In the 10 years since Chris Torres created Nyan Cat, an animated flying cat with a Pop-Tart body leaving a rainbow trail, the meme has been viewed and shared across the web hundreds of millions of times.
On Thursday, he put a one-of-a-kind version of it up for sale on Foundation, a website for buying and selling digital goods. In the final hour of the auction, there was a bidding war. Nyan Cat was sold to a user identified only by a cryptocurrency wallet number. The price? Roughly $580,000.
Mr. Torres was left breathless. “I feel like I’ve opened the floodgates,” he said in an interview on Friday.
The sale was a new high point in a fast-growing market for ownership rights to digital art, ephemera and media called NFTs, or “nonfungible tokens.” The buyers are usually not acquiring copyrights, trademarks or even the sole ownership of whatever it is they purchase. They’re buying bragging rights and the knowledge that their copy is the “authentic” one.
Other digital tokens recently sold include a clip of LeBron James blocking a shot in a Lakers basketball game that went for $100,000 in January and a Twitter post by Mark Cuban, the investor and Dallas Mavericks owner, that went for $952. This month, the actress Lindsay Lohan sold an image of her face for over $17,000 and, in a nod to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, declared, “I believe in a world which is financially decentralized.” It was quickly resold for $57,000.
Blockchains of course are being used to designate which copy is the authentic one. Is it such a big step from photography to this? Here is more from Erin Griffith at the NYT.
Addendum: The next step presumably is to introduce some price discrimination. Yes, there can be a “most authentic” original copy. But after that, how about some intermediate categories? “Well, this is the almost-original copy, defined on the “brother blockchain” here is another, somewhat closed related copy, defined on the “cousin blockchain,”” just as Japanese prints had different editions, etc.