Limited NFT Collections
The sweeping new trend in the NFT space is the minting of collections, images that are thematically linked together by building on a central image but personalized with a combination of characteristics. There are a mind-blowing number of subjects. For example, a Dangerous Tomato face, but there are some with hook noses, an eye patch, and a cheek scar, while others have a prison tattoo, a big moustache, and a missing tooth. The iterations are usually limited to a set number in the thousands, to cap the amount of available NFTs available. Resell has been exceptional for a select few collections, most notably the Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks, with images fetching millions at auction. The original mainstream collection was probably CryptoKitties, which was a game that interestingly allowed you to breed two kitties, cross their attributes, and come out with ever rarer offspring. With such a simplistic system, and thousands of images within thousands of collections available, it is common to wonder why these collections are coming out en masse, and why they are able to garner such exorbitant price tags. Are they valuable? Are they art? Let’s explore.
At the core, art is about relationship. Art is connection and relatability of emotion between artist and art piece, art piece and audience, artist and audience, or audience and audience. Each coupling line adds a layer of meaning and depth to the work, and art becomes symbol for that underscoring meaning. At first glance, it seems silly to assert connective meaning between thousands of slightly different algorithmically-generated apes with funny hats and laser eyes. To be frank, it is a little silly. The packaging leaves a lot to be artistically desired, but that silly packaging is actually tantamount to the counterculture that was the pride of the original crypto punks. The anti-establishment idealism that led the charge of cryptocurrency users was a bit like a cyber punk rock scene. Punk music was usually labeled as nothing more than an unskilled banging of drums and screeching guitars over terribly harsh vocals, but to the people in the punk scene, it symbolized being outside of the norm, of sticking it to the straightlaced suburbanites that were ideological polar opposites of those choppy haired head bangers. The 16-bit, persistently unartistic delivery of the cryptopunks were the online faces of those in the crypto community, the avatars that represented believing in a new idea that was running headlong against the mainstream.
That community ideal still runs strong in the veins of these collections. Possessing an item with limited minting grants you access and interaction with a like-minded group of individuals, a way to label yourself with a certain set of interests and ideals, and a place to belong. Aside from the monetary value of NFT flipping, communities generally gather to enact specific activities based on benchmarks within the collection. For example, after all sales are minted, there is a gathering party, or to vote on where a collective fund should be donated. Thus, the art has transcended its simplistic form and become a symbol of connection, a virtual watering hole for a closed community to engage with each other and to feel at home. So all in all, while the fad may be a bit kitsch and you have more than a handful just trying to make a quick buck, the heart of what these communities mean to those deep in the corners of web3 still ring true.