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  • Writer's pictureCollin Christenbury

The Meteoric Rise of NFTs

Updated: May 26, 2023

The rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the art world has been nothing short of meteoric. From the blockchain-nerd beginnings in 2017, NFTs have exploded onto the scene, making headlines and catching even the mainstream's eye with multi-million dollar sales.

As a motion graphics artist who was forced to make a shift after COVID-19 lockdowns hit, I’ve witnessed firsthand the rise of this new and exciting medium and I was able to hop on board and get involved super early to an already early technology. In this article, I’ll take you on a journey through the history of NFTs, from their geeky beginnings to the rocky ground they stand on today.

The Birth of NFTs

The idea of NFTs was first introduced in 2017 by a company called CryptoKitties. This company created a blockchain-based game where users could buy, breed, and sell virtual cats. Each cat was a unique digital asset, and each transaction was verified on the blockchain, making it transparent and secure.

This idea of unique digital assets quickly caught on, and soon other companies began exploring the possibilities of NFTs. In 2018, a project called CryptoPunks was launched. It consisted of 10,000 unique 8-bit characters that were stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Each character was a one-of-a-kind digital asset, and some sold for as much as $69,000.

If you know the very basic NFT history you are probably thinking, "weren't the Crypto Punks the first NFT collection?"...no, in fact it was the Crypto Kitties. Maybe its not talked about because the project broke the Ethereum bockchain.

The Early Days of NFTs

In the early days of NFTs, the market was small and niche, consisting mainly of crypto enthusiasts and collectors. However, as the technology developed and more artists began to experiment with NFTs, the market began to grow.

In 2019, an artist called Trevor Jones created a digital artwork called “Bitcoin Angel.” It was a portrait of an angel made entirely out of Bitcoin code. Jones sold the piece for $3,000, and it quickly gained attention in the art world.

Another important development in the early days of NFTs was the emergence of Nifty Gateway, a platform that allowed artists to sell NFTs directly to collectors. Nifty Gateway was founded in 2018 by twins Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster and was acquired by Gemini, a cryptocurrency exchange, in 2019.

The Rise of NFTs in 2020

2020 was a year of turmoil for many industries, but it was a year of explosive growth for NFTs. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many artists to seek out new ways to sell their work, and NFTs offered a unique solution.

One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the sale of “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by artist Beeple. The digital artwork was a collage of 5,000 images created over 13 years, and it sold for an eye-watering $69 million at a Christie’s auction.

Another significant development in 2020 was the launch of NBA Top Shot, a blockchain-based platform where users could buy, sell, and trade officially licensed NBA collectibles. The platform quickly gained a massive following, with over $1 billion in sales in its first year.

The Future of NFTs

Peering to the future, it’s clear that NFTs are here to stay. The technology has proven to be a powerful tool for artists and collectors alike, offering a new way to create, share, and monetize digital art.

One of the most headline nabbing developments in the NFT world is the emergence of virtual worlds and metaverses. These are digital spaces where users can interact with each other and with digital assets, creating new opportunities for artists and collectors.

As the technology continues to develop, we can expect to see new use cases for NFTs in areas such as gaming, music, and sports. Already, we’ve seen musicians like Grimes and Kings of Leon release albums as NFTs, while sports franchises such as the NBA and NFL have released their own collections of digital collectibles.

One potential use case that has garnered a lot of attention recently is the idea of using NFTs to represent real-world assets. For example, a property title or a car ownership certificate could be represented as an NFT on a blockchain, making it more secure and easier to transfer ownership.

Overall, the potential for NFTs is vast and the technology is still in its infancy. As more artists, creators, and businesses explore the space, we are likely to see new and innovative use cases emerge.

For me personally, the shift to NFTs has been an exciting and rewarding one. It’s allowed me to connect with a global community of collectors and artists, and has given me the freedom to create and share my work on my own terms.

Of course, like any nascent technology, there are still challenges and uncertainties. The market for NFTs can be volatile, and it’s important for creators to understand the risks before diving in.

But for those willing to take the leap, the potential rewards are significant. NFTs have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for artists and creators, and I’m excited to see where the technology takes us in the years to come.


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