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What are NFTs? And why are they relevant?

By Sheree Gotuaco, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 06, 2022 7:13 am

I come from a brick-and-mortar background, yet it is still possible to understand what NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are and learn why they are relevant. In this article, I will attempt to explain NFTs simply yet comprehensively and afterwards, I will briefly share my journey into the NFT space.

It is deeply human to want to own something that we value, and this stems from centuries of ownership. Even during the Stone Age, men would carve on their tools or tie special leather to their dagger handle to differentiate it from others’ tools. They used it as a stamp of ownership.

Moving forward thousands of years later, in the area of art, 13th-century Europeans would commission artists to paint frescoes on walls or ceilings to personalize their homes.

Abdulmari Imao

In the mid-16th century, the first artworks on canvas were made. There were detractors who were worried that these paintings would be lost, stolen or burned, but there were early adaptors who moved to this new medium. Today, we all know that art preserved on canvas is one of its most valuable mediums, as well as a ubiquitous method of transferring ownership.

In the 17th century, the first land title was issued in the US because it was important to have something to hold onto that proved one owned the land, as they further invested in the land by building a house.

Toym Imao

Through time, more and more physical and intangible assets were assigned a certificate of ownership for security and legal proof of transfer of ownership.

In the 1950s the first computers were built. Big and clunky as they were, they opened up many other possibilities. It wasn’t until the 1980s that computers were adopted by the masses and became accessible to homes, giving rise to digital assets. From then, more and more digital works were created from these computers such as graphic artworks, videos, documents, PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, music and much more.

In the last 40 years, with digital copies proliferating, there has been no way to attribute specific provenance to a digital asset. It was very difficult to prove who the original creator was and also for the creator to sell the digital asset because there was no proof of ownership. All that was impossible — until now, with NFTs.

Jose Joya

Non-fungible tokens make this possible due to the ability to record the ownership of a digital asset onto a blockchain. A blockchain is a database of transactions, and once an asset is recorded onto it, it is immutable or cannot be changed. It can also record the transfer of ownership, which is crucial in tracing the history of transactions.

NFTs are unique assets that make it worth the trouble to record onto the blockchain due to the value they give the owner and buyer.

“NFT” is a simple concept with a difficult-sounding name. “Fungible” means the item can be replaced by another identical item like a peso bill, a Mentos candy or Coke in a can. “Non-fungible” means the item cannot be interchanged due to its unique properties, like one’s land title, a keepsake from your spouse or a treasured painting.

That’s it! It simply means that NFTs are unique assets that make it worth the trouble to record onto the blockchain due to the value they give the owner and buyer.

Andre Baldovino

NFTs are a game changer because it is now possible to record any digital asset that we deem valuable. This grants us the freedom to use it, sell it or transfer it without the fear of it being claimed by someone else.

On the other hand, the social stigma of using someone’s digital work without permission will also increase, as there will now be a way to prove provenance of the digital asset.

Why am I in this space now?

NFT became the intersection of my three passions: fashion/arts, curation and technology. Coming from a brick-and-mortar background, I had been exposed to fashion and the arts with our retail brands Ensembles, Freeway and Solo. It is where we launched Freeway’s popular and respected National Artists Collectors Series, which ran for 10 years.

Imao X Imao artwork

In 2017, I had my taste of technology after founding Stylist in Pocket Technologies. Due to my fashion retail journey, I saw many pain points that our customers had been facing for decades. This catapulted my quest to begin solving the clothing needs of the time-challenged working-professional market by providing curated choices. Armed with a deep knowledge of the industry, my team and I created proprietary technologies in the area of data and curation, which later gave birth to many other technologies, including having a Philippine patent granted for our Uniform Management Technology.

Imao x Imao live NFT digital frame

Moving forward to Web3 (blockchain and digital assets), I first got exposed to the metaverse through my friends, who are crypto and NFT enthusiasts. It interested me so I did a lot of research on crypto, defi (decentralized finance) and NFTs. I made my first NFT purchase in September of last year. Once one makes a purchase, NFT ceases to be an unknown plane. It is not that intimidating once you try it for yourself.

Imao X Imao NFT collectible box

The idea for Scarletbox came about as I gleaned that there weren’t any platforms that showcased the blue-chip works of our own National Artists in the Asian context. With this launch pad, we could continue our vision of generating awareness among the young about the life and works of our honored artists. In addition, bringing these works to the Web3 space will allow preservation of their works, as well as accessibility to more people internationally.

The first series of Scarletbox is entitled “2 Legends x 2 Generations.” We are featuring the works of National Artist Abdulmari Imao and his son Toym Imao, together with National Artist Jose Joya and his grandnephew Andre Baldovino. The collaborations of the two generations share their own stories. For the Imaos, Toym found two unfinished works of his father and he finished them in different versions of his own aesthetic.

As for the Joya family, Andre Baldovino chose 40 to 50 works of his granduncle and layered them with his own digital animation interpretation. Each artwork to be dropped will be one-of-ones, no duplicates.

Joya X Baldovino artwork

We have a few exciting firsts with this initial drop.

For collectors on the fence, we will be including a tangible, beautiful Premium Collectible Box with each NFT bought that can be delivered to the collector’s home. It includes a live digital NFT frame that will showcase the art animation with sounds, a signed Certificate of Authenticity and a token from the artist. To ease friction, we will be accepting credit cards, a rarity in this space.

Joya X Baldovino live NFT digital frame

We will also consider this first drop as a Founders NFT, which means that this NFT will allow a holder to be whitelisted in all future drops as a way to thank early supporters who believed in us. “Whitelist” means one gets a sure slot to purchase (if one wishes to exercise it) with a discount, and we do have a lot of exciting blue-chip drops ahead.

Why is this drop special? It will be the first time these four artists enter the NFT space, plus it’s a collaboration of two generations in one artwork, which adds to the historical significance — truly a way to bridge the decades. I have friends and early supporters who requested to be whitelisted because they plan to give the NFTs to each of their children. Wow, thinking way ahead! Then again, how often does one have the chance to own a Joya or an Imao?

Joya X Baldovino NFT collectible box

It’s true what Steve Jobs said in his commencement address at Stanford: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

I could not have predicted how my journey from brick-and-mortar would lead me to today’s Web3 space, but here I am, trusting.