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one year after Beeple sale, non-fungible tokens have become mainstream

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One year ago, an artwork was sold for US$69 million (£52.6 million) by the prestigious auction house Christie’s. This was no lost Matisse or rarely seen Van Gogh. Instead, it was a composite collection of digital art by the then relatively unknown artist Beeple.

What makes this piece, Everydays: the First 5000 Days, truly remarkable, is that it was sold as a non-fungible token (NFT). In the year since that sale, NFTs have gone from a relatively obscure tech-world phenomenon to the mainstream.

NFTs are tokens that exist on a secure record-keeping system called a blockchain. These tokens are akin to certificates of ownership a gallery might give to an art collector, but for digital items.

Celebrities such as Eminem and Jimmy Fallon have helped raise the profile of NFTs through the Bored Ape Yacht Club profile picture collection. These collections have become so popular that Twitter now allows users to use their NFTs as their profile image.

For the collectors, NFTs are arguably a digital extension of benign hobbyist pursuits. In recent generations, collectors may…

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