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NFTs: Why I have, so far, remained gravely agnostic about non-fungible tokens – iNews

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Earlier this week, I received a call about an announcement: Glenfiddich was going to be offering investors a chance to buy a £13,000 bottle of whisky, and each purpose would be backed up by a non-fungible token (NFT)

For the uninitiated, an NFT is a way to use blockchain technology – the same system which underlies cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin – to register ownership of a digital asset. Their usage has exploded over the past year, as people buy tokens to own pieces of art that often only exist electronically. 

The perceived value of the tokens has kicked off a raging speculative market, and many high-profile instances see individual assets being sold for millions of dollars. 

If not quite a complete non-believer, I have so far remained gravely agnostic about the whole phenomenon. It had all too many similarities, for me, with the initial coin offering (ICO) craze of a few years ago, when the popularity of major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether prompted all and sundry to think they could just launch their own cryptocurrency, and we ended up with a raft of stupidly-named coins, many of which are now worthless. 

Others have compared NFTs to the dot.com boom, to tulips in Holland, and even to the 90s craze for selling the “right” to name a star

Against this backdrop, the communications professional who called to tell me about the Glenfiddich news could immediately sense that my guardrails were up. Before I even said anything, he acknowledged the skepticism surrounding NFTs and sought to convince me that this one was different. 

And as it happens, I think he had a point. The Glenfiddich whisky sale is an example of using the technology behind NFTs to record ownership of a real, tangible asset – not just a digital one. If they really want to, the buyer can send for their bottle and drink their £13,000 investment at home. 

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I’m not totally convinced that this isn’t a new marketing sheen on something that already existed: we already have digital ways of owning physical assets, and the fact that Glenfiddich said it would be following the example of fashion brands by doing new “drops” of assets in future suggests that there is a big focus on hype here. 

But what it does show is that with each investing craze, something shifts. Big, long-established companies begin to pay attention and think about whether they should be adapting to the future.

It also prompts regulators to evaluate what’s going on – Lord Hill’s review of UK stock-market listing rules has stated that one of its goals would be “empowering” retail shareholders, an ambition surely made more urgent by the pandemic boom in share-trading apps. 

I have no easy answer for whether anything valuable will come out of the NFT craze, or indeed out of the next dozen investing trends.

What I do know is that, while maintaining a healthy dose of scepticism about each one, we should also not dismiss them out of hand without looking at what advances in technology, regulation and money management we might be able to take from them. 


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