The niche internet subculture that is the NFT space has gone through numerous iterations. From market cycles to controversies, the vernacular, priorities, and overall vibe of what the inhabitants of the blockchain call Web3 has continued to ebb and flow as consistently as the prices of the coins that drive it.
Yet, one thing has remained certain, and that is, regardless of speculation, NFTs have and will always have greater meaning than what can be derived from the constraints of art and money. There is a singular culture that has formed within the NFT space, and it’s one that — despite the scams and selfishness — hinges on goodwill and camaraderie.
Recently, multidisciplinary artist Jack Butcher reminded the whole of the metaverse about the true power of the culture that drives it. By launching an open edition in service to the prolific NFT commentator known as ThreadGuy, Butcher set off a wave of fanfare that has taken the NFT space by storm.
Now the rallying cry “for the culture” has emerged once again. Here’s how it all went down.
Bored Elon, ThreadGuy, and Opepen
Those that have been in the NFT space for even a menial span of time are sure to have come across Butcher’s Opepen project by now. Launched in January 2023 as a follow-up to Checks, the 60-minute mint, which ultimately was released over a series of drops, became a staple in the rise of open editions.
From there on, the Pepe the Frog-inspired collection caught fire, evolving with complex mechanics and accruing influence throughout the months that followed. Ultimately, the project was solidified as one of the top endeavors of the NFT market, spurred on by a cult following.
During that time, a collector known as Bored Elon (B.E.) became the number one holder of Opepen NFTs. As a Pepe and Jack Butcher maximalist, the influencer-turned-builder remained steadfast in his conviction that Opepen was a monumentally important facet of NFT culture.
On July 11, under the moniker/secondary account Bored Opepen, the anon proved this conviction by making ThreadGuy an offer: a first edition Opepen (an original Opepen on which countless others were derived) in exchange for his highly-influential Mutant Ape PFP.
ThreadGuy did not accept the deal, however. Considering the Mutant Ape had already become synonymous with his brand, he turned down the offer and the many more (from B.E. and others) that followed. But the concept of ThreadGuy changing his long-time PFP started to generate discourse throughout Web3, and the influencer’s interest in possibly changing his avatar to an Opepen was undeniable.
Yet after only a few days of back and forth, with the discourse around the situation growing by the hour, Butcher, the creator of the NFTs at the center of the conversation, blew the whole thing apart by creating a custom Opepen image for ThreadGuy.
The Opepen Threadition
On July 13, Jack Butcher, commenting on a bootleg Opepen x Mutant Ape PFP ThreadGuy had posted, revealed an image of an Opepen edition stylized and customized specifically for ThreadGuy. Crafted in his unique geometric style, the Opepen featured colorways taken from ThreadGuy’s Mutant Ape reworked to fit the Opepen format. Needless to say, this act of kindness prompted ThreadGuy to change his long-standing PFP before hosting a 3,600-attendee Twitter Space to commemorate the moment.
This turn of events sent the NFT space into a frenzy. Now that Butcher had offered up a third option to the proceedings happening between ThreadGuy and B.E. — which were spurred on by Butcher’s art in the first place — discussions switched from speculation about a potentially monumental trade to Butcher’s goodwill and the humorous and friendly nature of the NFT space.
From then on, derivatives poured in. Considering the high-profile nature of Butcher’s offering, countless other creators and collectors sought to get in on the action, creating their own stylized version of Opepen. Most notable among these offshoots were a variety of unique pieces created by Jalil, an artist and developer that works alongside Butcher on Visualize Value and a range of other endeavors.
Of course, the story doesn’t stop with copycats. Because as the custom Opepen craze was reaching a head, Butcher sent it over the edge on July 16 by launching an open edition collection called the Opepen Threadition, which featured a tokenized version of the custom PFP he made for ThreadGuy.
Priced at 0.001 ETH (~$2) each, the Opepen Threadition offered anyone a way to join in on the fun. But the mint had a generous aspect to it as well; all proceeds from the sale of Opepen Threaditions were to be allocated back to ThreadGuy as a way to, as Butcher put it, “redirect some economic energy” and thank him for the value he consistently adds to the Web3 community.
For the culture, for the memes
After the Opepen Threadition was released, it became clear that the events that had transpired between Bored Elon, ThreadGuy, and Jack Butcher bore far greater significance than what might’ve been expected from a simple rapport between mutuals. The message of camaraderie had spread, even prompting Beeple to comment on the situation, which subsequently led to Butcher crafting him his own custom Opepen.
The tagline “for the culture” began trending, and conversations surrounding the benevolent nature of the NFT space began to resurface. Many recalled the way that NFTs used to change lives on a near-daily basis and reveled in the fact that having fun had once again become the center of attention, if only for the time being.
Concurrently, the benevolent aspect of the Opepen Threadition started to take shape. And the open edition had, at time of writing, amassed upwards of 32,000 mints, generating more than 32 ETH (around $60,000). Similarly, a collection of eight editions minted by Jalil with a similar goal to direct funds back to ThreadGuy had raised around 7 ETH (~13,000), bringing the total well over $70,000 in ETH. The effect of the Threadition even spread to OpenSea, who changed their profile picture and username on Twitter to honor the trend.
A creator revolution is underway.— wale.swoosh 🐳 (@waleswoosh) July 14, 2023
If you have the eyeballs, you have the leverage.
Not only in Web3, but especially here.
Is this the way to move forward?— pius (@notpius) July 17, 2023
"collect, have fun, support your favorite creators"
It's a solid option moving forward.
I mean, they are basically donations where you receive a digital collectible.
This makes it more attractive for people to "donate". pic.twitter.com/wLZOXvRAGc
In all, both the convergence of a monetary value being placed on ThreadGuy’s efforts along with the evolution of NFT culture being propelled forward highlighted the Web3 community’s eager remembrance of the true meaning of NFTs and the necessity of creators being paid their dues.
Although artists in Web3 have found it possible to sustain themselves from their craft, commentators and proponents of blockchain culture have anecdotally needed to rely on collecting and trading to find equilibrium. Of course, with advents like Twitter’s ad-revenue sharing, this system may be changing. But in the wake of Opepen, it has become clear that it only takes a small amount of effort and caring for those in the NFT space to uplift their fellow degens.