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CryptoPunks get punked
A new report shows most NFTs are worthless. This won’t change.

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“Sad Ape Yacht Club” by DALL•E

During the peak of the 2021 crypto boom, Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur famous on social media, bought a non-fungible token (NFT) of an ape wearing an orange hat for $5.9m. Two years later, it was worthless. A report from dappGambl, a crypto-gambling platform, shows this is the norm. Their research demonstrates that 95% of NFTs created are worth nothing. Sure, punters will always get caught up in speculative manias. But the NFT craze will never return.

First, huge losses will keep people away. Of the more than 73,000 NFT collections dappGambl looked at, almost 70,000 had a market capitalisation of zero. That means more than 23m people have worthless NFTs. Speculative assets, like these blockchain offspring, depend on price momentum to produce a return. With so many punters nursing wipeout losses, the NFT-as-an-investment culture is dead.

Second, without rising prices, there isn’t enough demand. Of all the NFT collections produced, 79% remain unsold. That is to say, their creators published them, but no one bought them. It wasn’t just tech enthusiasts, either. Celebrities from Snoop Dogg, a rapper, to Bella Hadid, a model, jumped on the bandwagon. With every man and his Snoop getting in on the action, a glut of low-quality supply followed. In fact, artists created five times as many NFTs as people wanted to buy. That puts downward pressure on prices and reveals they are not scarce commodities.

Third, the environmental impact of creating an NFT is brutal. It takes an average of 83kg of carbon emissions to make a single NFT. That’s the same as the average American home emits in four days. Of the 248,000 NFTs in existence, 196,000 have never sold. That means the total emissions from creating these unsold, worthless tokens is the same as 2,048 homes would produce in an entire year. What a waste.

As our societies become more climate-aware, the scale of NFT waste will come into focus. If heavy losses and limited price action don’t turn punters off, this surely will.

Benjamin Tan's avatar
Speculation gone wrong
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