Like Ash Ketchum was first told by Professor Oak in the world of Pokémon, you gotta’ catch them all. But, in the real world, we opt to collect them all.
If you’re a Millennial, you’re no stranger to collectibles like Beanie Babies, POGS (milk caps), Pokémon trading cards, Yu-Gi-Oh, or even Magic: The Gathering games. With each collectible, either we or our parents, were spending hundreds of dollars purchasing them. But, once we had them, what did we do with them? Well, some actually played with them; but, most often, we encased them on our shelves, put them in protective sleeves, or traded them with friends. If I had to take a gamble, I would say that after a short while, we stopped using them, only for them to end up on a shelf or in a box somewhere in our attic or basement.
The takeaway here is that we could do what we wanted with them, because we owned them. But, have no fear, because despite the technological age we are now in, collectibles are still around, just in a different form. The world is moving on from paper, and when it comes to your most prized possessions, so should you. However, a major issue to note is how to address the items we collect, but don’t necessarily own. Weighing the scale, we have the creators and developers on one end, and the purchasers and consumers on the other end.
So, how can we ensure this industry doesn’t turn into another fad of sorts? It starts with acknowledging that the collectibles industry is here to stay, and the blockchain can help keep them alive.
What Are ‘Digital Collectibles?’
Everyone loves to collect something—whether it’s classic cars, autographs, books, stamps, and as discussed above, trading cards. For the millennial generation and those born in the ‘90’s, for example, it was POGs and Pokémon cards. But, these “collectibles” aren’t new to the consumer market.
But, when you hear the term digital collectibles, you probably associate companies like CryptoKitties with it. But what are “digital collectibles?” Earning over $1.7 billion in 2017, this market consists of digital objects that you have purchased and have total control over—you can keep it or sell it, and the only person who has say over it, is you.
Similar to traditional collectibles, digital collectibles, often referred to as “non-fungible tokens” (NFTs), are attractive because of its scarcity. Similar to fungible tokens such as bitcoin, ethereum, and some of the larger cryptocurrency projects, NFT’s cannot be copied, duplicated, or reproduced. This in turn, reduces the potential for illicit activity, essentially “marking” the currency or tokens. However, unlike fungible tokens, NFT’s are unique in nature because they represent one and only one asset. They are distinguishable from one another. For example, think of a limited-edition piece of art or special edition baseball card. The focus is on the characteristic itself of these items that make it so appealing.
But, collectibles are just one method in which NFT’s can be utilized. Other applications of NFT’s include verifying an individual’s identity (e.g. digital passport), flight information (digital plane ticket), and authenticating land transactions such as deeds and title transfers. All of these are unique because the items are specific to the holder. Other applications could eventually lead to migrating our birth certificates and academic credentials onto the Blockchain.
With all crypto-collectibles, you’ll notice many have an image associated with them, differentiating each collectible from the other. Take CryptoKitties for example—each asset or “kitty” has a unique look and design. With the blockchain, there may be avatars or stickers you can collect, which represent the actual asset.
3 Things Blockchain Technology Can Do for Your Collectibles
#1 –A Verifiable Chain of Custody
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again, because it’s fundamentally important to any conversation involving blockchain technology. The blockchain revolves around the distributed ledger technology (“DLT”), allowing for goods to be traced, verified, and recorded on an immutable ledger. In simple words, every attribute associated with NFT’s can be tracked and authenticated.
Applying this technology to concepts such as land transactions where you have the creation and transfer of property deeds would be a very good application . The blockchain could essentially replace outdated recording systems.
#2 –Sole Ownership Over A Massive Distribution Network
As I previously mentioned, NFT’s can only be owned in full by one person, making it impossible to separate and/or divide them. But, one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure. When it comes to filling our homes and online libraries with new possessions, people have this ever-growing urge to own things that are scarce or unusual. It’s no longer about delivering goods to nearby places. Rather, these goods can be purchased and acquired from anywhere in the world, making the distribution much larger and much wider.
#3 –Reinforcing Our Constitutional Right to Create and Develop
Under the Intellectual Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” As the source of Congress’ power to enact legislation governing copyrights and patents, this too can be extended to digital works .
The blockchain only buffers and enhances the meaning of this provision, providing for a more transparent means in which authors, inventors, and artists can be recognized for their work, but also have it protected through digital certificates on an encrypted network. It’s no different than a software provider like Microsoft, attaching its own digital certificate to its Office line for authenticity. Additionally, recognizing the digital overlay for works to be distributed either on a massive scale or on a limited basis, the creators of these works can have the ability to profit off special works or limited editions due to the introduction of limited token releases.
What’s Worth Collecting For the Future?
So, I did a little digging myself and came up with my top three list of projects to keep your eyes peeled on for your future collections.
#1 –MLB Crypto
Back in July, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) announced that it is bringing digital collectibles to the ethereum blockchain. The blockchain gaming company, Lucid Sight, is launching MLB Crypto Baseball, a DApp, through a licensing deal with the MLB. While this doesn’t necessarily fall in play with the baseball space, MLB’s executive VP of gaming and new business ventures, Kenny Gersh, stated that the MLB has been eyeing cryptocurrency for a long time and had previously rejected other ideas before agreeing to the licensing deal with Lucid Sight.
“We talked a long time ago about bitcoin and whether we should accept it as payment for MLB.tv and some of our other products, and we opted not to,” Gersh said. “At the end of the day we decided that isn’t our business, we’re not in the speculation business. We’re in the business of delivering baseball to fans. So this game is a more interesting intersection of blockchain technology and what we do.”
This is exciting for fans because they will have the ability to pay in ether, purchasing digital avatars tied to specific moments in recent games. They are then able to sell those items, or in some cases, earn rewards and stickers.
This is yet another big move in the sports space, as earlier this summer, the NBA announced the Sacramento Kings also bringing their own ideas to the Ethereum Blockchain. Sports fans, stay tuned.
Like other collectibles in the space, GameDex is an up-and-coming project, concentrating its efforts on building a platform for the collection of digital collectibles as well as the games they can be used in, including, but not limited to fantasy creatures, digital pets, and sports cards. While still in its initial phases, the company told me that they will be first turning their platform’s attention to the more popular and retro collectibles, similar to a modern-day Steam platform.
All of its collectibles will be assets traded against their native token, GDX. The design of the platform has names that were formerly associated with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitch, and Sony, providing the necessary expertise and insight in how to make their platform a viable and adaptable digital infrastructure. With an interesting combination of team members, this is a project to surely keep your eyes tuned on.
If you’re a traveler like me, with wanderlust integrated into your bones, you’ll enjoy this project. CryptoCountries, allows you to digitally become the owner of any state in the U.S. or any other country in the world. This DApp operates as an interactive game that lets the user buy and own countries as “smart contracts” on the ethereum blockchain. Once you acquire a state or country, you take ownership of that nation, and it automatically increases in price. It’s like the modern update to a Rollercoaster Tycoon or Sims City style atmosphere. The interesting part is when users who want to buy or claim a territory, expects to pay double the amount the previous owner purchased the country for—if another user is willing to pay double, the current owner has no say in the transaction and must sell their country. An interesting concept.