In the ever evolving NFT art market, much like the rest of the world of cryptocurrency related projects, things move fast, and people are constantly looking for the next big thing to grab wide attention. First it was digital art, then celebrity art, and recently we have been caught in a craze for collectable NFTs; pieces which aren’t limited to a single digital original, but which are available in a variety of limited edition formats, often styled similarly to collector’s cards such as Pokemon or sports trading cards.
Some early examples of this NFT art format were incredibly successful, igniting that collector’s bug that exists around trading cards when you’re young, one of the most well known is Crypto Punks. This collection includes 10,000 randomly generated pixel-art style punks, each with a range of features such as hats, glasses, and hair styles which each appear throughout the collection with varied rarity.
Punks which came out with common features sold for less than those combining a number of rare features, and whilst the collection may have been intended as collectable, individual crypto punk NFTs soon became so expensive that most people just aimed to own one of them.
Moving from NFT collections of varied rarity, to traditional collector cards
Crypto Punks and other successful early projects such as CryptoKitties inspired many imitators; both projects randomly generated very simple artworks which were cheaply produced, it was the idea and rarity that inspired such high prices. Very quickly the market filled with copycat collections of rapidly generated digital artwork with varied features to each character; a few had some success, but clearly something more was needed.
The next move was towards more traditional collectors cards formats; with the NFT artwork very literally being a digital card with a picture and some statistics just like a baseball card. Most of these collections were thrown together very quickly, hoping to bag a quick fortune, and were built around weak concepts and ideas that few people were interested in. Very rapidly, NFT art markets filled up with collectable NFT cards which had sold no copies at all.
And then came the apes…
The Bored Ape Yacht Club at first glance looked like just another Cryptopunks clone; 10,000 randomly generated NFTs picturing a cartoony digital art head and shoulders image of an anthropomorphised bored ape. Each ape varied in colour and features like hats, clothing, and other props, once again making some super-rare, and others more common, though all are unique. The Bored Apes brought something new though; membership.
Bringing together NFT collections and private members clubs
The Bored Ape Yacht Club was more than just a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles style name, it set out to create a true club, open to anyone so long as they owned a Bored Ape NFT. Whilst the club played into the exclusivity and promised benefits often found in private members clubs, so far it hasn’t delivered very much besides a feeling of belonging to something.
Future members-only website areas and perks are promised, but so far there is just a “bathroom” area where members can doodle some graffiti for other members to see; though each member can only doodle one pixel every 15 minutes to create a “collaborative art project”. Currently it looks like a mess of pixel art doodles much like a real public bathroom wall.
Currently the Bored Ape Yacht Club is one of the most traded and best selling set of NFTs in the market, making £50 million a week in February 2022. It’s hard to tell how much of this is just people trading for profit, and how much is genuine interest in whatever membership benefits transpire, but it has certainly lit the market up anew even as cryptocurrency prices continue to look fragile with huge losses since November 2021. We can of course ask, “Is it really art?”, but that will continue to be a question about NFTs for a long time to come.