never fox, and they will never yellow or fade, but the passage of time will most likely make them scarce and, as a result, difficult to obtain. According to Shaame, however, the fact that they are scarce is insufficient to make them valuable:
“It’s also the emotional connection they create. Think about the toys you had when you were a kid. They’re not useful in any way and often just sit there collecting dust. Yet it’s super hard to throw them away. With blockchain, we can easily preserve the things we’ve collected over the course of our lives. They may even become one of the ways we define ourselves online.”
Perhaps anything can become valuable in the presence of nostalgia. Even the tokenized detritus of our life may give a means of establishing verifiably that I was present. I was a witness to that moment.
The time is ticking for NFT archaeologists hoping to profit from those forgotten wells of nostalgia. After all, there are only a finite number of on-chain artifacts left to unearth.