21st-century-art-dealing:-market-not-quite-set-for-nonfungible-tokens-–-vegas-inc

Max Jacobson-Fried stumbled upon a Saturday Night Live skit that poked fun at NFTs, those digital offerings that have started to take pop culture by storm.

NFTs—or nonfungible tokens—are one-of-a-kind digital assets that are verified using blockchain technology to give owners or buyers proof of authenticity. NFTs are most recognizable in mainstream circles now as images, video loops or GIFs.

Just like art or collectible sports cards, the uniqueness of an NFT can help drive up its value.

“My wife loves Saturday Night Live, so we were watching, and this skit comes on about NFTs, which I knew nothing about,” said Jacobson-Fried, owner of Freed’s Bakery in Las Vegas. “I forgot about it for a while, but I was curious and interested, and it was something that was on my radar.”

Freed’s, a popular family-owned business, introduced an NFT wedding cake, a detailed spinning GIF. The GIF was put up for auction on OpenSea, a platform that allows trading of NFTs.

Jacobson-Fried said the bakery is just dabbling with the NFT concept now, but offerings could evolve to the point where a customer who purchases a cake also receives an NFT.

“We have some different things that we’re looking at,” he said. “It could be really fun.”

NFTs, however, aren’t just for fun. They are also capturing eye-popping amounts of money in the cryptocurrency world.

Mike Winkelmann, who also goes by “Beeple,” earlier this year sold a collage JPEG for $69.3 million. The NFT featured unique creations of digital art that Winkelmann made daily for 5,000 consecutive days.

Even if they’re not selling or auctioning their NFTs for tens of millions of dollars, there’s plenty of NFT money changing hands these days around the world.

In Las Vegas, entrepreneur and podcaster Jake Gallen, a Chaparral High School grad, last month made more than $100,000 on the sale of three NFTs—from his “Mooncats” collection—at auction.

The collection was made popular in part because it was the first set of a work of art—somewhat clumsy space-age images of digital cats—created by an algorithm to be minted on the blockchain.

“To summarize what NFTs are, it really just gives the ability to assign ownership to anything digitally,” Gallen said. “It could be a graphic piece of art, or it could be a contract. Right now, the primary use of NFTs are art and collectibles, which I think speaks to the mainstream a little more.”

Las Vegas DJ and producer Justin Blau this year sold an array of digital art and music NFTs—called a drop—for over $11 million.

Even the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team has dipped its toe in NFT waters. In July, the team announced the release of eight exclusive Golden Knights-themed NFT images that were featured in an auction on Crypto.com.

A team spokesman said there could be more offerings by the franchise at some point. And in basketball, NBA Top Shot—which captures specific plays from games—have become lucrative assets in the sports collectible arena.

Rajiv Kishore, an entrepreneurship and technology professor at UNLV, said interest in NFTs has grown exponentially in the past 12-18 months. He mentioned Top Shots as one of the more popular expressions of NFTs.

“Think about any new invention, in the beginning we don’t understand the true value of a thing,” Kishore said. “We make that typical human mistake of overvaluing things. We understand there’s some potential value, but we just don’t know what that value really is. Initially, there’s hype, then there’s a crash, then, eventually, the reality will set in.”

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.