What is an NFT exactly, and what are the good for? In this article we explain all about it, and how the world’s biggest trading card manufacturer is onboarding a whole new breed of nocoiners into the blockchain.

Topps GPK NFTs

WAX Leading the Way in NFTs with Topps Partnership

The second of their blockchain-based releases thus far, American trading card company Topps will launch sales of their Tiger King-based Garbage Pail Kids (GPK) digital collectibles on Tuesday, July 14th. The digital trading cards are hosted on the WAX blockchain, which was specifically developed to enable the easy trading of digital representations of physical items, otherwise known as NFTs. The release was initially scheduled for earlier in the month but delayed due to technical problems with a payment processor.

With the physical cards having been already sold out, the digital Tiger King GPK launch comes on the heels of Topps’ inaugural blockchain release in April, which was a digital rebrand of their 1985 Garbage Pail Kids series 1. It only took 28 hours for all 110,000 cards to sell out completely. Card packs – an NFT of their own – were sold at $4.99 for a pack of 5 and $24.99 for a pack of 30. They were on sale via credit card from a special website set up by Topps that also acts as a wallet and exchange for the cards. The secondary market for GPK cards has been tremendous, with some cards already selling for thousands of dollars.

NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” meaning a digital asset that represents a one-of-a-kind item that cannot be broken down into smaller pieces. If a token were “fungible,” it would imply that that it could easily be interchanged with others of its kind, and nobody would know the difference between them. The transparent nature of the blockchain makes it hard for coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum to achieve fungibility, but privacy coins like Monero and Zcash do indeed possess this quality.

NFTs, on the other hand, are not made to be interchangeable. They are designed to signify uniqueness, using the blockchain to support an immutable record of their ownership. This means that they cannot be counterfeited, damaged, or destroyed (except by losing access to the account in which they are stored). They will exist as long as the blockchain that hosts them still has active nodes and miners (or in the case of WAX, “stakers”).

Before the term “NFT” was born, digital collectibles already had a foothold on the blockchain, thanks to the likes of Rare Pepes and CryptoKitties. Rare Pepes, based on the Pepe the Frog meme, are hosted on the Counterparty (XCP) platform, and were among the first types of blockchain-based, collectible “art” pieces to enjoy any kind of success. Each Counterparty Rare Pepe token represented a digital trading card with its artwork hosted on a server. ­The phenomenon turned out to be a smash hit among a very niche segment of collectors; however, the relatively high fees incurred by the Bitcoin blockchain makes it relatively expensive to easily transfer Rare Pepes from one wallet to another.

Probably the most famous digital collectible to this day are CryptoKitties, an Ethereum-based game that allows players to collect, breed and sell virtual cats. The concept was initially launched in October 2017, and by December of the same year, CryptoKitty cards were selling for as much as $100,000 in ETH. At one point, CryptoKitty activity accounted for 10% of the entire Ethereum network traffic, leading to fears that it was actually crowding out other, “more serious” DApps and projects. By 2020, the Ethereum network itself began to experience relatively high transaction fees, making it not as easy to quickly transfer NFTs as it once was, but CryptoKitty development remains quite active.

In the following years, a number of other blockchains have embraced the concept of NFTs, including EOS (EOS), Chainlink (LINK), Enjin (ENJ), and WAX (WAXP). Probably the biggest barrier to the takeoff of collectibles via NFT form has been the lingering disconnect between physical item collectors and the blockchain. Though WAX and Topps have worked together to make the process of on-boarding “nocoiners” as easy as possible, the idea of a collectible only existing in digital form isn’t readily digestible by all.

“Most hardcore OG collectors aren’t having it,” says Shaun Coon, a long-time member of the tightly-knit Garbage Pail Kids collectibles community. Previous to Topps’ release of the GPK NFTs, Coon had no experience in anything cryptocurrency- or blockchain-related, but was eager to learn, despite the relatively steep learning curve. After buying over 80 packs from the Topps GPK website during the series 1 release in April, he took it upon himself to learn the basics of how to move assets within the WAX blockchain, and how to acquire WAXP tokens to buy other cards from secondary markets.

“Most anyone over 30 will scratch their head at any digital collectible,” Coon says. “I found mentioning CryptoKitties kind of softens the blow but explaining to people that folks pay 6 digits for digital cats is pretty wild.” When asked if he thought, as a collector, there were any advantages of digital collectibles over their physical counterparts, he responded, “Plenty. The assets can never be damaged, zero ship fees, no counterfeit issues. Physical storage is non-existent… That’s actually very cool; a lot of people don’t have all the room in the world to store shit they buy.”

Hard core collectors like Coon see blockchain-backed NFTs as the next big thing in collectibles: just another part of the natural, evolutionary shift of media from physical to digital form. Though the transition has been slow for many to make, it remains an inevitable trend as the world comes online to a greater degree than it already has.

In the meantime, Topps – a company that sees hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year – is gearing up for the shift, completely revamping their business model to head in a blockchain-based direction. As a long-time manufacturer of sports cards (baseball, basketball, football, hockey, etc.) and the owners of IP related to Disney, their potential for future NFT releases on WAX is huge. And Topps isn’t the only entity looking to release digital collectibles on the WAX blockchain, as WAX has recently formed partnerships with video game maker Capcom and the original Star Trek Captain William Shatner himself.

Topps’ Tiger King GPK NFTs go on sale July 14th and can be purchased through the project’s main website, here.