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By Riley Kaminer
When it comes to crypto, Anthony Varrell’s an early adopter. After making it big as an investor in the cannabis space, Varrell told Refresh Miami that he got “crypto pilled” in 2016.
“I love Wall Street but I hate what Wall Street stands for,” he said. “Crypto is the anti Wall Street.”
“I could see Miami owning the crypto and web3 space as Wall Street owns traditional finance,” Varrell added, underscoring his excitement about our community’s place in the DeFi scene.
He started to put his money where his mouth is, buying Bitcoin and Ether starting in 2017. About a year ago, Varrell bought his first NFT: a Bored Ape, which at the time cost 7 ETH (Bored Apes now run closer to 100 ETH).
“My first aha moment with NFTs was when I got the airdrop of a Mutant Ape,” he said, referring to a special NFT collection for Bored Ape holders. “I was amazed by how much utility and value you get by being a token holder in an ecosystem.”
From that moment, he knew he had to double down on NFTs and become a founder in the space.
Fast forward a few months and alongside six co-founders, he began working on Fort Lauderdale-based startup Only Gems, a front-end marketplace for consumers to buy, sell, trade, and mint NFT trading cards.
There are a few different ways consumers can get involved. Collectors who already own trading cards can ship their card to Only Gems. The startup will then mint an NFT of the card, creating a digital asset on the Ethereum blockchain.
While the physical collectables will be stored in a vault, the owner can sell or trade the card as a digital asset right through Only Gems. The startup’s commission is 3% – significantly lower than competitors like Ebay (15%) and third-party auction houses (30%+).
Equally, if a consumer would like to purchase a card through Only Gems’ marketplace, they can keep the card as a digital asset or request the physical copy.
The company explained that cards are stored in a hyper-secure vault that can hold 700,000 cards. Only Gems plans to have their vault audited by an external firm twice a year to ensure that everything’s above board. That’s a major upgrade from the not-so-safe places many collectors keep their cards these days (desk drawer, back of your closet… think again!).
In December, Only Gems raised a $900,000 round led by Shima Capital, with participation from a handful of family offices and high net worth individuals. The team plans to raise a Series A within the next two to three months, expecting participation from institutional investors.
This week, Only Gems will launch two products. First is their Gem Pass, which is a four-tiered membership token. The startup hopes to raise around $4 million in proceeds from that mint. 20% of these funds will eventually make their way back to users: Only Gems plans to purchase trading cards worth up to $60,000 each, tokenize them, and airdrop them to token holders.
The startup’s second launch is what they call “mystery packs,” or randomly generated packs of trading cards containing a wide range of collectable cards: from baseball and basketball to Pokémon and YuGiOh. If a user opens it, three asset-backed NFTs are minted. Users who decide to keep it closed could potentially see the pack increase in value over time, according to Varrell.
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