What are NFTs? Decoding non-fungible tokens
A new digital innovation made a splashy arrival this spring, disrupting the contemporary art world.
A new digital innovation made a splashy arrival this spring, disrupting the contemporary art world.
NFTs—unique, digital assets created and exchanged on the internet—catapulted to attention this March with Christie’s record-setting $69.3 million sale of an NFT digital collage by Beeple (the artist Mike Winkelmann, who was transformed overnight into a household name).
NFTs have rapidly become a mainstream popular culture phenomenon, garnering front-page news coverage and a skit on Saturday Night Live. Sotheby’s also announced a collaboration with the anonymous artist Pak on an auction held in partnership with Nifty Gateway, a digital marketplace.
Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs belong to a borderless, decentralized, virtual global ecosystem—crypto marketplaces in which they are created, proffered and acquired. NFTs’ authenticity, provenance and ownership are verified using blockchain technology, a decentralized, immutable ledger of transactions.
NFTs have been “minted” and promoted by celebrities in sports, entertainment, art, tech and by big consumer brands. While artists have been working in other digital media for over 50 years, NFTs are a new horizon for the fine art sector. NFTs encompass a broad universe, from tweets, GIFs and images to songs and videos. Here, we focus on their implications for the contemporary art market and for collectors.
Disrupting the contemporary art market
We’re in the early days of a commercial, technological and aesthetic experiment. In 2020, the pandemic accelerated the traditional art market’s pivot to digital sales. NFTs present new, perhaps speculative, opportunities for auction houses, galleries, art fairs, even museums and nonprofits, and the collectors and donors with whom they transact.
We are witnessing tectonic shifts in real time. NFTs’ native crypto marketplaces aim explicitly to circumvent and disrupt institutional gatekeepers, yet NFTs are increasingly being offered by many major art institutions. Auction houses and galleries are capitalizing on and coopting NFTs, with the featured artists’ cooperation. We will likely see more established commercial and nonprofit art institutions embrace NFTs; meanwhile, new products and services are cropping up to meet demand from NFT creators and consumers.
NFTs have indisputably entered the fine art space, and are generating heated debate due to both skepticism and enthusiasm from all sides. For centuries, “establishment” aesthetic gatekeepers have questioned the validity of avant-garde art forms and movements. Many now-iconic, vanguard artists of past eras never enjoyed financial success during their lifetimes. NFTs’ steep, sudden rise is unprecedented.
Are NFTs considered art assets?
Whether NFTs are considered art assets depends on who is making the assessment and why. While NFT creators and consumers may regard them as art works, thus far, traditional insurers consider NFTs to be digital assets. Practically speaking, that means insurance policies covering fine art only encompass physical loss or damage, and because NFTs and other digital assets aren’t physical, they aren’t covered. Even so, NFTs are asserting their value in the marketplace, and some resale opportunities may be attractive to both creators and collectors.
The NFT is a digital, inalterable certificate of authenticity and proof of ownership. NFT creators retain intellectual property rights, unless they sell or license the copyright for the specific NFT. For artists, NFTs represent a liberation from middlemen and brokers, as royalties can be built in at the creation of the NFT—traditionally, artists have not benefited from secondary sales. A caveat, however, is that royalties may not be recognized from one sales platform to another. Some NFT artists build in incentives for buyers to hold them long-term (e.g., offering the current owner a higher share of the resale price to discourage flipping).
The traditional art world presents more barriers to reselling, generally (despite various proprietary digital sales platforms) because the venerable auction houses and galleries are brands with investments in their expertise. Some NFT platforms are exclusive, too, allowing artists by invitation only. But unlike the traditional art market, they’re open globally 24/7 to any buyer with a cryptocurrency wallet (some also take credit cards).
How can we then determine value and, accordingly, risk and reward? Art is worth what it sells for on a given day, whether it is analog or digital. Markets can be irrational and unpredictable; the modern art market, dating to the 19th century, has seen booms and busts. NFTs have already experienced volatility parallel to that of cryptocurrencies. NFTs do not have long track records of sales histories, making them difficult to appraise.
It’s too early to say if NFTs will hold long-term value. Avant-garde artworks of past eras, such as Impressionist, Cubist, Abstract Expressionist, Pop and Street Art, have achieved blue-chip asset status and art historical significance over time. At present, NFTs are proliferating, but their long-term impact is yet to be determined. Artists innovate and markets respond to new opportunities. What appears more certain is that the blockchain technology underlying NFTs is here to stay.
Interested in exploring your options?
We suggest collectors continue to focus on their strategies, motivations and objectives. We also recommend you:
- Consider the risks and rewards of acquiring NFTs, while focusing on goals and conducting due diligence.
- Stay informed. It’s a rapidly evolving environment. Best practices relating to NFTs are still being developed.
- Take the long view. While the term “NFT” is new, art, commerce and technology have intersected for millennia.
If you’re interested in learning more, contact your J.P. Morgan team. We have a depth and breadth of financial and subject matter expertise to help you identify trends and make more informed decisions. Speak with us for information and practical tips on:
- Decoding NFT, blockchain and cryptocurrency terminology
- Addressing the current challenges of valuing NFTs and crypto assets
- Risk management of NFTs and crypto assets
- The tax implications of cryptocurrency transactions and tax compliance best practices
- How NFT transactions should be reported
- Estate planning opportunities and considerations
- Practicing good cybersecurity hygiene
- Intellectual property rights issues
- Assessing NFTs’ environmental impact
This material is for informational purposes only, and may inform you of certain products and services offered by J.P. Morgan’s wealth management businesses, part of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (“JPM”). Please read all Important Information.
GENERAL RISKS & CONSIDERATIONS
Any views, strategies or products discussed in this material may not be appropriate for all individuals and are subject to risks. Investors may get back less than they invested, and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results. Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Nothing in this material should be relied upon in isolation for the purpose of making an investment decision. You are urged to consider carefully whether the services, products, asset classes (e.g., equities, fixed income, alternative investments, commodities, etc.) or strategies discussed are suitable to your needs. You must also consider the objectives, risks, charges, and expenses associated with an investment service, product or strategy prior to making an investment decision. For this and more complete information, including discussion of your goals/situation, contact your J.P. Morgan representative.
Certain information contained in this material is believed to be reliable; however, JPM does not represent or warrant its accuracy, reliability or completeness, or accept any liability for any loss or damage (whether direct or indirect) arising out of the use of all or any part of this material. No representation or warranty should be made with regard to any computations, graphs, tables, diagrams or commentary in this material, which are provided for illustration/reference purposes only. The views, opinions, estimates and strategies expressed in this material constitute our judgment based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice. JPM assumes no duty to update any information in this material in the event that such information changes. Views, opinions, estimates and strategies expressed herein may differ from those expressed by other areas of JPM, views expressed for other purposes or in other contexts, and this material should not be regarded as a research report. Any projected results and risks are based solely on hypothetical examples cited, and actual results and risks will vary depending on specific circumstances. Forward-looking statements should not be considered as guarantees or predictions of future events.
Nothing in this document shall be construed as giving rise to any duty of care owed to, or advisory relationship with, you or any third party. Nothing in this document shall be regarded as an offer, solicitation, recommendation or advice (whether financial, accounting, legal, tax or other) given by J.P. Morgan and/or its officers or employees, irrespective of whether or not such communication was given at your request. J.P. Morgan and its affiliates and employees do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any financial transactions.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR INVESTMENTS AND POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Conflicts of interest will arise whenever JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or any of its affiliates (together, “J.P. Morgan”) have an actual or perceived economic or other incentive in its management of our clients’ portfolios to act in a way that benefits J.P. Morgan. Conflicts will result, for example (to the extent the following activities are permitted in your account): (1) when J.P. Morgan invests in an investment product, such as a mutual fund, structured product, separately managed account or hedge fund issued or managed by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. or an affiliate, such as J.P. Morgan Investment Management Inc.; (2) when a J.P. Morgan entity obtains services, including trade execution and trade clearing, from an affiliate; (3) when J.P. Morgan receives payment as a result of purchasing an investment product for a client’s account; or (4) when J.P. Morgan receives payment for providing services (including shareholder servicing, recordkeeping or custody) with respect to investment products purchased for a client’s portfolio. Other conflicts will result because of relationships that J.P. Morgan has with other clients or when J.P. Morgan acts for its own account.
Investment strategies are selected from both J.P. Morgan and third-party asset managers and are subject to a review process by our manager research teams. From this pool of strategies, our portfolio construction teams select those strategies we believe fit our asset allocation goals and forward-looking views in order to meet the portfolio’s investment objective.
As a general matter, we prefer J.P. Morgan managed strategies. We expect the proportion of J.P. Morgan managed strategies will be high (in fact, up to 100 percent) in strategies such as cash and high-quality fixed income, subject to applicable law and any account-specific considerations.
While our internally managed strategies generally align well with our forward-looking views, and we are familiar with the investment processes as well as the risk and compliance philosophy of the firm, it is important to note that J.P. Morgan receives more overall fees when internally managed strategies are included. We offer the option of choosing to exclude J.P. Morgan managed strategies (other than cash and liquidity products) in certain portfolios.
The Six Circles Funds are U.S.-registered mutual funds managed by J.P. Morgan and sub-advised by third parties. Although considered internally managed strategies, JPMC does not retain a fee for fund management or other fund services.
LEGAL ENTITY, BRAND & REGULATORY INFORMATION
In the United States, bank deposit accounts and related services, such as checking, savings and bank lending, are offered by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and its affiliates (collectively “JPMCB”) offer investment products, which may include bank-managed investment accounts and custody, as part of its trust and fiduciary services. Other investment products and services, such as brokerage and advisory accounts, are offered through J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (“JPMS”), a member of FINRA and SIPC. Annuities are made available through Chase Insurance Agency, Inc. (CIA), a licensed insurance agency, doing business as Chase Insurance Agency Services, Inc. in Florida. JPMCB, JPMS and CIA are affiliated companies under the common control of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Products not available in all states.
In Luxembourg, this material is issued by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. (JPMBL), with registered office at European Bank and Business Centre, 6 route de Treves, L-2633, Senningerberg, Luxembourg. R.C.S Luxembourg B10.958. Authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. is authorized as a credit institution in accordance with the Law of 5th April 1993. In the United Kingdom, this material is issued by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., London Branch. Prior to Brexit (Brexit meaning that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, or, if later, loses its ability to passport financial services between the United Kingdom and the remainder of the EEA), J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., London Branch is subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request. In the event of Brexit, in the United Kingdom, J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., London Branch is authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority, subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and limited regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request. In Spain, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Sucursal en España, with registered office at Paseo de la Castellana, 31, 28046 Madrid, Spain. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Sucursal en España is registered under number 1516 within the administrative registry of the Bank of Spain and supervised by the Spanish Securities Market Commission (CNMV). In Germany, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Frankfurt Branch, registered office at Taunustor 1 (TaunusTurm), 60310 Frankfurt, Germany, jointly supervised by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), and in certain areas also supervised by the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin). In Italy, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Milan Branch, registered office at Via Catena Adalberto 4, Milan 20121, Italy and regulated by Bank of Italy and the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB). In the Netherlands, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch, with registered office at World Trade Centre, Tower B, Strawinskylaan 1135, 1077 XX, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch is authorized and regulated by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF in Luxembourg; J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Amsterdam Branch is also authorized and supervised by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) and the Autoriteit Financiële Markten (AFM) in the Netherlands. Registered with the Kamer van Koophandel as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. under registration number 71651845. In Denmark, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. with registered office at Kalvebod Brygge 39-41, 1560 København V, Denmark. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A.is authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg, Copenhagen Br, filial af J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. is also subject to the supervision of Finanstilsynet (Danish FSA) and registered with Finanstilsynet as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. under code 29009. In Sweden, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial, with registered office at Hamngatan 15, Stockholm, 11147, Sweden. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial, is authorized and regulated by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) and jointly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) and the CSSF. J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A., Stockholm Bankfilial is also subject to the supervision of Finansinspektionen (Swedish FSA). Registered with Finansinspektionen as a branch of J.P. Morgan Bank Luxembourg S.A. In France, this material is distributed by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“JPMCB”), Paris branch, which is regulated by the French banking authorities Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution and Autorité des Marchés Financiers. In Switzerland, this material is distributed by J.P. Morgan (Suisse) S.A., which is regulated in Switzerland by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
In Hong Kong, this material is distributed by JPMCB, Hong Kong branch. JPMCB, Hong Kong branch is regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, we will cease to use your personal data for our marketing purposes without charge if you so request. In Singapore, this material is distributed by JPMCB, Singapore branch. JPMCB, Singapore branch is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Dealing and advisory services and discretionary investment management services are provided to you by JPMCB, Hong Kong/Singapore branch (as notified to you). Banking and custody services are provided to you by JPMCB Singapore Branch. The contents of this document have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in Hong Kong, Singapore or any other jurisdictions. You are advised to exercise caution in relation to this document. If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice. For materials which constitute product advertisement under the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act, this advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. is a national banking association chartered under the laws of the United States, and as a body corporate, its shareholder’s liability is limited.
With respect to countries in Latin America, the distribution of this material may be restricted in certain jurisdictions. We may offer and/or sell to you securities or other financial instruments which may not be registered under, and are not the subject of a public offering under, the securities or other financial regulatory laws of your home country. Such securities or instruments are offered and/or sold to you on a private basis only. Any communication by us to you regarding such securities or instruments, including without limitation the delivery of a prospectus, term sheet or other offering document, is not intended by us as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities or instruments in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or a solicitation is unlawful. Furthermore, such securities or instruments may be subject to certain regulatory and/or contractual restrictions on subsequent transfer by you, and you are solely responsible for ascertaining and complying with such restrictions. To the extent this content makes reference to a fund, the Fund may not be publicly offered in any Latin American country, without previous registration of such fund’s securities in compliance with the laws of the corresponding jurisdiction. Public offering of any security, including the shares of the Fund, without previous registration at Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission—CVM is completely prohibited. Some products or services contained in the materials might not be currently provided by the Brazilian and Mexican platforms.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (JPMCBNA) (ABN 43 074 112 011/AFS Licence No: 238367) is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Material provided by JPMCBNA in Australia is to “wholesale clients” only. For the purposes of this paragraph the term “wholesale client” has the meaning given in section 761G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). Please inform us if you are not a Wholesale Client now or if you cease to be a Wholesale Client at any time in the future.
JPMS is a registered foreign company (overseas) (ARBN 109293610) incorporated in Delaware, U.S.A. Under Australian financial services licensing requirements, carrying on a financial services business in Australia requires a financial service provider, such as J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPMS), to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL), unless an exemption applies. JPMS is exempt from the requirement to hold an AFSL under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Act) in respect of financial services it provides to you, and is regulated by the SEC, FINRA and CFTC under U.S. laws, which differ from Australian laws. Material provided by JPMS in Australia is to “wholesale clients” only. The information provided in this material is not intended to be, and must not be, distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other class of persons in Australia. For the purposes of this paragraph the term “wholesale client” has the meaning given in section 761G of the Act. Please inform us immediately if you are not a Wholesale Client now or if you cease to be a Wholesale Client at any time in the future.
This material has not been prepared specifically for Australian investors. It:
- May contain references to dollar amounts which are not Australian dollars;
- May contain financial information which is not prepared in accordance with Australian law or practices;
- May not address risks associated with investment in foreign currency denominated investments; and
- Does not address Australian tax issues.
References to “J.P. Morgan” are to JPM, its subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide. “J.P. Morgan Private Bank” is the brand name for the private banking business conducted by JPM.
This material is intended for your personal use and should not be circulated to or used by any other person, or duplicated for nonpersonal use, without our permission. If you have any questions or no longer wish to receive these communications, please contact your J.P. Morgan representative.
© 2020 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved.