NFTs or non-fungible tokens have gained a lot of momentum in the last few months. Whether it’s because of the digital art, the technology behind them, the money-making potential, or a simple case of FOMO, people can’t get enough of them.
Each day, we wake up to stories of artists and celebrities buying and selling NFTs for insane amounts. Case and point? Eminem recently shelled out 123.45 Ethereum (currently worth over $400K) for a Bored Ape NFT — and that’s not even the most expensive one in the market.
As someone who’s crawling herself out of student debt and on a budget, paying six figures for a digital asset is simply out of the question.
But are all NFTs that expensive? Or is there a way to start small?
I talked to NFT trader investor, consultant, advisor, and founder Ish Verduzco to find out, and, to my surprise, his answers were very promising.
Do you have to be rich to invest in NFTs?
Last March, digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as “Beeple,” made headlines when an NFT of his work was sold for a record-breaking $69 million.
Then, we saw Snoop Dogg and Grimes buying and selling NFTs for six and seven figures, while Paris Hilton joined forces with Bill Ackman to back a $300 million NFT Foundation.
With figures like that, it’s easy to think that NFTs are some sort of exclusive investment that only the rich can afford. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth — at least that’s what both Verduzco and the data say. Verduzco says:
“Yes, there is some level of barrier to entry at the moment. But I wouldn’t say that they’re for the ultra-rich either…I think there’s an opportunity to get in.”
What makes NFTs more expensive than your average investment is that most of them are minted through smart contracts that live in the Ethereum blockchain, which Verduzco says is one of the most expensive ones, partly due to the gas fees.
Gas fees are basically the transaction fees of the Ethereum network. These fees are non-refundable, and must be charged to cover the costs of the energy used by the computers when validating and recording each NFT transaction. Verduzco says:
“To give you a very quick overview, it can cost like $50 to a few $100 just to transact, plus the cost of the NFT itself.”
So, how much money do you need to start investing in NFTs?
A recent study by Canadian concept artist Kimberly Parker, which analyzed public API data from sales on popular NFT marketplaces, like OpenSea, Nifty Gateway, Rarible, SuperRare, and MakersPlace, found that most NFTs are actually sold for under $200.
That’s right, you don’t need six figures — not even four figures, to own an NFT.
Verduzco says that a good amount to get started would be $500, which isn’t outrageous. After all, popular investment firms, like Wealthfront and E*TRADE, require minimum deposits of that same amount for you to start investing in their automated portfolios.
Why now may be a good time to get into NFTs
Many crypto and NFT experts — Verduzco included, think that the blockchain and smart contract technology behind NFTs will spread like wildfire across multiple industries, changing the world as we know it.
“It’s going to be integrated into almost everything we do,” Verduzco says.
“It’s not just going to be just art, it’s going to go into music, it’s going to go into film, it’s going to go into transacting things like deeds to houses, and anything that has to do with verification of ownership.”
Here’s a quick example of how this could work:
When you’re buying a house, the bank needs to make sure that the title is free and clear before closing on the loan. This process alone can take two weeks, and you’ll have to pay additional fees to the third-party company conducting the search.
But if the house was registered and sold as an NFT, for example, each transaction pertaining to that property would’ve been accounted for and recorded in the blockchain. So, clearing the title would only take a couple of hours instead of weeks, and you’d be able to get rid of the middleman and unnecessary fees.
Although the concept of NFTs is still in its early stages, Verduzco says that “it’s better to be ahead,” and — if possible — invest in it, so you learn the inner workings firsthand.
This will allow you “to spot more opportunities to make money, or find other people that are in this space who compliment your strengths and weaknesses in order to build projects based on needs.”
How to start investing in NFTs when you’re on a budget
As part of my convo with Verduzco, we bounced off some ideas on how you can get into the NFT game without breaking the bank. These are a few of them.
Explore NFT projects that use cheaper cryptocurrencies
If you visit OpenSea, which is currently the world’s largest NFT market, you’ll see that the vast majority of NFTs listed there use the Ethereum network (aka the most expensive NFT blockchain).
But just because most NFTs use this blockchain, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other options.
Blockchains like Solana and Polygon (which was created as an efficient solution to the Ethereum network and is compatible with it) use cryptocurrencies that are much cheaper than ether, which is Ethereum’s currency.
Here’s an example:
At the moment this article was written, one SOL, which is Solana’s cryptocurrency, was worth $0.26, while one MATIC, which is Polygon’s cryptocurrency, was worth $2.13. But, if you wanted to purchase one ether, which is Ethereum’s cryptocurrency, you’d need $3,121.93 to do so.
So, yeah, there’s a huge difference there.
These alternative blockchains are also rising in popularity. JPMorgan recently released a report in which it states that the Ethereum blockchain is losing a chunk of its market share to Solana, as the blockchain is less congested (aka faster) and cheaper to invest in than Ethereum.
When it comes to projects that use Polygon, you can find them just by visiting OpenSea. To see all the NFTs you can place bids on or buy using this network, simply click on the “Chains” option on the left panel, and select “Polygon.”
Mint a project
When you mint a project, you’re basically investing in it before it actually goes live. So, you could think of it as the Kickstarter of an NFT project. Verduzco says:
“The initial mint is usually like 0.05 Ethereum, which is a relatively small amount. If you happen to make it in that initial mint, then you pay only 0.05 Ethereum, versus if the project goes up in value, and then it costs 0.7, or much higher.”
One good example of an NFT project that is currently in its minting phase, and that I happen to like a lot is the Lucky Goat. You can currently mint this project for 0.0777 Ethereum ($243.43).
What has me rooting for the Lucky Goat (besides the art, of course) is that they donate some of their profits to Heifer International, which is a nonprofit whose mission is to help eradicate hunger and poverty.
So, how do you find projects to mint?
- Twitter. If you enter “#mint” or “#NFT” on Twitter’s search bar, you’ll find countless threads of founders and artists sharing their upcoming NFT projects.
- Discord. In case you don’t know what Discord is, it is a group-chatting app, where users join servers (aka private groups) to chat about a specific topic. Many NFT founders use this app to talk about their upcoming NFT projects, to get both support and feedback from users.
- rarity.tools. Although this website is mostly used by NFT traders to vet projects and find rankings based on their rarity or unique traits, it also has an Upcoming NFT Sales section, where you can check projects to mint.
- OpenSea’s homepage. They often share new mints, and you can easily browse through their huge NFT market.
But be careful…
Before minting a project, Verduzo says it’s super important to ensure its legitimacy, so you don’t get rugged (NFT lingo for “scammed”). Sadly, just like in any space, there are always bad players that are just there to do a quick cash grab and disappear.
To avoid this, make sure you research the project thoroughly by finding out all you can about its community, founders, and mission, as well as how long they’ve been around in this space.
If the project disappears into the mist, your NFT most likely will lose all its value, unless someone else decides to take over the project.
Time your purchase
Unlike the stock market, which is open for transactions Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, the NFT market is a global market that is open 24/7.
“So, it’s not just you and everybody else in the United States that you’re transacting with, it’s everybody in the entire world who has access to the Internet,” Verduzco says.
And, the more people that are trying to conduct transactions on the Ethereum network, the more congested it will be, which automatically translates to higher gas fees. This will hopefully be improved once Ethereum 2.0 (also known as the consensus layer) is fully rolled out.
One way to spend less money when buying NFTs is to ensure you conduct your transactions during the time of the day when the network is less congested.
Verduzco says that 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. PST is probably the worst time of the day to buy NFTs because that’s when most people around the world are awake. He suggests timing your transactions to random hours when most people are sleeping, like 2:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. PST. Though not always practical, it can help save a good amount of money.
You can also track gas prices by visiting the ETH Gas Station.
Become an NFT expert
Since NFTs are still an emerging concept, Verduzco says that one way you can make money in this space, without being an investor, is by learning all you can about them.
“It doesn’t always have to be investing in an NFT collection, in order to get a return,” Verduzco says.
“Understanding everything about the NFT space and becoming very good on one specific skill set, whether it’s social media marketing, community management, creating Discords, branding, or content creation, is going to provide value because, all of a sudden, you open yourself up to many job opportunities.”
In other words, you’ll be able to profit from your NFT knowledge as this technology becomes more widespread, and companies start searching for people who know their way around this space.
Before investing in NFTs…
Make sure your finances are in order
Investing in NFTs represents a higher risk than investing in traditional stocks or bonds, as their value is determined by speculation, so it fluctuates more than with your average investment.
Besides that, once you purchase an NFT, the transaction is final, and flipping them or reselling them could take a while. That’s why it’s so important you only invest money you have to spare, and not money you’re going to need short-term, as this could result in a financial disaster.
Learn as much as you can
“I would suggest investing your time and energy on learning before putting your money up,” Verduzco says.
“Find really cool projects that you like, and then join the Discords, listen to conversations, ask questions, watch a bunch of videos, read a bunch of blogs before you even think about putting Ethereum in your wallet to spend.”
Learning as much as you can about NFTs will give you a realistic idea of what to expect, plus determine whether you’re ready to take the plunge, or if you should wait a little longer before investing in this space.
If you’re curious about learning, you can check out podcasts, like a16z, which has extensive information on this topic, as well as reading books, like The NFT Handbook: How to Create, Sell and Buy Non-Fungible Token, to get started.
Additionally, Verduzco’s Twitter account is like a gold mine of NFT info, as he frequently shares projects, articles, and tips to help people learn more about this space.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to invest in NFTs, however, there’s a learning curve to be successful in this space.
The most important thing is to learn as much as you can about it, vet projects carefully, understand the risks associated with investing in such a volatile space, and make sure you don’t use money you’re gonna need. This will allow you to make the most out of your experience.
Featured image: mundissima/Shutterstock.com