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Market Manipulation Chatter Rises as Digital Art Scene Explodes

  • Suspicions of illicit trading have dogged crypto markets
  • High fees reduce likelihood of wash trading’s prevalence
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NFTs Are New Way to Buy Digital Art

A digital artwork by Beeple set auction records Thursday when it sold at Christie’s for a mind-bending $69 million. Twitter Inc. co-founder Jack Dorsey is auctioning the non-fungible token for the first tweet ever, “just setting up my twttr,” with the highest bid coming in at $2.5 million, so far. LeBron James highlights are fetching six figures.

If you were somehow unaware, digital assets are booming, with buyers paying up for so-called NFTs that give them exclusive ownership of electronic tchotchkes. Explanations for why, say, a GIF of a cat with a rainbow trail commands a king’s ransom aren’t hard to come by. The more prosaic theories say the price per pixel is surging as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies mint new millionaires every day and those newly rich digital natives look to spend in their adopted domain. And sure, it could be as simple as a good old mania around the latest shiny object that’s caught people’s attention.