Aksel Piran & Artak Malkhasyan: Two Interviews on NFT Collecting

These days, NFTs seem to be all the rage. CryptoPunk #9998 was recently sold for $530 million, making it the most costly NFT to date. We sat down with two NFT enthusiasts to see if we should believe the hype and what’s next for this corner of the cryptoverse.

CryptoPunk #9998, The Most Expensive NFT So Far

Aksel PiranA long-time collector and connoisseur of art, he is also a lifelong artist. His unique approach to NFTs makes him as poetic as it is unusual. 

What was the beginning of your NFT collecting journey?

I’ve been collecting art for a long time, especially posters from various graphic artists, in this case, Signalnoise. This piece was posted on MakersPlace exactly one year ago by the artist. The poster was priced between $50 and $100. As a gesture of appreciation, he asked us to bid $500. He turned down the offer. This was a shocking decision. That’s how I first found out about NFTs and immediately started buying: Even though I wasn’t able to grasp the whole potential of Web 3.0 but I understood that having artwork on the blockchain has revolutionary potential. 

What do you think? Is it primarily speculation or aesthetic value that is most important to you?

Initially, I was exclusively looking for aesthetic value, I didn’t consider market demands, scarcity, etc. That’s because I didn’t come to this from the coin side of things, I came to this from art — unfortunately, perhaps. At first, SuperRare and KnownOrigin were my only options. Later, Foundation was my main focus. 

Would You Say That Soon We Will Have Exhibitions With Digital Art or Do You Think We’ll Move Away From “Real Life”? What do you think the future of NFTS will look like?

So, how is the NFT “consumed”? My initial thought was that the NFT should be placed in a digital box so that your NFT can be viewed at home. I tried it, but, to be honest, they don’t look that great on the screen. It was what made sense and was important that I was able to show off my Twitter account. It is why everyone wants an NFT. All the best artists are on Twitter, and I can talk with them all! I hadn’t used Twitter before. Before that, I had only 9 followers. Now I have nearly 5000. All the followers of the author become my friends every time I purchase a piece. This, I think, is where the value is: It’s something social, it shows your taste, it shows that you belong to certain owners’ groups. 

Last January, I spent a lot time on Twitter talking to collectors and artists about the game’s rules. It was quite an experience. So, the NFTs will stay because they’re social and extremely addictive compared to buying art. First of all, art is difficult to resell. Even if the Sotheby’s auction accepts it, you’ll see your money back only 6-9 months later. The buyer pays a premium of 30% and 10% respectively. Transaction costs can easily run into the thousands. When you buy art you know you’re overpaying and you end up putting the piece up in your house where only your guests see it. It becomes addicting when the concept is combined with social networking, which allows you to resell your pieces in seconds and also interact directly with the artist. 

Are there any pieces in your Collection that you like the most?

Three of my favorite artists are here. I’m really into The Lost Poets collection by Murat Pak. Many of them are mys! 

One NFT from The Lost Poets.

Malavida (a French-Canadian painter who experiments with colors and emotions) is the second. It’s very interesting because it’s abstract and universal at the same time. The digital piece I have is hers, and the physical one I found. I am also very proud — actually, this was the first collection I bought into — of my CryptoCubes by Han. My collection of CryptoCubes was my largest. It’s the first collection that is in 3D and designed to be used in the Metaverse. 

Would You Say It’s a Rich Man’s Game Overall?

I wouldn’t say it’s a rich man’s game. At a certain level, of course, it has become one, but last year it was everybody’s game. You have many options to make investments in this area, even if you only have a small amount. It is possible to buy solid collections that can be bankable. I wouldn’t advise you to buy into speculative things unless you really know what you’re doing. The truth is, most fail. If you don’t do enough research, it might be worth buying into one of many new collections.

You can purchase a poet in The Lost Poets for as little as 0.06 ETH. Still a lot of money for a lot of people, but it’s pretty affordable. Now, this doesn’t mean it will retain value, but at least, if you like it, it’s something that has a chance of appreciating or retaining value. As a collector, this is the best thing. Buy only those things you believe are important in NFT history. 

What Do You Think of This Postmodern Quality of Buying Things “For Shits and Giggles”? Memecoins, Etc. Is it possible that all things you know are going to die. Is It a Symptom of the Times to Spend Money “Ironically”?

Absolutely, it’s a way of showing your coolness, it’s a social thing. When you buy something, it’s a statement. You buy, for example, Shiba Inu, it’s an investment of sorts but also a statement: “I own a dog coin or cat coin.” This is crypto land, it’s all of these at the same time. 

Your appreciation for money, effort, and labor begins to blur after a while in crypto. You suddenly find yourself able to make millions of dollars. But what was your path? What if you had a business that was successful, and a restaurant that was successful for 10 years. But you’re there. Then what? It happens daily, often thousands of times per hour.  Even I made massive gains, though I didn’t need this money. I don’t even want to sell my NFTs, but it’s there. It’s a bit unreal!

Children can inherit your NFTs. 

There is more to crypto than that, but it is still a long way off. It’s not even been a year since this thing really took off. It really began in the early 2020 confinements in China. It was the underworld before that. 

What does this mean for artists? What is this market like for artists?

It’s true, everyone can communicate via social media with anyone in India who has an internet connection and make sales. You don’t have to convince the local gallery to host an exhibit. You can then go on to the next one, and so forth. All in the hope of getting recognized for your work. That is great. In addition, artists get more money without the involvement of middlemen. Many artists make more from royalties than selling their art. It is possible for artists to see their work rise in value without making any profit. This is a new society where Wall St traders are more well-paid than artists. It is, I believe, a better and more fascinating world. It’s the first time this has ever happened in human history. 

Artak MalkhasyanThe second interviewee was a very knowledgeable person on CoinStats. Find out more about the way he approaches NFTs. 

Artak giving a talk during The Revolution of Web3: What’s behind the NFT hype? Conference
What is your NFT collection story? 

NFTs were a fad that I was just following. This is why I became so interested. After that, it was just a buzzword within my bubble. It was NFT this and NFT that. Everyone had something. They’d bring up NFTs in all sorts of contexts, no matter if it was relevant. Like, “Oh, should we turn this trashcan into an NFT and get rich?” That piqued my curiosity, I decided to figure NFTs out. 

I know that you’ve been with CoinStats for quite some time now. CoinStats where do NFTs fit in? 

We recently realized that NFTs can also be investment vehicles, so we decided to allow our users the opportunity to track and display their collection on CoinStats. It hasn’t even been a month since we’ve launched NFT support on mobile but we are already overwhelmed with the positive feedback. Since I was responsible to add the NFT Support feature, I had to really do some research.

Which was your first NFT?

You’re referring to my first and only NFT. Loot is a peculiar NFT project I found. The visual elements of these NFTs were just lists of “magical items” (swords, shields, etc.) A black background. These NFTs were expensive. I tried to take part in the minting of these NFTs, but it was not an option. I learned that there were many ways people can target potential projects as I continued my research. There are many tools that can be used to locate projects that produce a lot of volume. When I came across one that looked promising, I made a mint of it and took an image of a young woman who was able to look like Avatar. 

Artak’s first and only NFT

I learned a lot from my first NFT. After some time I even got an offer to sell “her” on OpenSea for 0.2 ETH ($700-800 at the time). This was quite a good offer given that it cost me only $200 to mint the token, but I decided not to sell. The price I listed the item is 1.5 ETH. If it works out, it works out, but speculation wasn’t my primary goal here. Although speculation is part of NFT reasoning, 

Is there anything you have learned about NFTS from your experiences?

First and foremost, NFTs have a lot of problems. You can have someone offer you 1 ETH on OpenSea, but if you only use Rarible, you’ll never even find out. CoinStats will be aggregating all these marketplaces to show them all together in its NFT section. This way the users won’t have to peruse all those smart contracts and can just have them on CoinStats immediately. This solves the third major problem with NFTs. 

Another conclusion I’ve come to is that the common criticism NFTs face — that they possess no “real” value — is invalid: The point has never been to speculate on valuable things. A single tulip, as an example, could have been worth a house if you looked back to the Tulip Mania of the 17th Century. What does it matter if an attribute’s rarity is artificial? In this game, it still makes sense. And it’s not just a game, it’s also an opportunity, a trend, a community. 

Is there more to the NFTS than speculation?

Yes! As there’s more to Bitcoin than speculation, so too! It’s just that people are this way, they want it fast and easy. Speculation is the key reason for it all. 

The metaverse is an idea that’s closely related to NFTs. It’s like a virtual world, an environment where elements from real life merge with elements from games and the internet. You can spend your digital assets in the metaverse and in particular contexts within that game. You may be familiar with The Sims. You can also control characters in The Sims by using the keyboard.

It’s like a role-playing game, except way more real. Now in the case of Loot, the items listed on each NFTs are supposedly what you’ll have in the game the creators will launch. These projects are not uncommon. One of my CoinStats colleagues, for example, buys “planets” in a Solana-based project, mints and breeds them to get better “planets”, and on those planets, economic transactions supposedly occur that bring him money. It’s fascinating! 

Then there’s a musician who, say, has a song on Spotify. He created derivative NFTs for that song and has distributed half of the Spotify profits from that song to those who own NFTs. 

What do you see for the future of NFTS and how can you help?

We must first look at the present to be able predict the future. There are tons and tons of NFTs on the secondary market at very low prices. There are very few NFTs on the secondary market that are extremely expensive. They all become more costly after their first purchase on the secondary market. This makes it more difficult to sell them.

You can only sell a kitten that is NFT worth 800ETH to 10 people worldwide. What can you do now, after you’ve spent like 400 ETH on it? These situations are common and fractionalization protocols become increasingly popular. Essentially, it’s about dividing up an NFT into many derivative tokens and selling them instead. It’s an idea very familiar to people in the art world: There are “investment pools” where a group of people invests in an expensive piece of art, for example, a Van Gogh.

Regarding other aspects of the future of NFTs — I am sure NFTs will majorly democratize art monetization processes and the emergence of new artists. It’s similar to what YouTube did for rappers or pop music. NFTs are more than speculation. Anyone can make one and have it promoted by all means. You don’t need to have a huge network, travel a lot or use any other methods. It’s all about his or her technical knowledge, social media skills, and ability to navigate through this new terrain. These skills are extremely valuable and have a bright future.

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