Why NFT Brands Keep Making Real Things

Hold on, we thought the point was buying and selling virtual things

hands holding the word NFT on purple background
NFTs are supposed to be digital art, so what's up with the merch?
Boris Zhitkov via Getty

The point of NFTs, non-fungible tokens, is that they’re completely unique. They’re virtual art! They’re one of a kind! From apes to…whatever Eric Andre’s is, NFTs were supposed to be a digital art auction. Who cares if you can’t actually hold it in your hands, it’s about the clout. 

But the companies that create them keep making things you can actually hold in your hands, with the newest being branded Bored Ape cereals. It doesn’t stop there. You want a bored ape fanny pack? Here you go. What about a commemorative painting of Melania Trump’s eyes when you purchase said NFT version of her eyes? That too.

While NFTs were supposed to be the great equalizer for digital art (even though that claim is loose at best in terms of actual artist accreditation), they’ve become something of an online joke. From Twitter users uploading their own “NFTs” as their icons, to a steady stream of memes about clicking save on NFT artwork, the internet doesn’t really get NFTs. 

And that’s also the point; the NFT community doesn’t need you to get it. They just want you to know they get it, and what better way to do that than with merch they can show off while owning digital art that costs thousands of dollars? In an explainer on NFTs from The Verge, they discuss how “the communal activities depend on the community. For Pudgy Penguin or Bored Ape owners, it seems to involve vibing and sharing memes on Discord, or complimenting each other on their Pudgy Penguin Twitter avatars.” Four in ten Americans don’t know what an NFT is, but they’re designed to go viral; even if you don’t know what an NFT is, if you’ve been online, you’ve probably seen the apes. 

Even if no one really understands what it is they’re buying in the first place, with these physical items, makers are bringing NFTs further and further into the mainstream. If the quiet part loud of NFTs is their exclusivity, things like cereals and hoodies make the average NFT bro a part of the club, especially if they haven’t been able to purchase a thousand dollar ape. Like high school cliques that dress in a certain way, NFT owners are attempting to market themselves as their own clique, both online, and IRL.

Now, if only they could get rid of the right click to save feature. 

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