'Non-fungi-what?' How I explained NFTs to my boomer parents

·4 min read

NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens,” are having their breakthrough moment. In just the past few months, they’ve evolved from mostly curiosities to more commonplace collectibles. On Thursday alone, people spent nearly $195 million buying up almost 93,700 NFTs, according to website NFT Stats, while Denmark-based Influencer Marketing Hub reports NFT trading volume added up to nearly $11 billion in the third quarter of 2021. Still, very few people have heard of them, know what they are, why – or if – they even matter.

My parents are a perfect example. They had never heard of NFTs before I brought them up while playing a card game with them a few weeks ago. The tie-in here was that we were playing with a deck of Bicycle brand cards – we’ve always had a few decks tucked away in our gaming drawer – and Bicycle recently launched its first-ever NFT collection. They call it the Genesis Collection and it features a deck of cards transformed 1000 years into the future.

A perfect "teachable moment," I thought. But 20 minutes into the conversation, I was in way over my head and had to call on a real expert to help me out.

“NFT stands for non-fungible token, Ian Utile explained over a Zoom call with my folks. Utile’s the CEO of Attention Live and co-founder of NFT-NYC – a sort of Coachella for Crypto event. “Non-fungible means that it’s one of one, so you are the only person in the world who can own it.”

“But what exactly is ‘it’ that you own?” my Mom asked gingerly.

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Utile used his own deck of cards to give more examples: “When you buy a car, you have a pink slip. We’ll use this colorful Joker as an example. That pink slip gives you the right to drive the car and sell the car,” Utile said. “Let’s say this other Joker card is a deed or a title to a house. When you buy a home, you get a deed or title to a house and that is the receipt that you own the home, which comes with rights to live there and to sell it,” he added.

Utile went on to explain that the easiest way to think of an NFT, “is that you are getting a digital asset – or what’s called a crypto-collectible by technologists – and by getting this digital asset, it gives you a receipt that you own something that’s scarce and it gives you rights to use it in whatever way you want. Some people display their NFTs on screens, like artwork,” Utile said.

► Dumb money? Investing in collectibles has long drawn free spenders. How do NFTs compare?

Bicycle recently launched its first-ever NFT collection. They call it the Genesis Collection and it features a deck of cards transformed 1000 years into the future.
Bicycle recently launched its first-ever NFT collection. They call it the Genesis Collection and it features a deck of cards transformed 1000 years into the future.

In other words, you could be the only person in the whole entire world to own Bicycles’ NFT Ace of Spades or Queen of Hearts. You could then stream it on one of the fancy new screens companies are making specifically to show off NFTs, this sort of futuristic artwork. “NFTs ownership could be something for future generations to inherit,” Utile said.

“Should we buy one?” my father asked Utile.

“This is still a very, very new industry,” Utile replied. “Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, but I do think that people – if they’re comfortable, should make investments into projects they have some understanding of, with money they're OK taking a gamble over. (It's) just like the stock market’s a gamble and buying a house or a car, in some respects, has some level of a gambling feeling – that you’re kind of speculatively investing on the value of this and the ability of it to hold value over time.”

"There you have it: the first step toward mastering the metaverse and becoming the queen of crytpo,’ I announced to my parents, who totally understood Utile’s explanation.

“Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far,” my mom said.

"I don’t know, I could get pretty interested in that King of Diamonds,” my dad quipped, before adding, “Who wants to play Rummy?”

► Digital images sell for millions: These NFTs sold for ridiculously high prices

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What's an NFT? How I explained the concept to my boomer parents

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