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"Digital Air Jordans" and the future of collectibles

Benjamin Wallace, writing for Intelligencer:

“The elevator pitch I always give,” offered Duncan “is that a nifty is a fundamentally better digital good.”

Based on the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrency, nifties are a departure from [previous digital goods]. Short for NFTs (non-fungible tokens), they are unique digital objects you can buy, own, and sell. The brothers’ go-to analogy is that nifties are like “digital Air Jordans.” “If I own a pair of shoes and Nike shuts down, I don’t expect that my shoes would just disappear,” Duncan said. “We expect our items to behave a certain way, and past digital items have not.”

The brothers see nifties’ first mainstream application being rare digital artworks and collectibles. MLB has already launched Champions, a line of bobbleheadlike crypto-collectibles, and the NBA has a similar collection in the works.

If they hit the right markets, nifties (or something similar) could be a winner. People already spend a lot of time and money collecting items in videogames like Destiny, Fortnite, and World of Warcraft (not to mention the people who make and sell items in other online games).

Add in elements of uniqueness and tradability and it’s easy to see these things taking off. They’ll just have to avoid talking about blockchain too much – that’ll kill any of the fun before it starts.

Digital artworks might be a harder sell, though. Art, at its best or its most portentous, has a physical form. Whether or you’re hanging a painting to look at it on your wall or placing a sculpture so your guests know you have a work by that particular artist, the physical presense of the thing is part of the point. I’m sure that’ll cross over to digital goods sooner or later – maybe having a screen on the wall to show a work won’t be all that different to having a canvas for most people – but it seems like a harder sell.

Collectibles though? They’ll have legs in the right communities.

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