The open edition meta isn’t a novel mechanism, but recently caught the attention of several artists. The minting mechanics determine the size of a collection by allowing the market to decide the appetite for the artist’s work.
One of the more recent open edition mints has a story entwined with Twitter and some recent changes to their verification checkmark.
This article delves into Checks, by Jack Butcher. It examines the project’s origins, reviews the innovative features, and analyzes the project's performance and future prospects.
Date Published: January 30, 2023.
Butcher is renowned for breaking down messages into simple, easily digestible images leveraging his creative agency, Visualize Value (“VV”). This piece captures the kinetic movement of the ball, gravity and a half-pipe well with the caption “Energy”:
He’s applied this concept throughout his career.
There’s a saying:
“A picture paints a thousand words”.
This couldn’t be more accurate. In an era where attention is becoming a scarce commodity, communicating a message efficiently and effectively is invaluable.
Creating simple visual images or infographics can become an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Butcher realized this early on and has since built VV by leveraging this approach.
It’s stated that 65% of people are visual learners. Sight is probably the most powerful sense. In fact, we can process visuals 60,000X faster in the brain than text. We are able to absorb 36,000 images per hour. It’s no wonder many of us get caught in a doom scroll on Instagram!
The brain can see images that last for just 13 milliseconds. Subliminal messages have been included in videos. Our subconscious registers them while our conscious is preoccupied.
This is where the Checks VV project becomes so powerful.
There’s huge equity in the verification check mark. It reinforces a number of values. These values were violated when Elon Musk acquired the social media platform, changing the meaning of the tick mark from being a notable person to simply evidence that you are paying for a premium subscription. Butcher illustrates this with a simple piece, Checks VV, that resonates with so many.
Launching this project as an NFT leverages the beneficial properties of blockchain technology to enhance the art creation process and develop a more refined piece of art, more closely aligned with the collectors’ desires. It provides increased data on the collectors, their buying patterns as well as how they behave when given rules around the direction of the project. It offers another layer of experimentation that was not available previously.
Checks began as a single tweet to gauge audience feedback. But it became more than that when the feedback was so positive.
It soon prompted deeper discussions around social status following the aftermath of acquiring the blue checkmark on Twitter for an $8 fee.
“The reception to the open edition created this amazing opportunity to elaborate on the premise and continue to push the question and play with the concept in a deeper and more interesting way.”
On January 3, the Checks’ open edition saw 16,031 NFTs minted for an $8 fee raking in $128k USD in mint revenue in just a 24-hour open edition window.
It was clear early on that the mint was going to be a success. Jack commented throughout at his surprise of several hundred minting, let alone thousands.
We also note that as part of Butcher’s “Transparency time” the process is just as important as the art itself.
The experimental journey creates a new way of integrating the fan base into the decision-making process. This interactive relationship strengthens the bond and attachment to the underlying artwork - more than just being drawn to the aesthetics.
The following quote, included with the NFT, probes the collector to think about the purpose of the piece.
“This is a legacy verified account. It may or may not be notable.”
Twitter is the primary platform for NFT communication. The open network protocol allows for information to go viral through the retweet mechanism across several entwined networks. Sending the piece into the ether, on the very platform where the debacle took place, clearly struck a chord with so many.
While the simplicity of how the checkmark is placed is well structured, that is not the only reason for the success of the project. The open edition combined with the relatively low fee has meant many are included in the experiment. The next phase has people on their seats in what will be a huge social experiment that will likely inspire future innovative ideas to come.
The next phase is intended to decrease the supply and allow holders to consolidate their holdings into scarce, rarer pieces through a one-way burn mechanism on chain.
It may make sense to burn your initial NFT. But if everyone else executes this approach then the initial phase NFT could end up becoming the rarest given the non-reversible element.
It will take 64 initial check pieces to obtain a single black check mark. Then a further 64 (4,096 original Check VV NFTs) of the black Checks to obtain the ultimate grail.
Collectors will need to choose which token ID to preserve - an interesting approach to understanding the psychology of numbers and which ones place importance on. Imagine if this experiment results in findings that can be used in pricing mechanics. Some may say the population size is too small, but the law of averages could infer some interesting insights about human behavior.
It’s inevitable that the 69s and 420s will do well given the internet culture, but could there be some surprises with other numbers that fans find auspicious?
With a floor price of 0.6 ETH ($950 USD) the estimated floor MC is 9,618 ETH ($15.2m USD).
So in order to obtain a single black check mark a collector will need to spend 38.4 ETH ($60.8k USD).
There have been “Black Check DAOs” set up to attempt to accumulate enough checks for the ultimate grail. You may be thinking that it will only cost 2,458 ETH ($3.9m USD) to obtain one of these, but you’d be mistaken. Obtaining 4,096 individual pieces would cost a significant amount more than the current floor price of 0.6 ETH each.
For instance, there are only 490 listed in total.
Obtaining 4,096 equates to 25.5% of the total supply. There needs to be a collaboration with other holders to achieve this. Observing how communities rally around the project will be interesting to observe.
What’s interesting is that there are sales above the floor. Could collectors be cherry-picking the ID number within the collection they intend to retain when the burn mechanism goes live?
A total of 2,485 ETH ($3.9m USD) secondary volume has been traded. Assuming all trades honored royalties then this would equate to 62.1 ETH ($98k USD). Realistically there would be a mix of paying and non-paying collectors.
Assuming on average half pay in full then a more realistic royalty assumption would be 31 ETH ($49k USD).
So a total of 177k USD in revenue ($128k mint plus royalties), some of which could be contributed to project development. Butcher has noted that given the Open Edition approach, there was no supply held back for the team.
The holder distribution of 22.8% is relatively low compared to your typical NFT collection. However given the future mechanics, it’s likely this will rapidly improve with each stage in the burn process.
The top holder owns 506 checks, equating to 3% of the total supply. Could we see some of these Wales collaborate to unlock the benefits that could be attached to the ultimate grail check?
Having spoken to a couple, it’s their intention to set up a Black Check DAO.
"I've been coordinating with a small working group to design a permissionless, trustless aggregator for Checks that can hopefully see the first Black Check formed soon."
The architecture and the mechanics of how this will work are being refined. The capital required to achieve this is beyond many single holders holder’s capabilities.
We are seeing a new collection size meta that isn’t defined by the artist. The open editions are becoming more prevalent with DesLucreces' “Proceed w/ caution” & others teasing.
In fact, Butcher has dedicated an entire page on his site for derivative projects. Creating a platform to leverage the visually appealing aesthetics of checks to personalize it into something meaningful to its fan base.
The benefits of launching the project in a CC0 are clear. The derivative projects popping up are forming a marketing tool for the original Checks VV project to gain notoriety.
The two-way relationship between the artist and fan base enables an iterative process that can be refined over time. This reduces the risk of launching a finished piece of art that very few resonate with.
To paraphrase Butcher on a recent podcast, if you put out content and hear minimal response, then the audience is telling you something loud and clear, but you simply aren’t listening. the experimental approach involving social media and NFTs allows this to be a sounding board. An experimentation process as the final product is being refined.
a) Phase Two of Checks
Jalil.Eth (Founder of Scapes_XYZ, the first on-chain banner NFT) is involved to develop the contracts for the burn mechanism.
There have been numerous ideas floated around the direction of the project. The second phase is due to be rolled out imminently, with some exciting user interfaces to enhance the experience.
The mechanism has been executed on Goerli (Ethereum Testnet), so we can expect the next phase to be rolled out once testing has been completed.
Applying NFT utility to each tier of check marks could be an interesting outcome for the project. One fan joked about the ability to edit other user’s tweets:
b) Macro Market Conditions
It’s worth observing the macro picture to understand whether the wider NFT ecosystem will continue to acquire these types of art.
Available liquidity and the cost of living have an impact on buyers’ spending habits. A hawkish environment means there are lower levels of disposable income. Volume has increased slightly after the US tax year-end but is by no means close to the historical highs experienced in Feb 2022 (May 2022 is predominantly Otherdeed by Otherside mint and trading volume). Until the macroeconomic conditions change it is likely we will continue in a downtrend or at least stay within the 50k-100k ETH trading volume range.
On a side note, it’s clear that the Art NFT sub-sector continues to outperform other segments of the NFT Market with a constant level of volume and valuations. While volume on the rest of the segments continues to dry up.
Checks VV leverages Jack Butchers’ simplistic image message relay (via VV) to create a powerful statement about the abuse of the check mark on Twitter. The primary target market resonated with the artist’s message with the impacts of the Twitter changes fresh on their minds.
The NFT launch of this project as an open edition has allowed for a canvas to experiment with the process. The two-way relationship with the creator’s fan base fosters a stronger more meaningful relationship that aids the collector to feel part of the creative process.
The next phase is imminent. Those holding the initial Checks are waiting patiently to embark on the next stage of game theory in search of the black check mark. It’s likely that a combination of open editions and novel burn mechanisms will continue to push the boundaries of NFT functionality and could set the stage for greater adoption and utility in the future.
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