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What are NFTs and how do they work?

This picture of a cat just sold for 19,000 dollars. It’s digital art, for the most part, it’s just a JPEG, so how and why? It’s an image that can be copied and pasted, emailed, posted online, and replicated infinitely, how does this have any value? Well, it’s special, it has something called an NFT, a fancy digital token that says that this is the original of my digital art, the image can be replicated but the token can’t. The original can now be bought and sold and more importantly collected like fine art. If you bought a Picasso you know what you’re getting, a canvas with some paint on it, what makes that painting special is the guy who put the paint on there, and the fact that there is only one canvas out there with paint on it in that particular way, is what makes it rare, and only one person can own it over.

In the last year, NFTs or Crypto Art has dramatically changed the art world and to be blunt, flooded it with a lot of money. It has completely changed the art world, and I know, it sounds hyperbolic, but in this case, there is some truth there and I will admit just mentioning crypto or the blockchain makes my eyes roll. I get it, but if you’re making digital art of any kind, you should probably at least know what crypto art is and what opportunities it can provide for your work. So I’m going to try my best to decipher it and go down the rabbit hole. So, let’s do this.

NFT, non-fungible token, the word fungible is just so cool you just want to poke it with a stick, this is the token that says, “Hey! I’m the original.” The reason the token can’t be duplicated is that it lives on the blockchain, oh, another word to define, the idea is simple, a blockchain is a digital record of transactions, it is a list in its simplest form someone gives me money, a record is made of that transaction on a list, I spend that money on something else, a record is made on the list, these records are called blocks and they are chained together to make a big old list. Each record needs to be verified by multiple computers. So one system can’t just jump in and invalidate the chain or make stuff up and this is how cryptocurrencies like bitcoin work so you can create a digital record of ownership for money using the blockchain.

Why couldn’t you theoretically do this with all sorts of other things too and that’s exactly what people are doing with art so now you can track the ownership of any of these pieces. The person who owns it, can then resell it or license the rights to a museum to display it or even control the conditions under which it’s displayed. So if that makes sense, how do you take this digital piece of art that you created and turn it into something with a token on it that someone else would buy? some websites and marketplaces allow you to upload your art and then add it to the blockchain and then sell it. Sites like wearable and open sea, are probably the most newbie-friendly sites out there. They’re really easy to jump into and use. There are sites out there that are more curated sites like super rare and nifty gateway and these act like more traditional art galleries and this is where established digital artists are making bank.

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