An archaeological find in NFT history.
By Judy Mam
This article originally appeared on NFTSWTF on September 21, 2021.
Only in the blockchain universe is something that happened four years ago considered part of prehistory. But in the NFT world, we are living on blockchain time. This means that the Creeps & Weirdos, the funky collection DADA issued in October 2017, is considered a historical, even prehistorical artifact. And the Creeps happen to have quite an interesting story.
Back in those prehistoric times, DADA, a collaborative art platform where people speak to each other through drawings, first implemented blockchain smart contracts on a curated collection of 108 different drawings with a supply of 16,600 digital prints. Creeps & Weirdos was inspired by the Rare Pepes, and the Cryptopunks, which had just been launched a couple of months before.
The artworks were created on our drawing platform by 30 artists. From the Rare Pepes, we got the inspiration for the dank style that early collectors liked. They were mostly developers, people with crypto to burn, and early adopters who were excited to be able to spend their ETH on a real use case. From the Cryptopunks we adapted their collectible structure with different levels of scarcity and created a decentralized marketplace for rare digital art made by artists on Ethereum. “Rare art” is how we used to call NFTs in those days.
It was so early that you could reach out to the biggest experts in blockchain art at the time and they would not only answer immediately but compare notes and learn from each other because everything was NEW.
Matt and John from Larva Labs generously allowed us to modify the Cryptopunks smart contract. We did this by coding royalties into the smart contracts on-chain for the first time in NFT history.
A hybrid of art and collectibles was born. C&W were not trading cards, memes, avatars, or a game. They were actual art, digitally handmade by artists on our platform, and they paved the way for all the current crypto art marketplaces. We have seen all of them blossom since.
But back then it was by no means a crowded space. There were only a handful of platforms investigating rare digital art, and the most pressing question we were asked was whether people could hang the art on their walls. Why, I wondered, is everyone perfectly okay with reading books, watching movies, listening to music, let alone sharing every detail of their lives digitally, but they can’t get over rare digital art?
The few artists, technologists, and early collectors who saw the revolutionary possibilities of blockchain for art and artists used to meet and get pumped up together. This is precisely what happened at Rare Art Festival in January 2018, an event that was a major milestone in the history of NFTs, and which included early platforms and projects like Cryptopunks, Cryptokitties, DADA, Cryptoartsy, Rare Pepes, Rare Art Labs, and Spells of Genesis.
It was an electric time. The C&W collection was featured in Artnome’s article The Blockchain Art Market is Here. Things moved fast. We were invited to speak at Christie’s (which was not quite ready for prime time yet), MIT, NYU, SXSW, and countless meetups and panels. Meanwhile, we were trying to onboard our artists to crypto wallets and convince people that rare digital art was a revolution in the making. Meanwhile, at the Rare AF 1, the first-ever live auction of rare digital art saw the Homer Pepe sell for $39,000.
Everything was coming up roses until Bitcoin crashed the following year. At the 2018 Ethereal Summit, the market was bullish and the art auction had commanded high prices. The onset of the Crypto Winter was a different story. The 2019 Ethereal Summit auction was one of the saddest affairs I’ve ever attended. All that cash-rich enthusiasm had evaporated. That’s when DADA decided to upgrade the C&W smart contract into the then-new ERC721 standard and cut the original supply of C&W in half, to 8300 prints. We paused the 2017 contract, airdropped new ERC721 Weirdos to every 2017 collector, and retired the original collection. To give you an idea of the kind of blues that set in, only three C&W collectors purchased these 2019 tokens at the time. And one of them belonged to us.
In the intervening years, the Creeps & Weirdos were dormant in their vault getting ready for their planned comeback. Finally, in the Spring of 2021, the world seemed to have caught up to NFTs. We were planning on reissuing the collection but NFT “archaeologists” dug it up from an ancient hidden link that wasn’t public, and beat us to the punch, buying the Weirdos in an event that we call ”the Apestorm”.
Alas, collectors found out that these historic NFTs could not be traded on secondary markets, because of the lack of royalty standards on Ethereum. So we spent 5 months looking into our contracts, searching for ways to unlock our NFTs while preserving their provenance and reuniting two tokens that were diverging with every over-the-counter sale. We realized that the most direct link to provenance was the historic 2017 ERC 20 contract. Unpausing it meant that in order to truly keep it as one collection we would have to burn the 2019 contract. We did not want to do that: each one of them had its own historical importance and its own quirks, not to mention the fact that the 2019 contract includes other collections as well. Each one represented a different moment in time, a landscape, and a wealth of experience. We decided to honor the history behind this collection with all its experiments, adventures, and discoveries and to preserve both of them as a record of the development of DADA and by corollary, of crypto art.
Much like fine wine vintages, and unlike any other NFT collection on the planet, the Creeps & Weirdos is one collection that has two editions with two historic smart contracts; that is, the same art in two different tokens, ERC20 Creeps or ERC721 Weirdos, with their different characteristics, stories, and nuances.
DADA has been around since 2012. We adopted the blockchain in 2017 because we knew it was the way to turbocharge our commitment to putting an end to the myth of the starving artist. Since retiring the Creeps & Weirdos collection in 2019, we have been focusing on exploring possibilities beyond the markets, into the emerging field of token economics. In June 2020 we presented our white paper The Invisible Economy at the RadicalxChange conference. We keep looking ahead.
The return of the C&W marks the beginning of a new era in which 100% of the revenues will go to the DADA Fund and get distributed to contributing members of the community in the form of basic income. We also intend to expand our marketplace to the 2019 Weirdos and the other collections we have on that 721ERC contract in a brand new marketplace on Palm.
The past was awesome, the present is bright, and the future is brighter.
Judy Mam is a writer and one of the cofounders of DADA.