What Is An NFT? Non-Fungible Tokens Explained (2022)

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Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) seem to be everywhere these days. From art and music to tacos and toilet paper, these digital assets are selling like 17th-century exotic Dutch tulips—some for millions of dollars.

But are NFTs worth the money—or the hype? Some experts say they’re a bubble poised to pop, like the dot-com craze or Beanie Babies. Others believe NFTs are here to stay, and that they will change investing forever.

What Is an NFT?

An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos.

Although they’ve been around since 2014, NFTs are gaining notoriety now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork. The market for NFTs was worth a staggering $41 billion in 2021 alone, an amount that is approaching the total value of the entire global fine art market.

NFTs are also generally one of a kind, or at least one of a very limited run, and have unique identifying codes. “Essentially, NFTs create digital scarcity,” says Arry Yu, chair of the Washington Technology Industry Association Cascadia Blockchain Council and managing director of Yellow Umbrella Ventures.

This stands in stark contrast to most digital creations, which are almost always infinite in supply. Hypothetically, cutting off the supply should raise the value of a given asset, assuming it’s in demand.

But many NFTs, at least in these early days, have been digital creations that already exist in some form elsewhere, like iconic video clips from NBA games or securitized versions of digital art that’s already floating around on Instagram.

Famous digital artist Mike Winklemann, better known as “Beeple,” crafted a composite of 5,000 daily drawings to create perhaps the most famous NFT of 2021, “EVERYDAYS: The First 5000 Days,” which sold at Christie’s for a record-breaking $69.3 million.

Anyone can view the individual images—or even the entire collage of images online for free. So why are people willing to spend millions on something they could easily screenshot or download?

Because an NFT allows the buyer to own the original item. Not only that, it contains built-in authentication, which serves as proof of ownership. Collectors value those “digital bragging rights” almost more than the item itself.

How Is an NFT Different from Cryptocurrency?

NFT stands for non-fungible token. It’s generally built using the same kind of programming as cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Physical money and cryptocurrencies are “fungible,” meaning they can be traded or exchanged for one another. They’re also equal in value—one dollar is always worth another dollar; one Bitcoin is always equal to another Bitcoin. Crypto’s fungibility makes it a trusted means of conducting transactions on the blockchain.

NFTs are different. Each has a digital signature that makes it impossible for NFTs to be exchanged for or equal to one another (hence, non-fungible). One NBA Top Shot clip, for example, is not equal to EVERYDAYS simply because they’re both NFTs. (One NBA Top Shot clip isn’t even necessarily equal to another NBA Top Shot clip, for that matter.)

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How Does an NFT Work?

NFTs exist on a blockchain, which is a distributed public ledger that records transactions. You’re probably most familiar with blockchain as the underlying process that makes cryptocurrencies possible.

Specifically, NFTs are typically held on the Ethereum blockchain, although other blockchains support them as well.

An NFT is created, or “minted” from digital objects that represent both tangible and intangible items, including:

  • Grafic art
  • GIFs
  • Videos and sports highlights
  • Collectibles
  • Virtual avatars and video game skins
  • Designer sneakers
  • Music

Even tweets count. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sold his first ever tweet as an NFT for more than $2.9 million.

Essentially, NFTs are like physical collector’s items, only digital. So instead of getting an actual oil painting to hang on the wall, the buyer gets a digital file instead.

They also get exclusive ownership rights. NFTs can have only one owner at a time, and their use of blockchain technology makes it easy to verify ownership and transfer tokens between owners. The creator can also store specific information in an NFT’s metadata. For instance, artists can sign their artwork by including their signature in the file.

What Are NFTs Used For?

Blockchain technology and NFTs afford artists and content creators a unique opportunity to monetize their wares. For example, artists no longer have to rely on galleries or auction houses to sell their art. Instead, the artist can sell it directly to the consumer as an NFT, which also lets them keep more of the profits. In addition, artists can program in royalties so they’ll receive a percentage of sales whenever their art is sold to a new owner. This is an attractive feature as artists generally do not receive future proceeds after their art is first sold.

Art isn’t the only way to make money with NFTs. Brands like Charmin and Taco Bell have auctioned off themed NFT art to raise funds for charity. Charmin dubbed its offering “NFTP” (non-fungible toilet paper), and Taco Bell’s NFT art sold out in minutes, with the highest bids coming in at 1.5 wrapped ether (WETH)—equal to $3,723.83 at time of writing.

Nyan Cat, a 2011-era GIF of a cat with a pop-tart body, sold for nearly $600,000 in February. And NBA Top Shot generated more than $500 million in sales as of late March. A single LeBron James highlight NFT fetched more than $200,000.

Even celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Lindsay Lohan are jumping on the NFT bandwagon, releasing unique memories, artwork and moments as securitized NFTs.

How to Buy NFTs

If you’re keen to start your own NFT collection, you’ll need to acquire some key items:

First, you’ll need to get a digital wallet that allows you to store NFTs and cryptocurrencies. You’ll likely need to purchase some cryptocurrency, like Ether, depending on what currencies your NFT provider accepts. You can buy crypto using a credit card on platforms like Coinbase, Kraken, eToro and even PayPal and Robinhood now. You’ll then be able to move it from the exchange to your wallet of choice.

You’ll want to keep fees in mind as you research options. Most exchanges charge at least a percentage of your transaction when you buy crypto.

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Popular NFT Marketplaces

Once you’ve got your wallet set up and funded, there’s no shortage of NFT sites to shop. Currently, the largest NFT marketplaces are:

OpenSea.io: This peer-to-peer platform bills itself a purveyor of “rare digital items and collectibles.” To get started, all you need to do is create an account to browse NFT collections. You can also sort pieces by sales volume to discover new artists.

Rarible: Similar to OpenSea, Rarible is a democratic, open marketplace that allows artists and creators to issue and sell NFTs. RARI tokens issued on the platform enable holders to weigh in on features like fees and community rules.

Foundation: Here, artists must receive “upvotes” or an invitation from fellow creators to post their art. The community’s exclusivity and cost of entry—artists must also purchase “gas” to mint NFTs—means it may boast higher-caliber artwork. For instance, Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres sold the NFT on the Foundation platform. It may also mean higher prices — not necessarily a bad thing for artists and collectors seeking to capitalize, assuming the demand for NFTs remains at current levels, or even increases over time.

Although these platforms and others are host to thousands of NFT creators and collectors, be sure you do your research carefully before buying. Some artists have fallen victim to impersonators who have listed and sold their work without their permission.

In addition, the verification processes for creators and NFT listings aren’t consistent across platforms — some are more stringent than others. OpenSea and Rarible, for example, do not require owner verification for NFT listings. Buyer protections appear to be sparse at best, so when shopping for NFTs, it may be best to keep the old adage “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) in mind.

Should You Buy NFTs?

Just because you can buy NFTs, does that mean you should? It depends, Yu says.

“NFTs are risky because their future is uncertain, and we don’t yet have a lot of history to judge their performance,” she notes. “Since NFTs are so new, it may be worth investing small amounts to try it out for now.”

In other words, investing in NFTs is a largely personal decision. If you have money to spare, it may be worth considering, especially if a piece holds meaning for you.

But keep in mind, an NFT’s value is based entirely on what someone else is willing to pay for it. Therefore, demand will drive the price rather than fundamental, technical or economic indicators, which typically influence stock prices and at least generally form the basis for investor demand.

All this means, an NFT may resale for less than you paid for it. Or you may not be able to resell it at all if no one wants it.

NFTs are also subject to capital gains taxes—just like when you sell stocks at a profit. Since they’re considered collectibles, however, they may not receive the preferential long-term capital gains rates stocks do and may even be taxed at a higher collectibles tax rate, though the IRS has not yet ruled what NFTs are considered for tax purposes. Bear in mind, the cryptocurrencies used to purchase the NFT may also be taxed if they’ve increased in value since you bought them, meaning you may want to check in with a tax professional when considering adding NFTs to your portfolio.

That said, approach NFTs just like you would any investment: Do your research, understand the risks—including that you might lose all of your investing dollars—and if you decide to take the plunge, proceed with a healthy dose of caution.

(Video) What is an NFT Utility? (Non Fungible Tokens Explained)

FAQs

What Is An NFT? Non-Fungible Tokens Explained? ›

Non-fungible tokens, often referred to as NFTs, are blockchain-based tokens that each represent a unique asset like a piece of art, digital content, or media. An NFT can be thought of as an irrevocable digital certificate of ownership and authenticity for a given asset, whether digital or physical.

How do NFT tokens work? ›

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique identifier that can cryptographically assign and prove ownership of digital goods. As NFTs for digital artwork have sold for millions — sometimes tens of millions — of dollars, to say they're popular could be an undersell. From June 2021 to June 2022, NFT sales hit $29 billion.

What is NFT or non-fungible token? ›

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated. NFTs can represent real-world items like artwork and real estate. "Tokenizing" these real-world tangible assets makes buying, selling, and trading them more efficient while reducing the probability of fraud.

What is NFT and how does it work? ›

NFT, known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), these cryptographic assets are based on blockchain technology and have unique identification codes and metadata that set them apart from each other. Such tokens can be used as placeholders for real-world assets such as artwork and real estate.

What makes an NFT non-fungible? ›

NFTs are different. Each has a digital signature that makes it impossible for NFTs to be exchanged for or equal to one another (hence, non-fungible). One NBA Top Shot clip, for example, is not equal to EVERYDAYS simply because they're both NFTs.

How do you make money with NFT? ›

The most popular way to generate money from NFTs is by selling them on NFT-dedicated marketplaces. Today, there are a variety of marketplaces and platforms where you can create, list, sell, and exchange NFTs including: OpenSea. Mintable.

Can anyone create an NFT? ›

An NFT is a unique digital item with a sole owner. That rarity gives an NFT value. Make sure that you own the intellectual property rights to the item you want to turn into an NFT. Creating an NFT for a digital asset you don't own could get you into legal trouble.

How do NFTs gain value? ›

Essentially, NFTs gain value when buyers are able to successfully sell their NFTs at a higher price than what they paid for them. Similar to cryptocurrency, a collection of non-fungible tokens go up in value when the market demand increases and the overall supply of NFTs available for sale decreases.

How do I know if my NFT is valuable? ›

The social proof associated with the project behind an NFT is one of the decisive factors that determine the NFT's value. Checking their profiles on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can help one gauge their acceptability.

Why do NFTs have value? ›

An NFT has value because the buyer and their community believe it has value—which is true for all art and collectibles. And as time goes by, an NFT gains more of its own character, based on factors like who's owned it and how they've used it.

What is the most expensive NFT ever sold? ›

1. The Merge - $91.8 million
  • The Merge - $91.8 million.
  • The most expensive NFT in history is actually a series of NFTs, selling for a eye-watering $91.8m price tag in December of last year. ...
  • Breaking record after record, the world of NFT art really smashed it last year.
Jun 10, 2022

Who buys NFTs? ›

Research has shown that the 23% of Millennials, those who were born between 1981 and 1996, are leading in collecting NFTs. Baby Boomers have the lowest turnout towards NFTs as only about 2% of them admitted purchasing NFTs. On the other hand, Gen Xers and Gen Zers have 8% and 4% respectively.

How much does it cost to make an NFT? ›

The cost to create an NFT ranges from $0.05 to over $150. The Ethereum blockchain is the most expensive blockchain with an average cost of $70, and Solana is the cheapest costing only $0.01 on average to create an NFT. That does not include marketplace fees which range from 2.5% to 5%.

How should a beginner buy NFT? ›

4 Steps to Take Before Buying Your First NFT
  1. Be clear on why you're buying an NFT. NFTs are essentially digital certificates of ownership, and those certificates can apply to a broad range of things. ...
  2. Research, and then research some more. ...
  3. Decide where you'll buy your NFT. ...
  4. Create a wallet to pay for and store your NFT.
Mar 26, 2022

Why would anyone buy an NFT? ›

One of the obvious benefits of buying art is it lets you financially support artists you like, and that's true with NFTs (which are way trendier than, like, Telegram stickers). Buying an NFT also usually gets you some basic usage rights, like being able to post the image online or set it as your profile picture.

Are NFT a good investment? ›

An NFT can be a legitimate investment if investors understand what the NFT is being used for. "Making sure that you have something that has utility is a better bet for the long-term life of what an NFT is," Donaraski says.

How do I buy and sell NFTs for profit? ›

Flip Your NFT

The most common method of making a profit from buying NFTs is to flip them. Generally, the process of flipping an NFT refers to buying an NFT and quickly selling it for a profit after the market increases in value.

Is Bitcoin an NFT? ›

NFTs function like cryptographic tokens, but unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, NFTs are not mutually interchangeable, and so are not fungible. (While all bitcoins are equal, each NFT may represent a different underlying asset and thus may have a different value.)

What makes an NFT sell? ›

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital tokens stored on the blockchain. Unlike cryptocurrencies, where each coin is the same (there's no reason to prefer one particular Bitcoin over another), each NFT is unique and can be sold as a way to prove ownership over some sort of digital file.

What to do with NFT after buying? ›

What you do own when you buy an NFT are the keys to a non-fungible – perhaps unique – token. That token is yours to trade or hold or display in Decentraland. But the digital file associated with an NFT is just as easy to copy and paste and download as any other – the third point. Consider this a PSA.

Do NFTs actually sell? ›

NFTs can be sold and bought on NFT marketplaces, such as OpenSea, Rarible, and Foundation. Some of these are open to everyone while others can only be used by invitation. Some are just for art and there are some for video games.

Why NFT art is so expensive? ›

Another reason NFTs might be so expensive is because of the potential they have to link with the metaverse. The metaverse is a virtual universe in which people would be represented by avatars and own digital space, like the digital land sold in the Otherside virtual world.

What does the average NFT sell for? ›

The average selling price of a nonfungible token has declined to under $2,000, compared with an all-time high of almost $6,900 on Jan. 2, according to industry data tracker NonFungible.

Can you sell paintings as NFT? ›

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are one-of-a-kind digital assets. Given they're digital in nature, can physical works of art be turned into NFTs? The short answer is that yes, physical artworks can be minted and sold online as NFTs.

Can you trade NFTs for cash? ›

“Non-fungible token” means a crypto asset that cannot be altered or reproduced. You can think of these tokens as the digital equivalent of artwork in a private collection. Each piece of art in the collection is unique and valued differently. Like pieces of art, an NFT can be sold for money or cryptocurrency.

Can a non artist create NFT? ›

NFT Art Is for Everyone (Not Just Artists)

With a little time and monetary investment, you can create an NFT – or even a collection – that you can sell for a neat profit. Saying that, you should always do some basic research on the NFT market to see what kind of artwork, music, or other collectibles are selling.

How do I sell NFT if not famous? ›

How To Sell NFT Art If You're Not Famous (Yet) - YouTube

How much do NFT artists make? ›

The average NFT royalty typically ranges from 5-10%. In most NFT marketplaces, the creator can choose their royalty percentage and the payments are automatic upon each subsequent sale in the secondary market.

What gives an NFT value? ›

Right after minting, an NFT draws value from its inherent characteristics. Over time, the value accrues depending on the utility and community strength of the underlying project. Decentraland NFTs, which refer to virtual land plots in the project, are an excellent example of such tokens.

How do NFTs gain value? ›

Essentially, NFTs gain value when buyers are able to successfully sell their NFTs at a higher price than what they paid for them. Similar to cryptocurrency, a collection of non-fungible tokens go up in value when the market demand increases and the overall supply of NFTs available for sale decreases.

How do I know if my NFT is valuable? ›

As we have seen, the intrinsic value of NFTs has to do with three values namely utility, rarity, and tangibility, as well as market rules and personal perception. Also, the value of an NFT has to do with its long-term resale value.

What makes a NFT valuable? ›

NFTs are valuable because they verify the authenticity of a non-fungible asset. This makes these assets unique and one of a kind. Picasso's paintings are non-fungible. While anyone can make copies of his paintings, the original painting remains irreplaceable and unique.

Videos

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