A Collector's World In The Digital Age
Over 100,000 fans gathered at San Diego Comic Con 2022, its first in-person event since the pandemic began. From the detailed costumes and cosplayers to the comic book vendors and autograph signings, the energy was absolutely electrifying.
On Saturday morning, it was announced that Todd McFarlane would release a rare variant Spawn comic (only 1,500 editions) in celebration of its record sales with Image. The first 300 issues would also be signed by McFarlane himself, FOR FREE! As you can imagine, hundreds of fans (including myself) flooded the Comic Con entrance early that morning to get in line for a chance at their piece of history. I didn’t make the cut, but at that exact moment of disappointment, I was informed about an NFT event happening later that afternoon hosted by “Oddkey,” a company owned and operated by Todd McFarlane and Steve Aoki.
If you owned a “Spawnoki” NFT (an art piece combining Spawn with Steve Aoki’s style), you were able to attend the event for free. Being a fan of both artists, I decided to go, not knowing what to expect.
Within 10 minutes of arriving, Todd McFarlane walked into the venue. Not only did he show up, but he personally greeted every single person in that room. He regaled us with stories about his life, his art, and his passions. We ate pizza, drank soda, and told jokes together for six hours in a room with less than 50 people.
Todd even did a raffle of some signed prints and a sketch of Venom that he personally drew on-site. At the end of the night, all 30 people in that room received an autograph from Todd McFarlane.
In addition to meeting Todd, I also met some amazing people from the Oddkey community – Discord moderators, fans, artists, and physical comic collectors, one who owned an Amazing Spider-Man #300 CGC 9.9 (yes, I drooled over the photo!). All of us shared the same passion for Spawn, Steve Aoki, comics, and Todd’s art. And on top of all that, I made friendships that night that will continue to grow from this truly memorable experience.
Those who scoffed at NFTs back at Comic Con, the same people who waited hours in line to potentially meet Todd for 10 seconds, missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. A $20 Spawnoki NFT would have granted them access to spend six hours of quality time with Todd that very same day. Experiences like this show the power of utility for NFTs. Let’s dive into a few more reasons why they’re significant for the comic and wider collecting space.
NFTs Reward Artists
Jose Delbo is one of the most important comic artists of our time. While his name may not be quite as recognizable as Todd’s, few artists have worked on as many significant characters as Delbo. Born in Argentina, Delbo published his first comic at the age of 16 and went on to work with almost every major comic publisher including Charlton, Dell, Gold Key, DC, and Marvel. He spent six decades penciling characters such as Batman, Superman, Teen Titans, Aquaman, and Thundercats, but is best known for his work on Wonder Woman, Transformers, and the Beatles Yellow Submarine comic.
After retiring from drawing with the big publishers, Delbo’s main source of income (like many artists) was doing signings and selling fan art at comic conventions. But when the pandemic hit and in-person events shut down, he was left without the consistent income he relied on. This, coupled with the rising popularity of NFT art, created the perfect storm for Delbo to begin experimenting with NFTs. With the help of Apollo Entertainment, Delbo released the first ever full-length comic book as an NFT in July 2020 called “Death…No Escape”, which sold out almost immediately.
His popularity as a comic artist within the NFT space quickly grew after this, which led him to collaborate with notable artists like Trevor Jones, Hackatao, and Diplo. Many of these limited pieces of art sold for thousands, and he even made history with the first six figure sale of a 1/1 piece selling for 302.5 ETH (~$111,000 at the time). Within only a few months of beginning to sell his work as NFTs, Delbo made millions. He made more money in a few months of selling NFTs than his entire multi-decade tenure with Marvel and DC combined. Additionally, he will receive commissions from every secondary market sale of his NFTs for life. Yes, that’s right, FOR LIFE.
For the first time in history, artists have the opportunity to make passive income through secondary market sales of their work. Most artists that have worked with Marvel and DC do not receive royalties for their work. NFTs can change this if artists sell original content, which creates a lucrative opportunity for artists to build passive income for life.
NFTs Are Creating Collectors
VeVe (an app-based marketplace for premium licensed digital collectibles) has partnered with Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and many other top brands to drop limited, one-of-a-kind NFTs that can be used in AR and eventually VR. Over the last 2 years, our podcast (Comics & Crypto) has covered almost every comic NFT drop on VeVe and we’ve spoken to hundreds, if not thousands of active users in the community.
The consensus is that the majority of people who joined VeVe were not collectors before using the app. But after joining, many community members have since fallen in love with their investments and with the concept of collecting.
We are now being asked about physical comic books just as much, if not more, than digital NFT comics on VeVe. Collectors on VeVe are walking into comic shops for the first time in their lives and buying physical comics. They’re buying tickets to comic con events they never would have imagined attending. In our opinion, the future of collecting is not a competition between physical and digital, it’s a collaboration.
I personally know collectors that have spent tens of thousands of dollars on physical comic grails (some spending more than $100,000) and they credit these purchases entirely to their start on VeVe.
VeVe has not only sparked their love for collecting comics, but has also doubled as a crash course in helping them to understand why this IP is a significant investment. I believe there is a deep connection between both the physical and digital space, a connection that will become more evident over time. The world of collecting is expanding in a big way and we are very excited about its future!
The Digital & Physical Connection
In September 2021, Marvel released its first NFT comics on VeVe. These comics are digital counterparts to the physicals already released by Marvel. Grail comics such as Fantastic Four #1, Amazing Fantasy #15, and Journey into Mystery #85 have already been released on VeVe, as well as popular modern-age books like Ultimate Fallout #4, New Mutants #98, and Vengeance #1.
Many other grails and significant keys have also dropped on VeVe over the past 2 years, a total now surpassing 200 individual comics. Since the metadata of these NFT comics includes the same information as their physical counterparts, I don’t view these as reprints or facsimiles. Instead, it’s an opportunity to invest in the original IP in digital format.
The difference between these comics and those you buy in Marvel Unlimited is true ownership. On VeVe you can buy, sell, and trade these comic books as individual assets, but on Marvel Unlimited, you cannot. When you purchase a comic on Marvel Unlimited, you can read the comic, but that’s it. You would need to sell the entire account to sell the comic(s) you purchase.
The first Marvel comic to drop as an NFT on VeVe was Marvel Comics #1. I was personally hoping for Fantastic Four #1, since this comic represents significant historical and pop culture value, whereas Marvel Comics #1 has tremendous historical value but little pop culture value. However, I’ve realized that VeVe has created pop culture value for Marvel Comics #1.
I can say with confidence that maybe 1% of the active users on VeVe knew what Marvel Comics #1 was before joining the app. But now, 99% of active users on VeVe know that it’s a grail comic. They know the significance of MC1, not only because it’s the first comic to drop as an NFT by Marvel, but also because it’s the first physical comic to be released by Marvel.
There are only 65 copies of MC1 on the CGC census and the most recent sale as a CGC 9.2 (2nd highest grade), sold for $2.4 million in March 2022. MC1 is incredibly rare and difficult to find in physical format (unless you have $100,000+ to spend), so the digital counterpart will help build demand.
VeVe has an active, but relatively small collector base currently. But when 1 million, 5 million, and 10 million new collectors are using the VeVe app, how will this affect the physical market? Based on the evidence we have seen over the past 2 years, we believe it’s going to help significantly grow the comic book industry.
Hypothetically, if Fantastic Four #1 CGC 9.6 sells for $10 million, how will this affect their NFT counterparts? As the value of these physicals increases, so will the value of their digital counterparts (and vice versa). The connection between the IP is significant and will only become more so over time.
Global Accessibility & Liquidity
The incredible advantage of digital assets is that you can buy, sell, and trade them instantly around the world at any time. For the first time ever, you can buy a comic from someone in Australia, then sell it to someone in China (and deliver it) within seconds. Having this type of accessibility is a very big deal for many countries.
For example, I have a friend that lives in South Africa and it’s very difficult for him to receive mail because the postal system is corrupt in his city. Fortunately, NFTs help resolve this issue. I have been able to send him some of my favorite Marvel comics, instantly. No worries about stolen packages or shipping fees.
Also as an investor, if you plan to stack comics for liquidity, you can make dozens of purchases within minutes and keep your entire inventory in your pocket, at all times. Then, whenever you plan to sell, you can list them in the VeVe marketplace where they will be instantly transferred to the buyer’s account, no shipping necessary.
Localization will also play a significant role in this worldwide collecting expansion. Allowing foreign countries to enjoy these NFT comics (in any language they choose) is groundbreaking. Imagine owning a Fantastic Four #1 comic (which is originally in English), but then you sell it to someone in Russia. The Russian buyer can’t read English but he has the ability to change the language of his comic into Russian.
These are the technological advancements that will be possible for these types of digital assets in the future. The collecting world just got a whole lot bigger.
NFTs Go Beyond Collectibles
There are many reasons why collectibles are worth money, some of which include nostalgia, history, and personal connection. But this technology actually creates an opportunity to go beyond that. The psychology of a collector’s mindset still applies, but now these collectibles can also become a key to unlock additional incentives and utility to help increase value.
Some of these utilities include access to IRL events (similar to the Oddkey event), first to access future collections, gifted airdrops (free digital collectibles), and possibly even free physical collectible counterparts as well.
This has been seen on the WAX blockchain, in which they’ve collaborated with Funko to bridge physical and digital collecting.
Funko has been selling their NFTs on the WAX blockchain for years now and each collection has a very limited run of what they call “Grails.” These NFT Grails (typically limited to 999 or less), allow owners to claim a token for a physical counterpart (Funko Pop), FOR FREE.
Disney dropped their first NFTs in a collection called “Golden Moments” on VeVe in November 2021. These digital statues include some of the most iconic characters of all time such as The Simpsons, Elsa (from Frozen), R2D2, C3PO, Wall-E, and of course, the Partners Statue (Walt and Mickey).
Those who initially purchased the Partner Statue received one year of Disney+ for free. However, it’s been long speculated that these collectibles could have utility connected to the Disneyland parks around the world. Why would Disney allow incentives at Disneyland parks to the owners of these NFTs? Well, if Disney did make this type of announcement, it would significantly increase the value of these NFTs, and guess who receives a 6% commission from every sale? Disney. So it’s in their best interest to make their licensed digital collectibles worth as much as possible because they receive commission on every sale.
NFTs have received a lot of backlash, but that is largely because they are misunderstood. Put simply, they are a mechanism to prove authenticity, provenance, and ownership of digital assets in a way that wasn’t possible before. They are a tool to protect the rights and interests of artists and the collectors who appreciate their work. How can something that increases the earning potential for artists and enhances the experience for collectors be bad?
Thousands of people are enjoying NFTs every day by investing in their favorite IPs through platforms like VeVe, and in return, have found a new passion for collecting. A passion that started in the digital space and now continues into the physical. According to a recent article by GlobeNewswire, the global collectibles market was valued at $412 billion in 2021 (historical data) and is forecast to reach $692.4 billion by 2032. The collecting space has and will continue to grow over the years, and with innovative companies (like VeVe, Apollo Entertainment, WAX, and Oddkey) creating new collectors, we might get there sooner than we think.