The Definite Guide to Art Blocks (Part 3)
Minting from the website
In the before times, you could go to the website and find a project open for minting, click the mint button, pay a reasonable amount of gas, and get yourself a nice Art Block. That was before we had the little issue of overdemand. As demand ramped up, more and more projects got minted out - and when a new project was released, it tended to sell out incredibly quickly. Especially if it was Curated.
There were increasingly more vicious gas wars to the extent that if the mint price was 0.10 the effective cost that someone would pay would be 0.60, the bulk of the cost being gas paid to Ethereum miners. Not ideal. It eventually got to the point where people were programming what are called ‘flash bots’ to gain an absurd advantage over the average user by being able to procure large numbers of mints for very little gas. Something needed to be done. The good people at Art Blocks spent god-knows how many bazillions of hours trying to come up with a solution, and they decided to move all minting to Dutch Auctions.
Now, there’s been a lot of controversy over the Dutch Auction method. My thoughts are very much in line with what Churchill thought of democracy: Dutch Auctions are the worst drop approach that AB could have taken; except for every other approach. Spend enough time thinking about the other options and I imagine you will come to the same conclusion.
So what is a Dutch Auction anyway? Basically, the price starts high and every x amount of time it reduces. At the time of writing the current standard is to reduce the price every 5 minutes, but I believe they will be moving to an automated system soon where the price gradually decreases constantly and consistently. The purpose of this method is to allow for real-time price discovery and to avoid insane gas wars. Instead of the past scenario where the ‘mint price’ would be 0.10, the ‘effective mint price’ would be 0.60, and the artwork would sell on the secondary market for 1.5 ETH, we now have a situation where the artwork could sell for between 1 and 2 ETH with minimal additional gas.
This has the added benefit of more money going to the artist, more money going to Art Blocks, and less money going to the miners. An added benefit is the AB has implemented a mandatory charitable component where a very generous 25%+ usually goes to a charity of the artist’s choosing. The downside is that people minting might have to pay more than what they had to a few weeks ago - but ultimately, the market is deciding in real time what the “fair” price is to pay.
Soooo.. how do you mint from the website? Basically, you need to be aware of when a drop is happening, watch the price, and when it is at a point that you’re willing to pay, you click the mint button and submit your transaction. How can you know when drops are upcoming? The best way is to join the Art Blocks Discord - they post all upcoming projects in a channel aptly named.. #upcoming-projects.
You’ll find information about the project, the artist, a sample mint to get an idea of what it looks like. You can venture into other channels in the discord to talk to collectors, artists, fans, investors, to see what everyone thinks of the project before it’s launched, and decide if you want to try your hand at minting one. Whether you do or don’t want to try minting directly when new projects drop, buying from the secondary market is most likely going to be how most people will be buying Art Blocks pieces. Simply due to the fact that it’s the only way to get your hands on any piece that has already dropped.
Buying on a Secondary Market
While theoretically you could buy and sell AB on any secondary marketplace (or even in private sales not using a marketplace), in reality 99% of all secondary market sales currently take place on OpenSea. It is the defacto ‘go to’ place for almost all NFTs, AB included. Perhaps in the future (ideally in the not too distant future) we will have other decent options of marketplaces to trade NFTs on but for the time being we are more or less stuck with OpenSea, for better or worse.
When it comes to buying on the secondary market you have, again, two main options. You can “buy now” and pay the listing price for items listed for sale, or you can bid on any items you want and it is then up to the owner to decide whether to accept your bid or not. Something doesn’t have to be listed for sale in order for you to bid on it - you can bid on anything you want.
I’d wager that 90%+ of sales occur via the “buy now” option, and since this letter is already the size of a short novel, I will focus on that and not go into details about bidding.
The best way, to my mind, of finding the prices for things you might want to buy is to go to the collection you want (Curated, Playground, or Factory), filter by price low→ high and check the “buy now” box. This will then show you everything from that collection listed for sale. Whenever you’re buying something on OpenSea you should double and triple check that the collection you are buying from is authentic and legitimate - a good starting point is to look for the blue checkmark next to a collection signalling that it’s been verified. If in doubt, use the links below as they will take you to the correct collection pages (sorted from low→high price):
These are a great start and get you to see the entire bodies of work in the respective collections, but if you want to filter for a specific project, you have to scroll down the side bar on the left side of the screen - find the project - and check the “all” box, like this:
You can of course filter for other things like specific traits, but for the sake of brevity (lol), I will refrain from diving even deeper into that side of things.
So there you have it. You can now find the lowest priced (the floor) pieces for sale in any AB collection on OpenSea. Great.. but.. this is helpful if you already know what you want to buy. How on earth are you meant to decide what to buy given there are 150+ projects on Art Blocks, and counting? I’ll try to offer a little guidance.
What to buy, What to buy…
Honestly, first and foremost, it’s worth reiterating ‘the golden rule’ - buy what you like (and can afford). Taking some time to look through the Art Blocks Website and peruse the various projects and look into the artists and see if anything appeals to you. Next up consider how much money you’re wanting to spend. If your budget is 150 ETH your options are going to be a lot greater than if your budget is 5 ETH or 0.5 ETH.
Art Blocks Curated is the “safest” bet, to my mind. It is the luxury brand of Art Blocks, the flagship collection. The supply is controlled and the projects that are allowed to be released there are highly curated. Everything released there at the time of this posting is going to be from “the first year of Art Blocks’ History” and have historical value on top of the artistic and technical value.
This is not to say that there isn’t tremendous value in the Playground and Factory. There is. It might just be a touch riskier purely from an investment perspective because the supply isn’t as closely controlled and because it isn’t considered as luxury a brand, or to use a term I recently heard and now pretend to be an expert on, it is not, necessarily, a Veblen Good. Then again, there’s a case to be made that any piece of AB Art might be considered a Veblen Good.
Given the high cost of entry (which is likely to only continue to rise as time goes on), many people are going to be ‘priced out’ of ABC. These people will still want to be part of the AB movement and will look to the more affordable pieces in the PG/Factory. As more people find Art Blocks and fall into this category, more people will buy PG/Factory pieces, and the prices will eventually/inevitably continue to go up there, too, in my opinion. At least for everything released thus far - it’s hard to predict the future (ie if they decide to release 25 projects a week (somehow) then those new projects are unlikely to appreciate as much in value as the existing ones).
It’s probably worth repeating this now:
There is no limit to the supply of tokenized assets that will emerge in the future, but there is an iron-clad hard cap on the scarcity of those in the past - @WhiteRabbit1111
Some things to consider when you’re looking at things to buy:
Would you hang this on your wall? It goes without saying but if you like the art, it’s a whole lot easier to justify buying it.
Who is the artist? It’s easy to look at the projects and pieces of artwork as just NFTs, assets that are being traded back and forth. It’s worth remembering that a human being created the code that allowed this art to be generated. Read about them, learn about why they made this project, how they made it, what other work they’ve created, and what else they might be planning in the future. Talk to them - many of the artists on AB are very approachable either on Twitter or in Discord. You can find tremendous value and fulfillment in creating a relationship with an artist and finding a deeper understanding of their work, history, and future visions.
What is the total supply of the project? Lower supply = easier for the price to appreciate.
How many are currently listed for sale? Fewer listed = easier for the price to appreciate, and also a sign that the pieces are in more ‘diamond hands’.
How old is it? The more recent a project, the more likely it is to still be in a price discovery stage. This is a double edged sword - you might be able to get a great piece at a ‘cheap’ price, but you might also overpay and have the market correct in the short term.
What does the community think of the project? Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It makes sense to buy what you like, however, purely from an investment perspective - the value of a piece of work is only going to go up if other people also like and are willing to pay more for it. Talk to others, spend some time in the AB discord, read posts on Twitter. Be careful here, though - a lot of people are going to ‘pump their own bags’ and talk up the projects they have invested in. It takes a bit of time and work and experience but try and look deeper and find the people appreciating projects because of the art and the artist and not those who are solely thinking of their bottom line.
Zeneca’s Picks I’m going to give my thoughts and suggestions for what I would buy right now if I were looking to spend some money, at certain price points. This is not financial advice. Please note that by the time you read this, the landscape and market is likely to have changed. I’m trying to illustrate and provide some insight how I approach thinking about buying Art Blocks pieces both from an investors perspective but also from a collectors perspective. This is for educational purposes, and this is just one person’s opinions.
Top Tier (20+ ETH)
It’s hard to imagine going too wrong with a Fidenza or Ringers at this point. They are so well ingrained as being the holy grails of Art Blocks and so much of the supply is locked up in the vaults of serious collectors that, despite their already high prices, I see them continue to do well in the long term.
I’m going to give my thoughts and suggestions for what I would buy right now if I were looking to spend some money, at certain price points. This is not financial advice. Please note that by the time you read this, the landscape and market is likely to have changed. I’m trying to illustrate and provide some insight how I approach thinking about buying Art Blocks pieces both from an investors perspective but also from a collectors perspective. __This is for educational purposes, and this is just one person’s opinions. __
Top Tier (20+ ETH)
It’s hard to imagine going too wrong with a Fidenza or Ringers at this point. They are so well ingrained as being the holy grails of Art Blocks and so much of the supply is locked up in the vaults of serious collectors that, despite their already high prices, I see them continue to do well in the long term
I think ‘the next’ projects that break the 100 ETH floor barrier are likely to be Archetype, Subscapes and Unigrids. They’re all fan favourites within the AB community and all have much lower supplies. I don’t think any of these suggestions are going to come as a surprise to anyone. As much as people love the newer projects (Pigments, Fragments of an Infinite Dream, phase, etc), and as much as I love them, it’s hard to imagine them doing better long-term than the earlier, lower supply projects. That said, nobody could have predicted Fidenza would be the highest floor priced Curated drop with the (relatively) high supply and overtaking some of the OG projects, so.. don’t be too surprised if a new project does reach astonishing heights.
Mid Tier (5-20 ETH)
This is a huge category, with a lot of projects. I love a lot of them.
No Art Blocks collection is complete without a Chromie Squiggle. They are the first mint. They are iconic - literally the logo for Art Blocks. The artist is Snowfro, the founder of Art Blocks. Yes, the supply is enormous compared to every other project (a max of 10k), but in the grand scheme of things.. 10k is not a lot. Squiggles are the safest and most surefire, easiest way to bet on the future of Art Blocks. I’ve heard them being called the “index fund” of Art Blocks. That’s perhaps a touch insulting to the art itself and is separating art from investment to the extreme, but it’s also not entirely absurd to think of it that way, I think.
My personal favourites within this price range are, in no particular order: Pigments, Singularity, AlgoRhythms, 720 Minutes, CENTURY, Ecumenopolis, Libertad Parametrizada, Fragments of an Infinite Field.
Low Tier (1-5 ETH)
Again, a huge category, with a lot of projects, and I love a lot of them. I’ll reiterate, for the 4076th time, that I highly recommend spending some time looking through the website and seeing if anything tickles your fancy.
This is probably the price range that most people have the most difficulty with because of how much more accessible it is than the 5+ ETH range, and because of how much more choice there is.
For starters, if you’re able to, you can still pick up some great Curated pieces in this range. The current floor for any Curated piece is around 1.6 ETH (for a CryptoBlot or 27-Bit Digital). Some of my personal favourite collections are still within this range (albeit only just, for some of them): Dreams, Trossets, Scribbled Boundaries, Apparitions, Watercolor Dreams.
This is also a price range where you can start to pick up some fantastic pieces in the Playground by the same artists that have released a Curated drop, but for, generally, lower price points. The Blocks of Art and Alien Clock by Shvembldr both have floors of 10+ ETH, but his other Playground project Alien Insects is still available for under 2 ETH at the moment.
Michael Connolly’s curated drop Elementals has a floor of 5+ ETH, but you can get a Divisions for 2.33 ETH at the moment. Beervangeer’s HyperHash has a floor of 10+ ETH, but you could get an EnergySclupture for 1.5 ETH (and even an UltraWave for around 0.6 ETH atm). You can find great art, by great artists, at great price points, in the Playground.
There are some Factory projects in this price point too that I would take a close look at. Personally I think The Opera is freaking awesome; as is Rapture, LeWitt Generator Generator, and many others. Want a project by a Curated artist at a lower price point? Rich Lord’s Octo Garden in the factory is a great option.
Entry Level (sub 1 ETH)
Now we must say goodbye to Curated pieces; short of a very serious price correction, it is unlikely that we see the price for anything Curated drop below 1 ETH again. Fear not, you still have plenty of options. At the time of writing there are 54 Factory projects and 6 Playground projects with a floor of under 1 ETH. There are actually 23 Factory projects that can be bought for 0.30 ETH or less.
With, again, so much choice - try and find what you like that is within your budget. From an investment perspective, look for those with lower supplies as they tend to have better price appreciation at least in the short-medium term, and likely long term too. My favourites? Now, this is going to sound a little uppity, perhaps, but I really love..
Ode to Roy 😅 Hear me out, and it’s not just me - these are clearly a fan favourite. This project by artplusbrad is an ode to the famous American pop artist Roy Lichenstein:
An ode to Roy Lichtenstein, incorporating his iconic version of Ben-Day dots, halftone dots, angled stripes, and solid color patches. Inspired by Roy's sea and landscape paintings, each artwork generates a unique combination of patterns, shapes, and colors.
Speaking of odes to Roy, a more recent Factory drop was also inspired by Lichenstein: Brush Pops. Given their recency the floor price is (relatively) low, currently sitting at around 0.4 ETH. They look great too - and I promised Rachel I would talk about them in this behemoth of a post because they’re her favourite. She keeps buying them. She has a problem. But they are awesome - I also bought quite a few.
Brushpops is a generative system inspired by Roy Lichtenstein’s iconic work, where a random hash determines the composition of a series of abstract brush strokes. Lichtenstein’s original work has separated the brushstrokes from their original context, and now we take another step in the same direction, and separate the artist from the work. The artist has to relinquish control, and set the work free, where only some loosely-predetermined rules and a hash number will determine the actual outcome. The Brushstroke was detached from the painting, and it’s now detached from the artist as well.
The still images don’t do them justice (as is the case with a lot of AB pieces) - if you view them in the live-viewer you can see the brush strokes animate. It’s cool, it’s fun. I like them. Rachel likes them. We enjoy them. We’re happy to pay for art that makes us happy; and if they end up being profitable investments, that’s all the better.
Speaking of art that makes us happy and is affordable and fun - Transitions are another one of my favourites and are even more ‘Entry Level’ than the above suggestions. They have a very large supply, though, with 4,712 minted. They were part of an “open edition” drop where you can mint an unlimited amount within a one hour window. AB doesn’t do these any more - there were only two, Transitions and Flowers, and both have significantly larger supplies than most other collections. I thought they were (and still are) an excellent way for new people to get into Art Blocks with great pieces of art at relatively affordable price points - currently the floor for both are sitting between 0.2 and 0.25 ETH.
Another personal favourite of mine from the Playground at this price level is Pathfinders by luxpris. Their Curated drop is Elevated Deconstruction with a current floor of 135 ETH. You can get a Pathfinders for 0.67 ETH at the moment.
There are a lot of great projects that I didn’t mention. Many that I love, many that don’t quite appeal to me as much as they do other people. Each to their own. Part of the beauty of AB is that there is so much variety that there is bound to be something to appeal to everyone’s taste. And if the entire thesis of this post is to be believed, as I believe it to be, there is tremendous investment value to be found by buying and holding some pieces of Art Blocks art. To quote the great Zeneca_33:
…many of us are in the NFT world at least in part for financial reasons, and so if it is monetary value that you are looking for, you would be hard pressed to find better value than buying and holding a piece of Art Blocks art.
Parting Thoughts - Looking Ahead
Oh, you thought that was the end? No friend. There are words left in me yet. What does the future hold for Art Blocks? To my mind.. a lot. We are just at the beginning. It’s Year One. Spend some time reading the announcements in the AB Discord or listening to interviews by Snowfro and you’ll hear about some of the things in the pipeline; you’ll start to pick up on little thoughts and ideas of what they might be working on.
Mainstream adoption hasn’t even begun to begin. The global art market has been hovering around $50bn per year and this does not include NFTs. Some of that money is sure to flow to the NFT art space; perhaps a lot of it. Some of that money is sure to flow to Art Blocks; perhaps a lot of it.
More than anything, there is so much new money and interest in art, and in Art Blocks. People like me. People that were never that interested in art, but because of NFTs and generative art and the blockchain, have become fans of art. Appreciators. Admirers. Collectors. Some of us have a bit of money, some of us have a lot of money. Some of that money is going to flow to art blocks; perhaps… a lot of it.
Art Blocks is hiring. These last few weeks they have brought on several new full time staff members, and are looking for more. They are building for the future - for the very, very, very long run. There will be museums and galleries around the world that will feature Art Blocks art. Mark. My. Words. We are at the crescent of a worldwide art and cultural revolution, and Art Blocks has found itself at the heart and soul of it.
It is not too late to get involved. It. Is. Still. Freaking. Early.
It won’t be early forever. One day, long into the future, I will have to stop saying that we’re early. Today is not that day. Today, and tomorrow, and next week, we are, and will still be, early.
Disclaimer: The content covered in this newsletter is not to be considered as investment advice. I’m not a financial adviser. These are only my own opinions and ideas. You should always consult with a professional/licensed financial adviser before trading or investing in any cryptocurrency related product.
Additional Disclaimer: I own an enormous amount of Art Blocks. Every piece posted in this thread (aside from the Goose and the Tulip) is from my collection. My incentives are very much aligned with the success of Art Blocks. This is one person’s view and opinion; there are likely contrarian viewpoints out there which have a much less bullish outlook for Art Blocks and NFTs. Do your own research before making any financial decisions.
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Article 2 - Inside the mind of a NFT collector
This is the second Article where I share one of my public wallets to provide insights on how I approach buying NFT artwork.
Article 1 - Inside the mind of a NFT collector
Welcome to the first article in the series!