Show, Don't Tell – Exposing My NFT Portfolio

What I Hold and Why I Hold It

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“Don’t tell me what you think – show me what’s in your portfolio”.
–Nassim Taleb

All right Nassim, I hear you. Actions speak louder than words. So enough with the conceptual NFT talk – let’s pull back the curtain and look at what I’ve actually DONE as part of the “NFT MBA” so far.

In the name of radical transparency, here is a link to a Google Sheet where I’ve written down every NFT trade I’ve done so far, and the rationale I had for each and every trade (you can add comments to the sheet if you have questions or input).

Open the spreadsheet

My last two posts explained what NFTs are, and made a stab at explaining why they are valuable. In this post, I share my own NFT trading results after three weeks in this weird world, walk you through my thinking behind one good, one bad and one ugly trade, and share what I’ve learned from each of them. My hope is that this post can help aspiring new NFT speculators to avoid some of my costly rookie mistakes. Thank me later.

Again, do not take any of this as financial advice. Please don’t gamble your savings away on stupid JPG photos.

My Results Trading NFTs So Far

“Soo.. have you made any money doing this??”

Let’s begin by answering this most basic question, just to get it out of the way.

It has two answers. Yes and no.

No, because I haven’t sold off my NFTs yet, so no fiat money (US Dollars or Norwegian Kroner) has come back into my regular bank account.

But also yes, because the NFTs I own are worth significantly more than what I bought them for as of this writing.

See column I in the spreadsheet, where I’ve made rough estimates of the value of each NFT as of this moment (Sunday 29. August 2021, around 1PM – yes, I really need to be that precise, because in a few hours my NFTs may be worth double or half of what they are worth now!).

I have kept the wise words of physicist Richard Feynman in the back of my mind as I’ve made these value estimates – “you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool”. Thus my estimates are relatively conservative, to not fool myself into believing I’m doing better than I truly am.

As we see, in my estimation my current NFT portfolio is worth roughly 22.8 ETH (= approximately $73,000), but I’ve “only” paid 12.1 ETH ($39,000) for them.

(Yes, NFTs will mess with your sense of “value” and prices. Buying JPG photos for 39,000 hard-earned dollars somehow seems normal to me after just three weeks in this space.)

In short, so far I’m up about 88% (perhaps some more if I dare to price my penguins at their current all-time high price point), but keep in mind that these gains are unrealized. I haven’t sold the NFTs, so anything can still happen (aka: the value of my NFT portfolio can still go to zero).

88% return in a few weeks seems pretty good if we come from a fiat currency, “TradFi” (traditional finance) world, where I’m happy if I get 8-10% return per year (!) over the long run. But in the NFT world, especially in the mania that has been the last few weeks, this result is not very impressive at all. An “index fund” of NFTs would probably have crushed my 88% over the same period (especially if that fund included the most famous and most expensive NFTs, CryptoPunks and Bored Apes, which have both gone up by 2-400% over the last few weeks).

Every single day I see people on Twitter do 100%, 200%, 1,000% and much more on NFT trades through some combination of skill, smartness, luck and being in the right place at the right time. So the jury’s still out on whether or not I’m any good at this. Time will tell.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Three Trades and What I’ve Learned From Them

To give you a sneak peak behind the scenes of the NFT MBA, let me show you three of my trades so far, explain the thinking behind each of them, and highlight what I’ve learned from each.

The Good: Pudgy Penguins

Why I Bought

My very first NFT purchases are also my best, by a huge margin. I own 4 Pudgy Penguins, which I bought because..

  • Alex Svanevik (CEO of Nansen.ai, “The Bloomberg Terminal for crypto”) and a few other smart people tweeted about it, and changed their profile pictures to their pengus!

  • The pengu project had a strong community buzzing with engagement.

  • The pictures look cool, and had “PFP appeal”, meaning they could work well as profile pictures across social media.

  • Penguins could possibly become one of the dominant “mid-tier” profile picture NFTs, appealing to all those people who, like myself, have missed out on the meteoric price increase of CryptoPunks and Bored Apes (the “top-tier” profile picture NFTs).

I first bought two regular penguins on August 8th, at the “floor price” (meaning the lowest price it was possible to buy one for at the time), which was 0.4 and 0.45 ETH respectively.

Then, later that same day, I bought a rarer penguin (the one with the yellow background and no hat) for 1 ETH to be exposed to the upside of a top 5% rarity pengu if the project really took off.

When I woke up the next morning, the floor price had doubled and their Discord (community chat) had gone bananas, so in a state of full FOMO I decided to buy yet another “normal” pengu for 0.95 ETH.

As of this writing, the Penguin floor price is at an all-time high of 3.8 ETH, as shown below (click here to see the chart live), after a wild ride up, down and back up again.

I could sell now and do roughly 5x on my pengu money, but I’m holding on for a while longer. The penguin project just reached over 4,500 unique owners (of a total supply of 8,888 penguins), the community is still very active, and the developer behind the penguin project just announced that they will lay eggs (!) next week.

Still bullish on the pengus, in other words!

What I’ve Learned

Community matters: the level of engagement in the community behind an NFT project is critical to its sustained success.

The more unique holders, the better: if the ownership of all the NFTs in a series is widely distributed across many holders, that’s a great sign – it means many people are incentivised to pump up the project and its prices.

Always buy more than one if you can: If you only have one penguin, and penguins 5-10x in value, you have a problem. Deciding when to sell becomes VERY difficult, because you only have one shot. Imagine selling for 1 ETH, and seeing the price go to 15 ETH over the next few weeks – not fun. You avoid this problem if you buy two or more, because then you can always sell one to take some profits, but still keep some upside exposure if the project keeps going up.

The Bad: Buzzed Bears

Why I Bought

Feeling like a genius after jumping on the Penguins, I came across a new project that also seemed to have some potential – The Buzzed Bears.

I found this project when it was about to “mint”, meaning it was about to be released for the first time (when a project mints you get a chance to buy the NFTs at a set, low price. After that the trading moves to the secondary market on the platform OpenSea).

So I minted bears. In fact, I minted too many bears. 14 in total. They didn’t cost more than 0.05 ETH each, but multiply that with 14, and you’ve just blown 0.7 ETH ($2200) on pictures of silly bears. Ooops.

This project hasn’t really gone anywhere since then, at least not in terms of floor price. I could probably sell the bears at just below mint price, so all is not lost – but definitely far from a winning bet (so far – anything can still happen of course!).

What I’ve Learned

Minting is high risk, high reward: most NFT projects fail. Therefore, the earlier you invest, the higher the risk. Unsurprising, perhaps - after all, we all know this from venture capital, penny stocks and other fiat assets that behave in the same way.

This project didn’t go anywhere (at least not yet), but it was a fair bet. Just like early stage seed investing, if you do 10 qualified bets, 9 of them go to zero, but the last one returns 100x, you’re still winning that game. Minting NFTs is basically the same game.

The Ugly: EtherClips

This project is as basic as it gets. Pictures of paper clips. Nothing more, nothing less.

Here is the project description:

In 2005 a Canadian blogger named Kyle MacDonald traded his way from one single red paperclip to a two-story house in a series of 14 trades over a year.

This is it, your final chance at "making it all back in one trade".

Are you going to hold your paperclip until it becomes a house, or paperhand it to Goldman Sachs so they can flip it for a mansion?

Why I Bought

I decided to buy two clips for the following reasons:

  • Low supply, only 69 clips in existence.

  • Many holders (46).

  • Ridiculousness-effect: NFTs that are ridiculously simple (like EtherRocks and Chromie Squiggles) sometime take off because people find it funny when super basic pictures trade at crazy prices.

  • Fun story behind it, which might appeal to crypto millionaires who love buy NFTs for the lolz.

  • EtherScissors, a project looking very similar, had already reached floor prices above 1 ETH by the time I bought clips.

  • A “smart money wallet”, meaning some person who seems to know what they are doing in the NFT space (because he/she already owns two extremely valuable CryptoPunks – check out the wallet here) had spent over 7 ETH on clips the day before I bought mine (this was the main reason for my purchase decision. Follow the smart money!)

This is perhaps the ugliest NFT I own, and I quite frankly don’t expect it to go anywhere. I simply bought it because if it does take off against all odds, it will be a hilarious story to tell. And if it goes to zero, I can probably sell an NFT-related keynote speech about how I lost $3,000 on a picture of a paper clip for… roughly $3,000. Hedge your bets, people.

What I’ve Learned

I haven’t learned much from the clips just yet. Give me another week or two, and I’ll perhaps have a better answer.

Next Week: Strategies That Work (and Some That Don’t)

That’s all for now. Next week, I’ll write out the overarching NFT trading strategies I believe in, and have seen work. If I’m a little lucky, the strategies I have in mind are still relevant by then. Time will tell.

Onwards and upwards,

-Jacob


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