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Obscure NFT Collection Based on Memes Fetches $83M Market Cap
Founded by Punk6529 The Memes Seeks to Change Up NFT Model and Pursue ‘Open Metaverse’
On Jan. 19, something unusual happened in the NFT market — a CryptoPunk, which typically sells for a minimum of $100,000, was swapped for a full set of tokens from an obscure collection called The Memes.
The transaction wouldn’t have been conceivable three months ago. The Memes, a collection that declares the viral images are “the most important thing in the world,” was little known in the NFT market. Now the value of the collection has skyrocketed 19-fold, to 52,916 ETH or $83M, according to data provider NFTGo.
The idea behind The Memes collection is that memes, transmittable units of culture, can be owned in the form of NFTs. It may strike many as counterintuitive — the whole point of memes, of course, is to share takes through widely recognizable images.
But Punk6529, a popular pseudonymous figure in the crypto community and the primary driver of The Memes project, has long argued NFTs expressing “memetic ownership” are negotiable products. Punk6529 rose to fame in 2021 thanks to a slew of threads offering unique perspectives on crypto, with a particular focus on NFTs’ potential.
“NFTs are the fastest, most scalable, most potent layer ever built to finance and transport ‘art,’ and ‘memes,’” Punk6529 tweeted in August 2021.
The pseudonymous influencer thinks of symbols like American Flag and the Nike logo as memes. He thinks equally powerful memes, which he sees as forms of “myths,” will rise from the world of NFTs.
“In three to five years we will see global brands that were built off NFT collections,” Punk6529 said on a recent podcast with Raoul Pal, CEO and co-founder Real Vision, a media platform.
In terms of art, Punk6529 may have a point. The artist Jasper Johns, after all, struck a chord in 1954-55 with his acclaimed painting of an American flag. While he used newsprint in the substrate, Flag was not stylized in any radical way. But the very act of its painting reflected Old Glory’s iconic power as symbol, especially in a post-war context.
By the same token, Andy Warhol revolutionized the conception of art by reproducing pop icons — the memes of their day — such as the Campbell soup can and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
Punk6529 isn’t making art, but with memes the new lingua franca of social media, the collector is spotlighting the idea that icons can be owned.
Even so, the value of The Memes may have more to do with speculation than the appreciation of artistic concepts. Moreover, it’s difficult to prove that owning an NFT of The Memes collection actually means a person owns the culture unit at all — after all, memes are arguably freely transmissible by nature.
Regardless, The Memes are on fire right now. And like all art, it’s hard to discern exactly why some collections get hot and others don’t. But The Memes uses a novel minting model that’s caught the eye of investors.