An NFT is an on-chain token of an off-chain asset. At the most bare-bones, it is a social contract between the asset creator and the surrounding community.

So, what makes it different from a crypto currency and what is this fuss about non fungibility. An NFT is a digital token that’s like a cryptocurrency but can’t be exchanged for another NFT. This is what makes it non fungible. A bitcoin for a bitcoin, but not one NFT for another. Each NFT is different and unique.

This token is added to a blockchain that supports this special ‘NFT type’ token (such as Ethereum) recording the details of ownership of some commodity, somewhat like how a house deed records the ownership of a house.

The only catch is the commodity, the off-chain asset, must be ownable and somewhat nonfungible. So, you can’t have an NFT on currencies or gold (non-fungibility), nor on Mars or Niagara Falls or the Mona Lisa (unless you own the Mona Lisa of course, then you can do whatever you want, also its highly likely won’t be reading this anyway).

Examples of NFTs Trades: 

  • Digital Art: The $590,000 selling of the famous Nyan Cat Gif, for example, could have only happened because of the meme’s enormous success over the years. 
  • Sports Collectibles: Similarly, the NBA’s highest-selling NFT was a highlight reel of LeBron James, which sold for $200,000. Less well-known players, on the other hand, had reels that sold for as little as $9.
  • Tweets: In March, Jack Dorsey’s original tweet sold for $2.5 Million, paving the way for more similar deals.

Why all this chatter on NFT then?

Because NFT allows storing more data per block. Bitcoin blocks allow only 1MB of data for example, just enough to record a bunch of transactions and some other details. 

This single feature elevates the NFT from more than just a ledger that records transactions (essentially what a cryptocurrency is) to record/store the ownership of pretty much anything such as jpeg files, music files, videos, internet domains, real estate, vintage cars, in-game purchases, art pieces, ad spaces, unlisted shares, horses, just anything.

So just to make things clear, if you are an artist, this is an easy way to monetize your work securely. NFTs also allow a share to the artist each time the NFT changes hands.

As a buyer, which you most likely are, you can buy NFTs of an autograph or highlight reels of an upcoming sports star that you think may strike it big. If in case that happens, it is likely the value of the NFT would have climbed manifolds.

Role of the community in guaranteeing NFTs

Unlike the fiat currencies that are legally backed by central banks, gold, governments and who knows what, a particular NFT only falls back on its scarcity to back it up (the other two tenets of an NFT are its utility and authenticity, both of which are not as effective as an NFTs scarcity is). The ploy of scarcity is a delicate one. The artist or NFT holder may not be able to enforce his ownership, may not get any special rights to own it, may very simply be fooled into buying that NFT or the creator may break its promise. It is the community however that enforces scarcity and hence values it. The creator of the NFT has no say in it.

The value of the NFT comes not from the NFT or the art or the off chain assets that it brings on the chain, it is the NFT and on chain assets’ community and its interactions that hold and/or derive value. It is not the NFT, but the community that is holding value. Most NFTs are worthless, but a few NFTs are focal points of creators and admirers both. Call it a digital bandstand or an art gallery if you wish. 

NFT “An Opportunistic Future”

  • NFT can be a new revenue stream for gaming, sports, art and technology.
  • Like Decentraland, NFTs can transform our attitudes toward ownership and make it possible to own a real-world asset that’s thousands of miles away.
  • Many crypto unknowns could introduce cryptocurrencies for the very first time through NFTs.

Risk associated with NFT

  • It may end up like the initial ICO (initial coin offering) craze as people’s attention shifted to other technology and the space cooled down.
  • What may seem like a hot commodity today may not be as so in the future as seen in the case of Jack Dorsey’s tweet.  
  • Complaints of several pieces of art being stolen and purchased as NFTs leaving the original art creators with no proof of their work.
  • NFT owners must also trust that the maker will not produce another batch of tokens with nearly identical artwork, devaluing the NFT they paid for.

Why the craze of NFT holds despite the associated risk? 

NFTs can be called collectibles. People buy paintings or any other kind of physical art for the same purpose. Utility, authenticity, and scarcity are typically the driving factors behind their demand. 

The obvious one is utility. People are willing to pay for an NFT ticket because it helps them to attend a meeting. Alternatively, they are more likely to purchase art if they can view it in a virtual environment. They’re also willing to spend money on an object that gives them unique abilities in a game. The definition of authenticity explains how an NFT works. What was the source of it? Who has owned it previously? Finally, Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting “The Mona Lisa” better describes scarcity. There may exist millions of copies, yet there’s only one original Mona Lisa.

The big player of the NFT market

OpenSea is the first and largest marketplace for user-owned digital goods, which include collectibles, gaming items, domain names, digital art, and other assets backed by a blockchain-based in New York. The number of unique participants after the bubble of 2018 has grown steadily from 8,500 accounts in February of 2018 to over 20,000 accounts in December of 2019. The market is driven by a core group of power users. On OpenSea, the median seller has sold $71.9 worth of stuff, whereas the average seller has sold $1,178 worth of stuff, indicating a large number of power sellers.

Market sentiments and perception

The market for non-fungible tokens is quite small (yet). It is also harder to measure than cryptocurrencies due to the lack of spot prices. Focussing only on secondary trading volume (peer-to-peer sales of NFT, not the creation of NFTs) as an indicator of market size the current secondary market is expected to be roughly $2 – $3 Million USD in volume per month on average.

The total trading volume of non-fungible token (NFT) artwork hit an all-time high of $8.2 Million in December 2020 compared to $2.6 Million in November 2020.

It might sound like a gold rush right now, but the main question is how long will value be produced in all of these new forms if the supply is unlimited? And what would be the most prudent position to take?  A good way to get a piece of the action, yet to stay unharmed is to service the bubble, not to take part in it. Case in point: do now what Levi’s or Wells Fargo did then. NFTs will tokenize everything. It won’t be long before off chain assets get on the blockchains. All valuable assets will then be stored on a decentralised digital ledger, with the NFT being a token of digital representation of an object or person on the chain.