Earlier this month, the rap impresario Eminem spent 123.45 units of Ether cryptocurrency — worth over $450,000 at the time — on an image of an ape that looks kind of like him. Earlier this week, Madonna signaled that she, too, might be interested in splurging on an ape cartoon. Sure, celebrities often crave the notoriety that comes with head-scratching spending sprees, but it’s still fair to ask: Ape caricatures? What on earth are they thinking?
The likely answer might help address the widespread puzzlement about the popularity of NFTs — those emblems of digital cachet whose collectors are often likened to connoisseurs of fine art or collectibles like baseball cards. And while there are indeed similarities between the worlds of art, collectibles and NFTs, there are also important differences that are crucial to understanding both the appeal and the risks. Strange as they may seem at first glance, NFTs provide owners with psychic and practical benefits that aren’t obvious to others.