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Let’s Talk Tokens

Kirk Englehardt is a photographer who took to crypto to sell his work online. He has posted 14 collections of about five photos each for sale so far, and has made many sales in the last couple years as he invested more time in creating and then uploading (or “minting”) his digital collectibles.

Englehardt’s work draws from his experiences in Florida, visiting country fairs, naval exhibitions, and antique car shows with his kids. He has an eye for the surprising detail in objects and situations you might otherwise take for granted.

Three of his collections, about Mondays, about sharks, and about fireworks, have sold out, fetching between 1 and 2 Solanas per photo. Cryptocurrency Solana is about $14 today, down from $243 a year ago. You see the problem.

“The market appears in dire straits, but the sales are happening,” explains Englehardt.  “Collectors are collecting and for those of us who are doubling down now, we’re selling art, for me —at a pace faster than I’ve ever sold it,” he says.

He points to a chart shared by British artist Bright Light showing how the number of crypto transactions has gone up as prices went down. Crypto earnings “will appreciate over time,” Englehardt explains. “It would have been difficult to get sales when the crypto-USD equivalency was double what it is now.”

Englehardt recognizes that he has the luxury to wait for crypto prices to recover because art is not his day job. The FTX debacle is “a bigger issue for those who rely on their NFT sales to pay the rent,” he says. “A piece on Solana that would have sold for $170 a month ago, is now going for $70: that’s tremendous impact on the full time artist.”

He says some artists are holding back releasing their work to wait out the crisis, but he has the opposite strategy. “I’m doubling my output and I am seeing sales —despite the downturn,” he says. “One Solana may be worth $14 today, 1 Solana may be worth double or triple that in the not so distant future; so everything I earn now, while collectors can collect for real bargain USD prices, will grow as long as I don’t cash it out.”

At Verb we share Englehardt’s optimism. Only five years ago, mosts artists like him didn’t have any of these online options to make money from their work. “I predict that in a year’s time the value of my crypto portfolio will be more robust than it was before this FTX debacle,” he says. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more photography to mint to the blockchain.”

You have to roll with it

If you are not an artist to put work on sale online, you can still mint tokens by pedaling your bike. Your Verb correspondent decided to try customer Compass UOL’s app and last week earned the first token in the Tour de Terre challenge, the “Plants” bike pictured here, after riding 106 miles in a series of short commutes adding up to about 10 hours of cycling in five weeks.

The “Plants” token looks a little like we left the bike out in the garden in Florida

The experience showed us that you can use tokens in any situation where you want to reward people to join you in achieving a common goal. In this case, the token helped by attaching an specific milestone, riding a bike for 106 miles, to the broad aspiration of reducing carbon emissions. Before the token, your correspondent already cared about carbon emissions, had a bike, and used all the required fitness tracking technology (smartwatch, health apps) but still did those short commutes by car. The genius of the token was to put things in motion.

Worth a shot, no?

Finance people were instantly attracted to the magic of crypto to create value out of nothing. You can hear their brains whirring in Matt Levine’s brilliant cover story for Bloomberg Business Week:

  1. You can make up an arbitrary token that trades electronically.
  2. If you do that, people might pay a nonzero amount of money for it.
  3. Worth a shot, no?

Another reason to read Levine’s story is that he lays out in plain terms all the basic technology concepts underpinning crypto. For example, did you know that crypto mining computers are not doing complex math but generating random numbers until they find a match? That is why crypto is so wasteful.

Over the last few years we all came across dense crypto descriptions. Some of the concepts are new and need new language, but we now know that others were just lies. Avoid jargon like Levine and you will come closer to understanding the value of crypto. FTX is just another acronym, but we aren’t done talking about tokens.