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投资NFT真能赚钱?这是入手前需要知道的一切

投资NFT真能赚钱?这是入手前需要知道的一切

Robert Hackett 2021年04月30日
过去一年里,随着加密货币价格飙升,NFT狂热愈演愈烈。

木槌敲下,响彻全世界。今年2月的佳士得拍卖行,迈克·温克尔曼的一幅电脑绘制素描画组成的庞大拼贴画以6930万美元售出,引发轩然大波。这一刻,数码收藏热潮也冲上顶峰。拍卖台上是非同质化代币,也叫NFT,即记录独特虚拟商品在区块链上的编码引用,而区块链正是比特币(Bitcoin)等加密货币背后的分布式账本,更常见的则是以太坊(Ethereum)。

过去一年里,随着加密货币价格飙升,NFT狂热愈演愈烈,就像EDM drop(电子舞曲中的高潮段落——译注)一样。时而化名为Beeple,时而叫Beeple Crap的温克尔曼就充分体现了该趋势,还有其他很多的例子,都可以证明当前的爆发性繁荣。从摇滚乐队莱昂国王(Kings of Leon)到R&B歌星威肯,多位音乐人以数百万美元价格出售了限量版音轨。《纽约时报》的专栏作家凯文·鲁斯以80多万美元卖出了一篇评论。推特的创始人及首席执行官杰克·多尔西以290万美元卖出了第一条推文,内容是“刚刚设置好我的推特。”(部分人将所得捐给了慈善机构。)

《日常:第一个5000天》,由数字艺术家Beeple拼贴创作。图片来源:Christie's Images LTD. 2021/BEEPLE/Handout/REUTERS

显然,人们出售NFT能够赚钱。尽管自嘲“很烂”,但迄今为止全球所谓加密艺术家里收入最高的温克尔曼作品已经售出1.15亿美元。与此同时,支付巨头Visa公司负责加密业务的主管库伊·谢菲尔德认为,NFT为之前的弱势群体提供了重要的财富积累机会。他写道,该技术的出现“是最令人兴奋的新途径之一,可以刺激数字时代黑人复兴,未来十年为全世界黑人创造并获取数十亿美元。”

会是昙花一现吗?只是抢钱?还是说,全世界突然迷上艺术作品加密代币是对未来财富的一瞥?人们自然会想:投资NFT真能够赚钱吗?

NFT是什么?

首先,人们应该知道自己真正买的是什么。

NFT只是对特定作品的引用,并不是作品本身。我们可以将代币当成基于区块链的真实性证书,一种代表全球条目的可交易文件。“NFTweets”市场Cent的首席执行官及联合创始人卡梅隆·赫贾齐将相关物品比作“数字签名棒球卡,只是变成数字内容。”当然了,棒球卡也是虚拟的,只是一串数字和字母,是用电脑编码代指的其他物品,它能够是艺术品,也可以是虚拟房地产、推文,甚至放的屁。

如果说这一切听起来像是拜占庭蒸汽一样虚无缥缈,也不算完全错。Arweave是一个提供无限永久数字存储的项目,其首席执行官及联合创始人萨姆·威廉姆斯警告称,如果没有适当保护,原始艺术品可能从互联网上消失。NFT链接的物品已经出现了类似情况,至少暂时出现过,例如一条行星大小的天使挥舞长矛的视频,创作者为古怪的歌手兼词曲作者格里姆斯。

撇开技术不谈,NFT在财务角度能够被视为收藏品。顾问称之为“另类投资”,因为无法实现标准化。专家一般不建议用此类投资当成退休主要准备。(倾向建议用大部分财富投资于费率较低、跟踪指数的交易所交易基金,即ETF。 )

2021年4月7日,纽约市的Superchief画廊,也是一家NFT实体画廊。

图片来源:Dan Fastenberg—Reuters

不过,一些富裕人士还是通过收藏艺术品、名车、顶级葡萄酒和其他珍品实现投资组合多样化。还有人收集硬币、棒球卡、漫画书等。收藏者往往为了热爱,而不是单纯追求财富。从这个意义上说,NFT之于互联网就像现实世界中邮票之于集邮爱好者。

无限供给

当然,收藏品并不是每件都可以成功。(还记得波格斯吗?还有豆宝宝。)还有NFT如何出乎所有人预料,提前几年便获得财务收益。

多数人认为,NFT代表的一些庞大卓越的作品将占据食物链顶端且价值高企,下面则翻腾着无数没有那么值钱的物品。“从推文到动图再到视频精华,人们可能很快就会发现看似的限量版其实是无限供应,其中只有少数能够经得起时间的考验。”咨询公司安永(EY)负责全球区块链业务的保罗·布罗迪写道。不过从长远来看,他相信背后的技术。他表示,想象一下高效利用NFT获得稀缺资源,比如核磁共振成像设备、建筑设备,甚至是付款发票等,他称该项技术是“前途光明的重要经济基础设施”。

“炒作可能会在短期内会退散,技术则是长期的,只要时间够长,市场就会继续增长。”Variant Fund的创始人杰西·沃尔登指出。Variant Fund是专注于加密的投资机构,对NFT作品特别感兴趣。事实上,市场已经出现了降温迹象。然而真正看多加密市场的人可能会反驳说,其他人不那么感兴趣而且艺术品价格合适时就像狂热过后的宿醉,正是投资最佳时机。

毕竟,看看比特币和以太坊等加密货币的分裂市场就知道。最近加密货币回升到历史高点之前已经低位徘徊了数年。

风险与回报

即便在最精明的人看来,投资NFT充满风险,当然也蕴含机会。有些隐藏成本不得不考虑。

投机者要小心。由于所谓的矿工费,即以太坊网络上的交易成本,特定的NFT交易可能比挂牌价高得多,以太坊网络是大多数NFT绑定的区块链系统。最后真正支付的金额可能比想象中多出数百美元。(以太坊正计划未来升级技术以降低交易费用,而Tezos或EOS等区块链以提供更便宜的交易系统而得意。)

此外还有纳税问题。安永的加密货币税务中心负责人迈克尔·迈斯勒表示,如果快速倒手NFT就得付出代价。他说,购买后一年内出售可能要缴纳短期资本利得税,“该税率最高可达37%。”他表示。即便长期持有也好不了多少。因为现在大多数NFT可能会归类为收藏品,会因为长期资本收益率更高而特殊对待。像股票之类资产税率最高也就是20%,“收藏品税率可能达到28%。”

“这方面没有明确指导,但我观察拍卖行出售的NFT物品实际情况时发现,美国国税局(IRS)很可能根据艺术品的定义,将其认定为收藏品。”迈斯勒指出,法律上的认定可能意味着高额税率。问题很难解决。另一方面,代表虚拟房地产或其他数字商品的NFT仍然是悬而未决的问题。

“我认为,必须看看代币,看看背后具体的数字资产,再仔细核查到底代表了何种利益,才能够弄清楚可能使用怎样的税收政策。”迈斯勒说。

回报丰厚

有些人动身非常早,采取颇具创意的方法投资这一冷门前沿领域,后来则转为团队运动。

网名Twobadour Paanar的安纳德·范卡德瓦兰是印度加密货币投资者,也是Metapurse(专门收集NFT的基金)的合伙人之一。竞拍Beeple最昂贵的巨作《日常:第一个5000天》(Everydays: The First 5000 Days)之前,范卡德瓦兰和昵称MetaKovan的搭档维格尼什·桑达雷桑为Beeple的其他作品已经花费了数百万美元。随后两人将收入与其他数字商品捆绑在一起,例如虚拟现实游戏《Decentraland》里的虚拟房地产、美国知名DJ 3LAU制作的数字音轨等,再分拆成更多代币向公众出售。

尽管在无形的战利品上花费了大量金钱,Metapurse根据《The Beeple 20 Collection》命名的B.20代币销售利润相当可观,该作品为去年12月公司出资220万美元购买。基金将其分拆为1000万枚代币,自己保留了略超过一半,为合作者和其他人预留了约四分之一,其余则以每个0.36美元的价格向公众出售。如今代币价格已经涨到5美元左右(曾经达到略超27美元的高点)。从纸面上看,已经升值了1300%。

Metapurse声称并不期望获得财务回报。基金在官网上宣称:“ROI”也就是投资回报率并非“基金的主要驱动力”。基金还进一步声称:“不受灵活调整或创造财务传承需求的影响”。

就范卡德瓦兰而言,他提醒新手,通过NFT赚钱“非常困难。无法经过事先准备。不是看到某个NFT就能够说:‘嗯,这个可以赚钱,或者这个能够帮我发财。’”但他对有兴趣的人提出建议:“收藏越兼收并蓄就越好。”

至于为何强调涉足NFT是出于热爱而不是为了潜在的利益,可能只是战术选择。如果买卖NFT份额,可能触犯证券法,至少在美国如此。最近美国证券交易委员会(U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)对加密货币相当友好的监管者海丝特·皮尔斯警告称,NFT的代币化份额可能符合未注册证券的条件,在当前指导方针下属于非法。“要注意创造的并不是投资产品,而是证券。”她说。

应该对NFT下注吗?

如果你自认为眼光超出常人,则可以考虑搭建NFT投资组合。

Coinbase的总裁蔡慧仪最近告诉《财富》杂志,加密货币行业“不适合意志薄弱之人”,涉及NFT时她的话可能更值得参考。然而,可以尝试把自己当成天才球探,努力寻找下一个迈克尔·乔丹,在其他人发觉他会变成巨星之前出手买下某些精彩时刻,在乔丹的例子里可能就是买下他成为NBA顶级投手的时刻。或者能够把自己当成虚拟的土地投机者,就像网络版的约翰·雅各布·阿斯特一样。阿斯特是19世纪早期美国移民,曾经在曼哈顿岛买地暴富。要想成功,就要眼光比其他人更敏锐,具备发现趋势的稀有才能,还要有大把运气。

以下是开始的基础知识。首先要下载流行的数字钱包MetaMask,也是网络浏览器扩展或智能手机应用程序。接下来弄些以太坊,可以通过MetaMask购买,也能够从Coinbase、Kraken或Gemini等在线交易所转一些加密货币。之后通过OpenSea、Nifty Gateway或Super访问NFT市场,仔细阅读存货然后考虑购买。要查看排行榜,即购买或出售NFT的大玩家列表,可以访问收集数据和大宗销售的网站cryptoart.io,也能够去另一个追踪市场的nonfungible.com查看。

作为初出茅庐的NFT投资者,最好默认自己运气不好。如果可以跟志同道合的人合作,可能运气会好些。无论哪种方式,最明智的做法是仅当成爱好,只用闲置资金。如今还处于早期阶段,NFT收藏应该谨慎地当成支持喜欢的艺术家的方式而不是投资,展示审美品味即可。

还有一条建议:不要高估自己的技能。“NFT运动是文化复兴,主要由艺术家驱动,由创造者驱动的,也由游戏玩家驱动,等等。”Metapurse的范卡德瓦兰说。“除非你很喜欢,除非你在艺术家的世界里很舒服,否则会发现很难选择支持哪种NFT产品。”

老话曾说,淘金热时应该卖铲子而不是买铲子。或许像素时代也是一样。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

木槌敲下,响彻全世界。今年2月的佳士得拍卖行,迈克·温克尔曼的一幅电脑绘制素描画组成的庞大拼贴画以6930万美元售出,引发轩然大波。这一刻,数码收藏热潮也冲上顶峰。拍卖台上是非同质化代币,也叫NFT,即记录独特虚拟商品在区块链上的编码引用,而区块链正是比特币(Bitcoin)等加密货币背后的分布式账本,更常见的则是以太坊(Ethereum)。

过去一年里,随着加密货币价格飙升,NFT狂热愈演愈烈,就像EDM drop(电子舞曲中的高潮段落——译注)一样。时而化名为Beeple,时而叫Beeple Crap的温克尔曼就充分体现了该趋势,还有其他很多的例子,都可以证明当前的爆发性繁荣。从摇滚乐队莱昂国王(Kings of Leon)到R&B歌星威肯,多位音乐人以数百万美元价格出售了限量版音轨。《纽约时报》的专栏作家凯文·鲁斯以80多万美元卖出了一篇评论。推特的创始人及首席执行官杰克·多尔西以290万美元卖出了第一条推文,内容是“刚刚设置好我的推特。”(部分人将所得捐给了慈善机构。)

显然,人们出售NFT能够赚钱。尽管自嘲“很烂”,但迄今为止全球所谓加密艺术家里收入最高的温克尔曼作品已经售出1.15亿美元。与此同时,支付巨头Visa公司负责加密业务的主管库伊·谢菲尔德认为,NFT为之前的弱势群体提供了重要的财富积累机会。他写道,该技术的出现“是最令人兴奋的新途径之一,可以刺激数字时代黑人复兴,未来十年为全世界黑人创造并获取数十亿美元。”

会是昙花一现吗?只是抢钱?还是说,全世界突然迷上艺术作品加密代币是对未来财富的一瞥?人们自然会想:投资NFT真能够赚钱吗?

NFT是什么?

首先,人们应该知道自己真正买的是什么。

NFT只是对特定作品的引用,并不是作品本身。我们可以将代币当成基于区块链的真实性证书,一种代表全球条目的可交易文件。“NFTweets”市场Cent的首席执行官及联合创始人卡梅隆·赫贾齐将相关物品比作“数字签名棒球卡,只是变成数字内容。”当然了,棒球卡也是虚拟的,只是一串数字和字母,是用电脑编码代指的其他物品,它能够是艺术品,也可以是虚拟房地产、推文,甚至放的屁。

如果说这一切听起来像是拜占庭蒸汽一样虚无缥缈,也不算完全错。Arweave是一个提供无限永久数字存储的项目,其首席执行官及联合创始人萨姆·威廉姆斯警告称,如果没有适当保护,原始艺术品可能从互联网上消失。NFT链接的物品已经出现了类似情况,至少暂时出现过,例如一条行星大小的天使挥舞长矛的视频,创作者为古怪的歌手兼词曲作者格里姆斯。

撇开技术不谈,NFT在财务角度能够被视为收藏品。顾问称之为“另类投资”,因为无法实现标准化。专家一般不建议用此类投资当成退休主要准备。(倾向建议用大部分财富投资于费率较低、跟踪指数的交易所交易基金,即ETF。 )

2021年4月7日,纽约市的Superchief画廊,也是一家NFT实体画廊。

不过,一些富裕人士还是通过收藏艺术品、名车、顶级葡萄酒和其他珍品实现投资组合多样化。还有人收集硬币、棒球卡、漫画书等。收藏者往往为了热爱,而不是单纯追求财富。从这个意义上说,NFT之于互联网就像现实世界中邮票之于集邮爱好者。

无限供给

当然,收藏品并不是每件都可以成功。(还记得波格斯吗?还有豆宝宝。)还有NFT如何出乎所有人预料,提前几年便获得财务收益。

多数人认为,NFT代表的一些庞大卓越的作品将占据食物链顶端且价值高企,下面则翻腾着无数没有那么值钱的物品。“从推文到动图再到视频精华,人们可能很快就会发现看似的限量版其实是无限供应,其中只有少数能够经得起时间的考验。”咨询公司安永(EY)负责全球区块链业务的保罗·布罗迪写道。不过从长远来看,他相信背后的技术。他表示,想象一下高效利用NFT获得稀缺资源,比如核磁共振成像设备、建筑设备,甚至是付款发票等,他称该项技术是“前途光明的重要经济基础设施”。

“炒作可能会在短期内会退散,技术则是长期的,只要时间够长,市场就会继续增长。”Variant Fund的创始人杰西·沃尔登指出。Variant Fund是专注于加密的投资机构,对NFT作品特别感兴趣。事实上,市场已经出现了降温迹象。然而真正看多加密市场的人可能会反驳说,其他人不那么感兴趣而且艺术品价格合适时就像狂热过后的宿醉,正是投资最佳时机。

毕竟,看看比特币和以太坊等加密货币的分裂市场就知道。最近加密货币回升到历史高点之前已经低位徘徊了数年。

风险与回报

即便在最精明的人看来,投资NFT充满风险,当然也蕴含机会。有些隐藏成本不得不考虑。

投机者要小心。由于所谓的矿工费,即以太坊网络上的交易成本,特定的NFT交易可能比挂牌价高得多,以太坊网络是大多数NFT绑定的区块链系统。最后真正支付的金额可能比想象中多出数百美元。(以太坊正计划未来升级技术以降低交易费用,而Tezos或EOS等区块链以提供更便宜的交易系统而得意。)

此外还有纳税问题。安永的加密货币税务中心负责人迈克尔·迈斯勒表示,如果快速倒手NFT就得付出代价。他说,购买后一年内出售可能要缴纳短期资本利得税,“该税率最高可达37%。”他表示。即便长期持有也好不了多少。因为现在大多数NFT可能会归类为收藏品,会因为长期资本收益率更高而特殊对待。像股票之类资产税率最高也就是20%,“收藏品税率可能达到28%。”

“这方面没有明确指导,但我观察拍卖行出售的NFT物品实际情况时发现,美国国税局(IRS)很可能根据艺术品的定义,将其认定为收藏品。”迈斯勒指出,法律上的认定可能意味着高额税率。问题很难解决。另一方面,代表虚拟房地产或其他数字商品的NFT仍然是悬而未决的问题。

“我认为,必须看看代币,看看背后具体的数字资产,再仔细核查到底代表了何种利益,才能够弄清楚可能使用怎样的税收政策。”迈斯勒说。

回报丰厚

有些人动身非常早,采取颇具创意的方法投资这一冷门前沿领域,后来则转为团队运动。

网名Twobadour Paanar的安纳德·范卡德瓦兰是印度加密货币投资者,也是Metapurse(专门收集NFT的基金)的合伙人之一。竞拍Beeple最昂贵的巨作《日常:第一个5000天》(Everydays: The First 5000 Days)之前,范卡德瓦兰和昵称MetaKovan的搭档维格尼什·桑达雷桑为Beeple的其他作品已经花费了数百万美元。随后两人将收入与其他数字商品捆绑在一起,例如虚拟现实游戏《Decentraland》里的虚拟房地产、美国知名DJ 3LAU制作的数字音轨等,再分拆成更多代币向公众出售。

尽管在无形的战利品上花费了大量金钱,Metapurse根据《The Beeple 20 Collection》命名的B.20代币销售利润相当可观,该作品为去年12月公司出资220万美元购买。基金将其分拆为1000万枚代币,自己保留了略超过一半,为合作者和其他人预留了约四分之一,其余则以每个0.36美元的价格向公众出售。如今代币价格已经涨到5美元左右(曾经达到略超27美元的高点)。从纸面上看,已经升值了1300%。

Metapurse声称并不期望获得财务回报。基金在官网上宣称:“ROI”也就是投资回报率并非“基金的主要驱动力”。基金还进一步声称:“不受灵活调整或创造财务传承需求的影响”。

就范卡德瓦兰而言,他提醒新手,通过NFT赚钱“非常困难。无法经过事先准备。不是看到某个NFT就能够说:‘嗯,这个可以赚钱,或者这个能够帮我发财。’”但他对有兴趣的人提出建议:“收藏越兼收并蓄就越好。”

至于为何强调涉足NFT是出于热爱而不是为了潜在的利益,可能只是战术选择。如果买卖NFT份额,可能触犯证券法,至少在美国如此。最近美国证券交易委员会(U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)对加密货币相当友好的监管者海丝特·皮尔斯警告称,NFT的代币化份额可能符合未注册证券的条件,在当前指导方针下属于非法。“要注意创造的并不是投资产品,而是证券。”她说。

应该对NFT下注吗?

如果你自认为眼光超出常人,则可以考虑搭建NFT投资组合。

Coinbase的总裁蔡慧仪最近告诉《财富》杂志,加密货币行业“不适合意志薄弱之人”,涉及NFT时她的话可能更值得参考。然而,可以尝试把自己当成天才球探,努力寻找下一个迈克尔·乔丹,在其他人发觉他会变成巨星之前出手买下某些精彩时刻,在乔丹的例子里可能就是买下他成为NBA顶级投手的时刻。或者能够把自己当成虚拟的土地投机者,就像网络版的约翰·雅各布·阿斯特一样。阿斯特是19世纪早期美国移民,曾经在曼哈顿岛买地暴富。要想成功,就要眼光比其他人更敏锐,具备发现趋势的稀有才能,还要有大把运气。

以下是开始的基础知识。首先要下载流行的数字钱包MetaMask,也是网络浏览器扩展或智能手机应用程序。接下来弄些以太坊,可以通过MetaMask购买,也能够从Coinbase、Kraken或Gemini等在线交易所转一些加密货币。之后通过OpenSea、Nifty Gateway或Super访问NFT市场,仔细阅读存货然后考虑购买。要查看排行榜,即购买或出售NFT的大玩家列表,可以访问收集数据和大宗销售的网站cryptoart.io,也能够去另一个追踪市场的nonfungible.com查看。

作为初出茅庐的NFT投资者,最好默认自己运气不好。如果可以跟志同道合的人合作,可能运气会好些。无论哪种方式,最明智的做法是仅当成爱好,只用闲置资金。如今还处于早期阶段,NFT收藏应该谨慎地当成支持喜欢的艺术家的方式而不是投资,展示审美品味即可。

还有一条建议:不要高估自己的技能。“NFT运动是文化复兴,主要由艺术家驱动,由创造者驱动的,也由游戏玩家驱动,等等。”Metapurse的范卡德瓦兰说。“除非你很喜欢,除非你在艺术家的世界里很舒服,否则会发现很难选择支持哪种NFT产品。”

老话曾说,淘金热时应该卖铲子而不是买铲子。或许像素时代也是一样。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

It was the gavel smack heard round the world: Mike Winkelmann made waves in February when he sold, through Christie’s auction house, a gargantuan collage of frequently crass computer-crafted sketches for $69.3 million. The moment signaled the apex of a digital collectible craze. On the auction block were non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, coded references to one-of-a-kind virtual goods that are logged on a blockchain, the distributed accounting ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and, more often, in this case, Ethereum.

NFT mania crescendoed over the past year, like the buildup to an EDM drop, as prices of the cryptocurrencies to which they’re tied soared. Winkelmann, who goes by the alias Beeple, or sometimes Beeple Crap, represents the apotheosis of the trend, but there are plenty other examples of unbridled exuberance. Musical artists ranging from the rock band Kings of Leon to the R&B pop star the Weeknd have sold limited-edition audio tracks for millions of dollars. New York Times columnist Kevin Roose pawned off an op-ed for $804,354.50. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and chief executive, hocked his first-ever tweet—“just setting up my twttr”—for $2.9 million. (Some of them donated the proceeds to charity.)

Clearly, people can make money selling NFTs. Winklemann, the world’s highest-grossing so-called crypto artist, has off-loaded $115 million worth of works to date, despite self-deprecating disclaimers that “I suck ass.” Meanwhile, Cuy Sheffield, head of crypto at Visa, the payments giant, argues that NFTs present a significant wealth-building opportunity for historically disadvantaged groups. He writes that the advent of the technology “is one of the most exciting new avenues that could spur a Black Digital Renaissance that would create and capture billions of dollars of value for Black communities across the world over the next decade.”

Is this all just a flash in the pan? A cash grab? Or is the world’s sudden infatuation with artsy crypto tokens an early glimpse of fortunes to be made? One must naturally wonder: Can people make money by investing in NFTs?

What is an NFT?

First, people ought to know what they’re really buying.

An NFT is a reference to a given work, not the work itself. Consider the token as a sort of blockchain-based certificate of authenticity, a kind of tradable file representing a global bibliographic entry. Cameron Hejazi, the chief executive and cofounder of Cent, a marketplace for “NFTweets,” compares these items to “the digital analog of the signed baseball card, just for digital content.” Of course, the card is virtual in this case—a string of numbers and letters, a computer coded allusion to something else, whether that be artwork, virtual real estate, tweets, or even, apparently, farts.

If that all sounds like Byzantine vaporware to you, you’re not exactly wrong. Sam Williams, the chief executive and cofounder of Arweave, a project that aims to offer unlimited, permanent digital storage, warns that original pieces of art can vanish from the Internet if not properly secured. That’s already happened to some NFT-linked wares, at least temporarily, such as a video of a spear-wielding, planet-size baby angel created by Grimes, the eccentric singer-songwriter.

Technology aside, NFTs can be thought of financially as collectibles. Advisers call them “alternative investments,” in the sense that they are nonstandard. Experts generally do not recommend them as one’s first line of defense in preparing for retirement. (They tend to recommend stashing the bulk of one’s wealth funds in low-fee, index-tracking exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.)

Nevertheless, some well-to-do people do diversify their portfolios by collecting things such as fine art, fancy cars, premier wines, and other rarities. Other people hoard coins, baseball cards, comic books, etcetera. Often these people are guided by passion, rather than lucre. In that sense, NFTs are to the Internet what postage stamps are to philately in the physical world.

Infinite supply

Collectibles don’t always pan out, of course. (Remember Pogs? Beanie Babies?) And how NFTs shake out monetarily in the years ahead is anyone’s guess.

Most people assume some titanic, towering works, represented as NFTs, will account for the vast majority of wealth at the top of the food chain, while a seemingly endless amount of shlock churns beneath. “From tweets to GIFs to video highlights, people may soon discover there is an infinite supply of limited editions, and only a few of these may stand the test of time,” writes Paul Brody, the global blockchain leader at consultancy EY. Still, he believes in the technology behind them over the long haul. Imagine, he says, if access to scarce resources, such as MRI machines, construction equipment, or even payment invoices, was more efficient through NFTs, he says, calling the tech “an essential economic infrastructure with a bright future.”

“While the hype may dissipate in the short term, the technology's going to be around long term, and the markets will only continue to grow over a long enough time horizon,” says Jesse Walden, founder of Variant Fund, a crypto-focused investment outfit with a special interest in NFT works. Indeed, the market is already showing signs of a drawdown. Yet true crypto bulls might counter that post-mania hangovers are the perfect time to invest, when other people are less interested, and pieces become more affordable.

Just look at what happened in the schizophrenic market for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, after all. Their value lagged for years before rocketing back up to all-time highs recently.

Risk vs. Reward

Investing in NFTs is an activity fraught with risk—yet possible opportunity—for the savviest people. But there are hidden costs to consider.

Speculators, beware. A given NFT could run up much more than the listed price because of so-called gas fees, the transaction costs on the Ethereum network, the blockchain system to which most NFTs are tied. You might end up paying hundreds of dollars more than you imagined. (Ethereum is planning to deploy technological upgrades that will reduce the transaction fees in time to come, while other blockchains, like Tezos or EOS, pride themselves on offering cheaper transactional systems.)

Also, there are taxes. Michael Meisler, who leads EY’s cryptocurrency tax center, says that if you quickly flip an NFT, you’ll pay a price. Selling an NFT within a year of purchase likely causes short-term capital gains taxes to kick in, “which max out at ordinary rates of 37%, effectively,” he says. The outcome isn’t much better for long-term holdings. Because today most NFTs are likely classified as collectibles, they get treated specially with a higher-than-normal long-term capital gains rate. Instead of maxing out at 20%, as is the case with stock sales, “you would now have a rate of 28%.”

“There's no clear guidance on this, but when I look at the facts and circumstances behind an NFT that is sold in an auction house, it suggests that the IRS would assert that it is in fact a collectible, as in, under the definition of a work of art,” Meisler says, noting that this legal distinction entails higher tax rates. But the matter is hardly settled: NFTs representing virtual real estate, or other digital goods, on the other hand, remain an open question.

“I think you almost have to look at the token, look at that digital asset, and almost look through it to see what does it actually represent an interest in, in order to figure out what the appropriate tax treatment might be,” Meisler says.

Many returns

Some people taking the earliest, most creative approaches to this far-out frontier of investing are turning it into a team sport.

Anand Venkateswaran, an Indian cryptocurrency investor who goes by the online alias Twobadour Paanar, is one of the partners of Metapurse, a fund that specializes in collecting NFTs. Before placing the winning bid on Beeple’s priciest monstrosity, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, Venkateswaran and his partner, Vignesh Sundaresan, who goes by the nickname MetaKovan, laid out millions for other Beeple works. The pair then bundled their haul together with other digital goodies—virtual real estate in video games like Decentraland, techno-tunes by DJ 3LAU—and sold fractionalized shares of the ensemble to the public as yet more tokens.

Despite spending lavishly on their immaterial trophies, Metapurse’s so-called B.20 tokens—named after The Beeple 20 Collection it purchased for $2.2 million in December—yielded a tidy profit. The fund created 10 million fractional tokens, reserving a little more than half the supply for itself, setting aside about a quarter portion for collaborators and others, and selling the rest to the public for $0.36 a pop. The price has increased to about $5 today (once reaching a high of just over $27). On paper, that’s a 1,300% markup.

Metapurse claims that it doesn’t expect a financial return from its endeavors. On its website, the fund says that “ROI”—or return on investment—"is not the primary driver of this fund.” It further claims the fund “is unencumbered by the need to flex or to create a financial legacy.”

Venkateswaran, for his part, cautions novices that making money on NFTs "is very difficult. It's not cut-and-dried. It's not like you look at an NFT and go, Okay, this one's gonna make me money, or this one will gain me wealth.” But for those who have an interest, he advises, “the more eclectic your collection is, I think, the better it is.”

All that emphasis on dabbling in NFTs for the love of the game, rather than for the potential upside, may be a tactical choice. If you’re buying and selling fractional shares of NFTs, you could run afoul of securities laws, at least in the U.S. Hester Peirce, the crypto-friendliest regulator on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, warned recently that tokenized shares of NFTs could qualify as unregistered securities, making them illegal under current guidelines. "You better be careful that you're not creating something that's an investment product, that's a security," she said.

Should you bet on NFTs?

If you think you’ve got an eye for masterpieces unlike anyone else, go ahead and consider starting an NFT portfolio.

Coinbase's president, Emilie Choi, recently told Fortune that the cryptocurrency industry is "not for the faint of heart," and her words may ring even truer when it comes to NFTs. Nevertheless, you could attempt to be like an athletics talent scout, trying to identify the next Michael Jordan, and buying that athlete’s early moments—in this case, maybe, as NBA Top Shots—before anyone realizes that person is going to be a star. Or perhaps you could consider yourself a virtual land speculator, like an online version of John Jacob Astor, the early 19th-century American immigrant who became filthy rich by buying up land on Manhattan island. To succeed, you need a keener eye than just about anyone else, a rare talent for spotting trends, and unfathomable loads of luck.

Here are some basic directions on how to get started. First, download MetaMask, a popular digital wallet, as a web browser extension or smartphone app. Next, load up some Ethereum, which you can buy through MetaMask, or transfer some cryptocurrency over from an online exchange, such as Coinbase, Kraken, or Gemini. Then visit an NFT marketplace, like OpenSea, Nifty Gateway, or SuperRare, peruse the inventory, and consider making a purchase. To see a running leaderboard—a list of the top people buying or selling NFTs—you can visit cryptoart.io, a site that aggregates data on the biggest sales, or nonfungible.com, another market tracker.

It’s best to assume the odds are stacked against you as a budding NFT investor—you might have better luck teaming up with like-minded individuals. Either way, it's most advisable to participate merely as a hobby, using dispensable cash only. NFT collecting ought, at this early stage, to be more prudently considered as spending—supporting your favorite artists, showing off your aesthetic taste—versus investing.

A piece of advice: Don't overestimate your skills. “The NFT movement is a cultural renaissance. It's driven by artists. It's driven by creators. It's driven by gamers, and so on,” Metapurse’s Venkateswaran says. “Unless you're comfortable in their company, unless you're comfortable in their world, you're going to find it very difficult to pick the right NFTs to back.”

An age-old adage advises people to sell pickaxes—not buy them—during a gold rush. Maybe the same holds true of pixels.

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