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Should you care about NFTs? Here’s what we think

NBA Top Shot NFTs
(Image credit: NBA)

I'm often the dissenting opinion, and that habit came true when discussing NFTs (non-fungible tokens). I've found them interesting and expensive enough to want to understand their nature, but not compelling enough to ever consider spending actual money on one. Famously, the NBA got on the NFT train early, by selling digital highlight reels with NFTs, with its NBA Top Shot packs.

Since then, NFTs have been a hot ticket item online, allowing all kinds of artists to sell images and other content with a digital certificate of ownership of sorts. But the art that’s attached to an NFT isn’t as exclusive as the NFT.

How big is the NFT market? And how fast is it growing? Well, market analyst firm NonFungible.com's 2020 report claimed that the market "tripled in 2020, with the total value of transactions increasing by 299% year on year to more than $250 [million]." 

And then total NFT sales for Q1 2021 were a staggering $2 million, according to CNBC. So, we're not talking about small potatoes here. More like giant spuds. But there is reason to think there's a slump happening right now, as recent chatter argues that the NFT 'bubble' has already 'burst.'

Some of the biggest and wildest NFT transactions

  • Beeple NFT goes for $69 million at Christies.
  • Sotheby's auctioned off CryptoPunk avatar for $11.7 million.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million.
  • Musician Grimes makes $6 million off of NFTs of short videos with music.
  • NFT of patch blockchain-based world Decentraland sells for $900,000.

So, NFTs are definitely something to be aware of. With that in mind, I joined TechRadar's Matt Phillips and Hamish Hector and Laptop Mag's Sean Riley for a bit of debate about the topic on the web series Seriously? Check out the trailer here:

Want to watch the full episode? We spend 26 minutes or so on the topic, with Sean and Hamish revealing why they're interested in NFTs, while I politely challenged their opinions. You can see the full episode of Seriously? here.

Confused? Think about NFTs like this. Fans everywhere could order a signed print of the mega-group BTS, and that's an image and it could be photocopied or downloaded. But BTS could opt to only give out a certain number of certificates of authenticity that declare your ownership and the authenticity of that copy. NFTs are the digital equivalent, basically as much of the proof of purchase as the art itself. 

A real life example is found in the $6.6 million purchase of a video by graphic designer Beeple (Mike Winkelmann), sold at the Nifty Gateway. But we can all visit that page, right click on that video and save it to our computers, phones and tablets. The NFT itself is the proof of purchase, and therefore ownership.

Some people, it seems, will pay a lot of money for that concept of ownership. I hope they fully understood what they were getting though. If you ask me, that concept of ownership (as the Cranberries said) is "in your head! in you head!" Maybe someone will believe it's valuable enough to buy that NFT off of you some day, but maybe not. The recent softness of the NFT market suggests some may be easing their foot off the gas.

Of course, these sorts of techy trends can come and go and come back in style, so we're not exactly ready to write them off just yet. Especially when more and more big players join in. Mattel entered the market, with Hot Wheels digital collectibles, but even CNN is selling its most historical moments as NFTs. 

So, while I certainly don't seem to find much of a personal interest in NFTs, it's clear that many others do. That means it's a great time to be aware of what they are, and understand what you get when you buy one.

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Henry T. Casey

Henry is an editor writer at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and Apple. Prior to joining Tom's Guide — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and looking for the headphone adapter that he unplugged from his iPhone.