We were not surprised to read that a company that tracks NFTs declared that most NFTs are now worthless. But the NFT — non-fungible token — market was huge, so around 23 million people invested in NFTs that are now worth nothing. Worse still, the company notes that because of oddities in how NFTs are priced, the real number of worthless assets is probably even greater than they think.
It is easy to look back and think that it was obvious. After all, an NFT of the Mona Lisa isn’t really the Mona Lisa. Nor does owning it confer any real benefit other than “bragging rights” of owning an NFT of the Mona Lisa. But that’s like saying Luke should have known Darth Vader was his father — it’s only evident after the fact. History is replete with bad ideas at the time that paid out down the road. Of course, history is also full of bad ideas that were simply bad ideas. For every Apple or Google stock you didn’t buy at $4 a share, there are a hundred $4 stocks that you shouldn’t have bought.
The NFT craze was sort of a viral event. We usually think of these as part of the Internet culture, but that’s not really true. There is actually very little new on the Internet. The Internet just lets things reach further and faster than before.
Don’t believe me? Kilroy was a viral meme in the 1940s. Fads such as hula hoops, phone booth stuffing, and flagpole sitting were the ice bucket challenges of their day. But, of course, these things weren’t economic. Just fun fads. But economic fads that turn out to be a bad idea are nothing new, either.