Behind The Scenes With ZeroG — A Vintage NFT Collector

Michael Caloca / ONE37pm

In any collectible industry, passionate collectors will drive sustainability, interest, and value in the marketplace over the long run. Collecting NFTs may be a foreign concept to most people because the space is so new, but collecting habits will have a tremendous influence on how the space evolves. 

In the long run, if every single person in the NFT space is only in it to acquire an asset, sell for a profit, and move on, value and interest will be lost over time. 

However, in spite of massive gains and volatility in the space, there are true collectors who take pride in finding their specialty, learning about artists, and voting with their dollars by buying and holding projects they like. 

I sat down with one of those collectors, ZeroG, who specializes in vintage NFTs and is one of the kindest human beings in the space, always willing to educate and support newcomers to chat about his story and evolution as a collector. 

For those who are wondering what NFT project to buy out of the many options on the market, understanding—and thinking—like a collector are more likely to lead you to longer-term value and reduced risk from the volatility in today’s market. 

Please keep in mind, this is not financial advice. No one can predict the future and it’s critical that you don’t spend money on NFT projects that you can’t afford to lose.

Becoming an NFT Collector Takes Time — Patience is Rewarded with Conviction

I never doubted that crypto would stay around. I never hesitated during the bear markets.

- ZeroG

A common theme with experienced NFT collectors is that their convictions are strong and they’ve been developed over time due to prior interest and participation in cryptocurrency markets. ZeroG is no exception. 

His cryptocurrency interest was sparked after diving deep down the rabbit hole of finance and economics after the 2008 financial crisis. He became passionate about the topics and equality in that space. He’s a strong believer that a digital currency system could evolve the financial ecosystem to make it more broadly equitable. 

While he first heard about Bitcoin in 2008 (and even owned a gaming computer that could have mined the currency), it wasn’t until 2012 when he met a friend who encouraged him to buy some Bitcoin.

Eventually, he bought Bitcoin, Litecoin, Quarkcoin, Namecoin and tried his hand at day-trading, but he wasn’t good at it and used self-awareness to avoid traps of making quick money. 

Over the next few years, he developed a deep conviction for cryptocurrency, and despite coming across CryptoPunks at 1 ETH ($400 at the time), life got in the way of his NFT research until earlier this year. 

He joined the CryptoPunks discord in January of 2021 and just started watching. A lot of the people in the group at the time came from World of Warcraft and Runescape backgrounds. They were accustomed to and understood digital scarcity. 

By the end of January, he had purchased his first CryptoPunk and was deep into the NFT space:

What finally crystallized this year is that NFTs are the missing piece to garner mainstream adoption. I think NFTs are going to become truly the most valuable assets in the world.

- ZeroG

His conviction started back in 2008, with his research in finance and economics. It turned into action 4 years later with the purchase of his first Bitcoin and the realization that he didn’t want to be a day-trader. He realized the potential of cryptocurrency and stuck with it through the ups and downs. 

13 years later, he purchased his first NFT. And he didn’t buy to sell it, he bought it because he knew that if he “didn’t buy [his] punk now, [he wouldn’t] be able to in the future.”

How ZeroG Turned Conviction into a Focused Specialty

Early on in the crypto space, we waited and waited for mainstream adoption, but NFTs have become that bridge.

- ZeroG

In the NFT space, there’s so much that is available to buy and collect. New projects launch every day. There’s generative art. Utility projects. Photography. 10k PFP (profile picture projects). It can be overwhelming for anyone new to find their lane and is something that will happen over time. 

After securing a CryptoPunk, ZeroG started to look into Curio Cards after NFT archeologist HarryBTC tweeted about it. At the time, a big marketing element of CryptoPunks was that they were the first NFT, but it was later rediscovered that Curio Cards held the title (on the Ethereum blockchain). 

Despite forming gut instinct by watching the CryptoPunks discord, he recognized that the general disinterest in the project stemmed from Curio Card's threat to the Punk's recognition of being the first NFT. 

ZeroG trusted himself and decided to buy as many Curio Cards as he could, getting a 1–10 set and the rarest card in the entire set of 30, Card 26

He says that his conviction “is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life” and his tunnel vision helped him collect CryptoPunks, Curio Cards, and eventually RarePepes. 

RarePepe is the first decentralized community art project (run on Counterparty, which sat on top of Bitcoin) and he acquired the UFO Pepe (the first NFT GIF) and his grail, the Nakamoto (the first-ever RarePepe).

So many of us do not have a deep conviction that we obey, which may lead us to overwhelming confusion about what to buy. It’s important to recognize the confusion and see it for what it is: inexperience with NFTs. 

ZeroG had 10+ years of experience in cryptocurrency and following his curiosity about historical projects led him from CryptoPunks to Curio Cards and eventually, RarePepes.

Why Forming a Vision and Investment Thesis for Your Collection is Important

That experience from the CryptoPunk to Curio Cards helped unlock the vision of where I truly believe we are going. I believe historic NFTs will be enormously valuable.

- ZeroG

NFT collectors and flippers alike can get into trouble without an investment thesis. Patterns have emerged, but they are hard to time, and new collections and ready to launch and take the spotlight away from the latest “you’ve got to ape in now” project. 

ZeroG believes that as the market starts to mature, so will collecting habits and attention. Some collectors bet on an artist, visual appeal, utility, etc., and others bet on history. History is a factor that cannot be altered. No more NFTs can be minted or created from 2015, 2016, 2017, etc. 

His instinct is that a lot of new buyers do not come from a digital scarcity background as he saw with CryptoPunks holders and that as NFTs help bridge to mainstream adoption, historical pieces that represent the coming paradigm shift will be sought-after artifacts. 

A simple test to help you determine whether or not you’ve formed your NFT investment thesis or vision is to ask yourself about your last purchase. Why did you buy it? 

For many, the answer is FOMO. But for a rising number of people, there is some grounded logic and instinct behind their purchasing habits. It is an exciting time because we will get to watch as new collectors develop a vision and what the market as a whole deems valuable over a longer period of time. 

For nearly all of ZeroG’s purchases, he knows exactly why he bought them and has no interest in selling (unless someone spends the time to convince him otherwise, which would likely not pan out).

The Impact of Fostering a Healthy Community — And What it Means For Your NFT Assets

We have these historically significant, extremely limited assets that are only going to get more scarce. We are right at the cusp of mainstream adoption.

- ZeroG

Mainstream adoption will be a turning point for the NFT space, but the critical stage that happens after is mainstream sustainability. Right now, it’s a fairly technical process to purchase an NFT, and there are countless stories about theft of NFT assets, tax implications, and general infrastructure for safe and secure trading of NFTs. 

If NFTs go mainstream but many newcomers are subject to theft or poor experiences, they will quickly leave and the market will shrink back down to the early adopters. 

ZeroG emphasized how important it is for early adopters to support and assist newcomers to the community. Speaking from personal experience, ZeroG has helped me overcome technical obstacles with a hardware wallet more than a few times, and each time he did, it instilled in me even more confidence about the future. 

Short-term actors looking to make a quick profit or take advantage of new entrants who are learning will harm the long-term value of NFTs and people like ZeroG are critical to ensuring people stay in this market. 

There are similar trends in other collectible markets, especially sports cards. Companies like Cardladder, which provides rich data about card prices and sales history, were founded by two collectors who wanted to make their hobby safe and welcoming for newcomers. 

There are many, many factors that affect the value of NFT assets, but if you are in this space, you are early, and you have an opportunity to be a part of a community that helps it grow by onboarding and supporting the expanding market participants. 

ZeroG updated me a few weeks after our interview and stated his intent to “triple down” on his efforts to help the crypto space next year. We might not fully appreciate this now, but down the road, those who step up to educate and assist will be looked at as early ambassadors for a paradigm shift in our society.

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