Creating and selling my own NFT (Non-fungible Token) art, how hard could it be? Turns out making the art is the easy part.
I’ve seen a lot of NFT art. Some of it is amazing, well-beyond my Art Minor background. However, I’ve also seen some that looks maybe a little haphazard and amateurish and, despite that, is selling for real money. Well, crypto currency that can be converted into real money, if that’s your thing.
Selling NFT art is not like opening a street-corner stand and carefully placing your doodles on a bedsheet. There’s a process and an infrastructure, as well as a few bumps in the blockchain road.
I got a little taste of this when I tried, like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to auction one or two of my tweets on Valuables. You can put any of your tweets up for auction but can’t participate in the transaction without a cryptocurrency wallet.
To sell NFT art (or any NFT digital object, including a tweet) you need to enter the world of cryptocurrency. It’s basically like traveling to another planet that features an over-heated Earth-like atmosphere, mountains of ore, and a frenetic populace bent on unearthing every ounce of value.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I don’t have any Bitcoin or any other blockchain currency. (Well, I didn’t until this week.) Still, it’s not just the currency. You need a wallet to both hold whatever blockchain bits you own and as a way of collecting them from others.
When a friend suggested I try self-minting my NFT art, I started investigating bitcoin services companies. NFT galleries like Nifty Gateway and Rarible offer lists of accepted crypto wallets, including Wyre and an asset exchange firm called Wax.
I started the set-up process on both and in each case when I tried to put in my address, I found New York State was missing. Turns out neither wallet is licensed in New York. Such is the current state of this still young industry.
Eventually I ended up on the widely known Coinbase, which is where I purchased my first tiny bits of Ethereum. My goal was to set-up an Ethereum base that I could use to establish my first crypto wallet.
It was on Coinbase that I learned about the abysmal Dollar-to-Ethereum exchange rate. As far as I can tell, a single Ethereum costs almost $2,800. I wanted to buy $25 worth. Coinbase takes a small cut, so instead of the full $25, I bought $23.18, which netted me 0.0130444ETH.
Coinbase accepts Mastercard and Visa, but only as debit cards, which means I had to connect Coinbase to my bank account. It’s one reason you probably want to choose a more established crypto firm like Coinbase as opposed to a smaller startup.
A place for my ETH
Coinbase doesn’t connect directly to NFT sites. To do that, I needed the middleman of a wallet. Fortunately, Coinbase also has a crypto wallet app but you do have to jump through a few hoops to connect one to the other. It would make a lot more sense for Coinbase to offer these as one app, like the way banks combine all their services into a single app that hovers over your money.
I returned to Rarible to see about creating my first piece of NFT art. Before doing so, I needed to connect my Coinbase wallet to Rarible, which enables crypto transactions — useful if I ever sold my NFT art.
Even though I usually output my drawings in JPG, Rarible prefers PNGs, GIFs, MP4 (video), and even MP3, an audio file type that hasn’t seen wide use since the turn of this century.
Like eBay, Rarible lets you set an “Instant Sale Price” (like eBay’s “Buy Now”) for your collectible but that’s where the similarities end. You also must choose between an ERC-721 token and a Rari. The latter is Rarible’s default token scheme. It does a lot of the legwork for you, like setting the token name, applying a symbol, and choosing a URL.
I chose Rari token, uploaded my art and selected “Create Item.”
This is where the magic happened and ice-cold reality splashed me in the face.
NFT art is only valuable because of the token, that one of a kind code that comes from the blockchain, the one that can’t be duplicated or taken from you. To be clear, the token doesn’t arrive when you hit that create button. No, you must mine it. As soon as I hit create, Rarible sent a message to my Coinbase wallet app, asking for permission to mine a token. On my phone, I saw a message telling me that Rarible wanted to charge me a $15.93 mining fee and that I didn’t have enough Ethereum in my wallet to cover it.
Almost $16 to list a collectible I might never sell at all seemed high. Coinbase, which doesn’t get this fee, explained in a pop-up window that “Miner fees are high right now” due to “blockchain congestion.”
Of course, the first unintended NFT goldrush consequence. As soon the news broke that the artist Beeple sold his NFT JPG, The First 5000 Days for $69 million, everyone wanted in on NFT. That excitement is probably what’s overloading Bitcoin mining operations, which are all digital — no hard hats or soot — but still require significant time and electric energy to mine even tiny pieces of the limited Bitcoin pile.
What’s worse is that crypto transactions can set you up for a double whammy. If I decide to transfer my tiny stack of Ethereum from Coinbase to my Coinbase wallet, I’d pay an additional $9.12 miner fee (again, not paid to Coinbase). Basically, my total miner fees would empty my Ethereum account and more.
I stared at these messages and my $23 in Ethereum and wondered if I’d already missed the boat. Who would pay even 0.000000011 ETH for my crude cartoon, let alone cover my $25 expenditure?
As I write this, I’m still debating if I convert more cash to ETH, upload a few collectible images and, perhaps, spread out my mining exposure. See, I’m even starting to talk like a crypto guy.
Update: You can find my first NFT here.