In the March 2021 issue of Authentication News®, we described how an art piece that only exists in digital form was sold at a Christie’s online auction for $69.3 million. The piece was created and sold through the ‘minting’ of a non-fungible token, or NFT, where non-fungible refers to something that is unique and cannot be replaced with something else.
Now we hear that a classic American pastime – baseball-card collecting – is also moving to the blockchain, in what has been labelled a new era of sports card collecting.
The blockchain platform Worldwide Asset Exchange (WAX) and Topps, the collectibles and candy company, are launching NFTs to digitise the current season’s Major League Baseball (MLB) trading card series.
WAX minted more than a million NFTs for 75,000 digital card packs. The series digitises nearly 2,000 images to be sold in packs of six or 45 cards.
William Quigley, WAX’s co-founder, said he expects ‘millions’ in direct sales and a robust secondary market. For MLB, the tokens essentially act as an annuity, paying the league a fraction of every resale via conditions written into their code. That is a new source of revenue that didn’t exist with old-fashioned cards.
Top Shots, the National Basketball Association’s NFTs, are among the most popular assets to take off in the recent crypto craze, generating nearly $150 million in sales over the past month alone, according to DappRadar.
Digital tokens solve several problems, Mr Quigley said. With standard cards it is difficult to establish how many cards were issued and to ensure the authenticity of a supposedly rare one. NFTs have built-in authentication and verification data, and separate ownership from possession so that owners don’t need to amass physical goods in a world with ‘landfills worth of junk’, he said.
NFTs work by acting as a key for ‘unlocking’ the digital storage of items such as baseball cards, which are stored on a server. Following a sale, the NFTs are recorded as a blockchain. (A blockchain is a digital distributed ledger, much like a decentralised database, which provides buyers with irrefutable proof of ownership and acts as a platform for authenticating and securing transactions).
This latest development serves as further proof that blockchain-certified computer files are being used to market and monetise an ever-widening range of cultural, commercial and personal items, in what some have likened to a digital gold rush. In addition, blockchain is gradually developing into a more mainstream tool for enhancing authentication technologies.