Open edition NFTs

The NFT Community Reacts to the Rise of Open Editions

BY Eric James Beyer

January 31, 2023

So far, the defining Web3 conversation of 2023 has been about open editions (OE). 3D animator and crypto artist NessGraphics broke records when they dropped Money Printer Go BRRRRRR and raised over 1,404 ETH ($2 million) in one hour. Likewise, Victor Mosquera’s January 29 OE drop for The Collector raised 224 ETH (nearly $400,000) in the span of 90 minutes.

These exceptional sales volumes, coupled with a clear statistical uptick in the number of OEs being minted in the last month, opened up a passionate debate in the NFT community about the supply, value, and utility of an artist’s body of work. That debate is now reaching a fever pitch.

At this point, nearly all of the world’s most prominent NFT artists, collectors, and builders have voiced their opinions on the rise of open editions — addressing everything from the benefit or harm it might be causing in the ecosystem to what it means for artists and collectors going forward. Here’s what they’re saying and doing. 

Open editions can do wonders for artists and collectors

Several artists have responded to the open edition trend with optimism. Like so many other things in Web3, advocates say that they are a tool for artists to utilize at their discretion and choosing — like any other drop mechanic. Moreover, they argue that much of the activity in the Web3 world comes from expensive and often unaffordable 1-of-1 or limited edition NFT drops. As such, OEs let an artist generate revenue while both expanding their community and allowing a greater range of people to participate in the NFT ecosystem.

Beyond that, advocates note that, if executed thoughtfully, open edition drops can serve as a kind of subscription plan that allows collectors access to an artist’s future body of work. 

Vector artist and Western aesthetic lover Jeremy Booth recently rolled out an open edition that functions in just this way, with Booth writing on Twitter recently that his latest OE “will be the key to purchasing all my personal (non-collaborative) limited editions moving forward.” In a sense, this type of open edition dynamic allows artists to implement their art as a kind of currency in the NFT ecosystem. How artists choose to play with that potential is yet to be seen, but the possibilities are tantalizing.

Collectors: Don’t get ahead of yourselves

Others in the community urge caution when approaching OEs, especially as a collector. Drawing comparisons to physical prints or posters of famous artwork, OE skeptics advise people to mint OEs for the love of the art, without expectations of utility or the potential to flip them later on for a profit.

Some commenters who view open editions as potentially problematic have also pointed to the fact that several mints released in this way in recent weeks are now trading below the initial mint price (though the opposite can be said of plenty of other OE collections).

Ultimately, there will always be an element of profit chasing in the NFT space, as some Web3 denizens have curtly pointed out. It’s common for collectors to mint more than one OE in a drop in the hopes of an upcoming burn event or to later sell some of their editions to make a profit. The point is valid; like everything else in the NFT space, open editions are not always just “about the art.”

From open edition to 1-of-1 sales

Some artists have taken the popularity of the OE and its surrounding controversy and turned them into an artistic opportunity to explore a concept and even land a 1-of-1 sale. Grant Riven Yun, who is among those who advise a cautious approach to the open edition, sarcastically took to Twitter on January 29 to suggest an open edition mint set at 70 ETH a piece.

After minting a new illustration (called Laundry) later that day on AOTM, a collector bought the piece for — you guessed it — 70 ETH. The event marked a new all-time high for the artist. 

Illustrator Oxdgb then took things even further, launching an open edition on Manifold as a performance piece the same day for 69 ETH called Rejected Idea. Zero people minted the piece, which Oxdgb then minted as a 1-of-1 on Foundation. It ended up selling for 8.40 ETH.

Open editions are neither hero nor demon

Others in the space have argued that open editions are neither good nor bad. Rather, they are just another tool in the NFT ecosystem. How artists choose to use the OE is limited largely by their imaginations, and collectors can choose to interact with them as they like, including not at all.

So, how should you feel about open editions?

Whenever a new tool is introduced to Web3 (or an existing one becomes more widely used), there will always be a dynamic conversation about the tradeoffs involved in collecting/investing in art and what that art brings to the table. But the NFT space has seen this conversation before.

Ultimately, the open edition debate is uncannily similar to the utility debate that flared up in the summer of 2022. 

The NFT space has always been at least partially about the money; it’s the reason Web3 proponents celebrate the blockchain’s ability to help artists make a fair living on their work. But the space should neither idolize nor demonize those participating in the OE rush. Most people involved in Web3 aren’t here for the money or the art, but some combination of the two. Nobody should begrudge anyone for their particular combination of preferences.

And while it’s wise to keep a diligent eye on the NFT space’s relationship to money, open editions are probably not the hill on which to die as far as Web3 debates go. NessGraphics’ and Victor Mosquera’s recent OE successes are something to celebrate, as are the countless smaller sales made by up-and-coming artists using Manifold and other platforms to release their OE drops. Democratization is a pillar of Web3, after all. Open editions just might be another great way to uphold that ethos.

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