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(14/16) Non-fungible by Nature
In April or May, the guy who used to sell me small amounts of Bitcoin via PayPal back sent me a link to Rarible. His text said something along the lines of: ‘Hey man, you should digitize some of your [sneaker] trading cards and sell them as NFTs.’
Now, I had heard of NFTs a few years prior…I heard of the cryptokitties and the cryptopunks and I heard of a few random musical artists putting their music on the blockchain and I just didn’t get it. It wasn’t for me. It sounded so godawfully stupid…like…’so you want me to buy a blue, digital, cryptokitty, and you want me to buy a spotted, digital, cryptokitty, with real money? And then you want me to breed them, digitally, with real money? for what? ANOTHER stupid digital kitty? GTFO’
So when I got the text, my first thought was like ‘meh’. But out of curiosity I clicked on the link and wasn’t really prepared for what I saw.
I called him, immediately. Me: ‘Man, what is this?’
Him: ‘They’re one of one digital collectibles. Verifiable via blockchain. I think they’d be good for your sneaker cards or whatever.’
Me: MIND ABSOLUTELY BLOWN.
Why? I had heard of it before, but it was never presented to me in that context of a collectible. And having just created 2 sets (#824pack and #DunkyDunks) - it all just hit me like a ton of bricks. The precision of the numbers is really what got me. Yes, the precision. Let me explain:
As of this moment, I have created 3 complete sets of sneaker trading cards. 100+ unique card designs for each. That’s 100,000+ physical cards that have been created and put out into the world. Before I started, I thought - ‘hey, this is just a few pieces of cardboard and some ink, how difficult could it really be?’ And man, do I feel like an absolute idiot for thinking it would really be that simple.
Each iteration has gone something like this: I basically come up with the theme for the base set, which is all neatly compartmentalized in my head. ‘What story do I want to tell today?’ I then pitch the idea to my dude @sonsofblackmaria who I work day in and day out with to come up with the appropriate design and illustration, which takes a great deal of time, but it is the step that *really* brings this stuff to life. And then we create the special insert cards. And in each case, we’ve put anywhere from 5-10 ‘special’ insert sets in, and they are *much* more intricate because they have to stand, with a story, on their own. I then put everything on a massive spreadsheet with all kinds of numbers and calculations and details of each effect…and…this spreadsheet could be a work of art (but it’s really one of those barely-hanging-on kinda things). The *whole process* is like 78% trial and error. It tells me precise quantities, designs, rarities, packs, odds, materials and everything else you can imagine - it tells me how much money I hope to make and how much I hope to spend and it tells me about taxes and all those little extra expenses that no one really thinks about. And a screenshot of this spreadsheet goes to the manufacturer, who, then, prices each and every type of card based on their availability, materials, quantities, storage, and anything else that is pertinent to the project. It is WAY more complicated than I initially thought. It’s an absolute beast to try to get the numbers to simply work out…and even when the numbers *do* work out…do they really?
Let’s take a quick tangent (that can explain my next point better than I can with 250 words):
Watch this clip from ‘Jack of All Trades’, a documentary focused on the now-worthlessness of all the sportscards created from about 1985~1995 (clip I’m talking about starts around ~34:00-37:45):
They say Upper Deck employees were just printing out sheet after sheet of Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards and selling them out the backdoor. Experts estimate (in that documentary) that there are over 7 MILLION copies of that card alone. ‘Official’ number from Upper Deck: 1 MILLION. If something like that can happen - and it *certainly can happen* - there’s something impossible-to-grasp with cards as a collectible. Meaning…there are a lot of ways your numbers can falter. You are putting *quite a bit of trust* into every single link in the chain.
So…back to my cards…
I was VERY specific about the number of cards I wanted to be created. I was VERY specific about the number of packs I received. I was VERY specific about the number of boxes I received. Did I receive anywhere near that amount? Sure. I got *close*. But was it exact? No. Why? Who knows? I mean…things like ‘extra material’ and ‘quality tests’ and ‘minimum quantities’ and all kinds of other things go into mass-producing massive amounts of *anything. Am I really going to hold the manufacturer to 36 specific cards being inserted (instead of 35 or 37) when they just randomly packaged more than 36,000 cards? And how could I *possibly* enforce (or even *check) the quantity stated?
So, yeah, blockchain fixes this. If I say there are x amount created, that’s because I only created x amount and, without just trusting some guy (with bad TikToks) who chose to call himself ‘The Sneaker Savant’, you could actually double-check that there are only x amount in existence. It is completely transparent. (Of course, that doesn’t stop some jackass from creating an account under ‘thesneakersavanter’ and making a mockery of the whole thing, but that’s where provenance comes in).
I guess the thing is…I’ve worked in Finance and I’ve worked in Tech and I’ve always been interested in collectibles, so when I found something that combined all three my mind was just like ‘oh, hi, I’ve been waiting for you.’
The saga continues…part 15.