After selling Nyan Cat as an NFT, its creator, Chris Torres, has found himself working on an even bigger event: a week-long series of auctions where classic memes are being sold on the blockchain by their original creators. Torres calls the event Memeconomy, and he’s hoping it’ll bring both recognition to the meme creators, as well as to the NFT space.
The memes involved should be recognizable if you were on the internet in the early 2010s. They include:
There will also be an auction of a new meme: a crossover between Twerky Pepe (a popular NFT creator) and the classic Nyan Cat. (Have you ever wanted to see thicc Nyan Cat? Now you can.)
The event is already under way, and so far the first meme, Bad Luck Brain, sold for just over $37,000. Coughing Cat is currently up for auction.
What’s an NFT?
NFTs allow you to buy and sell ownership of unique digital items and keep track of who owns them using the blockchain. NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” and it can technically contain anything digital, including drawings, animated GIFs, songs, or items in video games. An NFT can either be one of a kind, like a real-life painting, or one copy of many, like trading cards, but the blockchain keeps track of who has ownership of the file.
NFTs have been making headlines lately, some selling for millions of dollars, with high-profile memes like Nyan Cat and the “deal with it” sunglasses being put up for auction. There’s also a lot of discussion about the massive electricity use and environmental impacts of NFTs. If you (understandably) still have questions, you can read through our NFT FAQ.
While the memes are mostly from the same era, Torres says that it’s not on purpose. “Honestly there was no real agenda” when it came to the selection of memes, he told The Verge, saying that the original meme creators had contacted him independently. He says that he won’t be making any money off the auctions themselves, he just wanted to help get the creators set up so they could get “proper recognition” after “10 plus years without [it].”
While NFTs are supposed to validate ownership, there’s no guarantee that the person creating an NFT owns the artwork they’re selling. There have been artists talking about how their work has been stolen and NFT-ized, and Giphy has tweeted that it was looking into user content being used by NFT sites. Torres knows it’s an issue and said that he made sure that everyone he talked to about NFTs was both the actual creator of the meme and actually held the rights to it. He also said that meme theft wasn’t a new problem: “sometimes you look over and there’s a company that has your picture on a shirt and they’re making millions of dollars without even talking to you about it.”
In the short term, the Memeconomy could put some cash (well, crypto) in the pockets of creators and open the doors for them to show off some recent work, if they have any. It could also work to build a community — finding friends through the process of organizing the Memeconomy event and through interactions in the NFT space.
In the long term, though, Torres thinks the meme NFTs will become collectables, and that “eventually somebody’s gonna want to have all of them” and it’ll “be a big fight to own all the memes whenever that time comes.” He said he “can’t wait to see that like a VR room with all the memes all displayed, that’s like… that would be awesome, like a grand collection of memes.”