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This QuickTake adaptation of our award-winning podcast, The Pay Check, focuses on the racial wealth gap.
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The physical artwork of “Bored Ape #2967” created by Bored Ape Yacht Club, left, and “Mutant Ape #1933” created by Mutant Ape Yacht Club, both available for sale as an NFT, displayed at a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong.

Since NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, screamed into public consciousness in 2020 with million-dollar sales of digital artifacts, the debate surrounding them has gone more or less like this: NFTs are the future of art and commerce! No, NFTs are a worthless scam! No, NFTs have a useful if limited future doing something that’s not quite clear yet! In the world of digital currencies, those are familiar arguments. So is the boom and bust cycle NFTs have been through, with big bucks made and lost along the way. For instance, the price to join the Bored Apes Yacht Club by purchasing an NFT of an image of a bored ape soared to $420,430 before falling almost 79% in June, while the JPG NFT Index, which tracks a handful of blue-chip NFT projects, by June was down by more than 70% since its inception in April. 
Think of them as digital certificates of authenticity. An NFT, is a unique, irreplaceable identifier created by an algorithm: a distinct barcode for a digital piece of art or collectible. It helps to address a problem that’s long faced digital artists: how to create scarcity for an item that can be infinitely reproduced. Uniqueness is the reason (ok, one reason) that the Mona Lisa is priceless, while a signed and numbered Peter Max print of his version of the painting is $4,900 and Mona Lisa posters are $7.95.


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