GRAND FORKS — Creating and selling NFTs is not Daniel Schott’s first foray into the wild, wild west of investing.
Schott, who creates Grand Forks- and North Dakota-based NFTs, first entered into the world of cryptocurrency in 2014 when he began mining Bitcoin before getting into NFTs.
“My story with cryptocurrency is that I certainly had a good amount, but I’ve used a lot in projects and startups,” Schott said. “My wife is a doctor, and I used a lot in her pregnancy so she could stay home. Part of me knows that was a great decision, but a part of me is like, ‘Ah, would have been nice to hold on to that.’ But I think making wise decisions about crypto is the best way to go.”
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are either a new way of doing business or a passing fad, depending on how one looks at it. NFTs can be traded on the Ethereum blockchain. Investopedia defines a blockchain as “A distributed database that is shared among the nodes of a computer network.”
In essence, blockchains maintain a decentralized record of transactions. They collect data in groups, or blocks, which have certain storage limits and are linked to the previously filled block – hence the name.
“Let’s say I want to give you $5,” Chris Davis, Daniel Schott’s business partner, said. “I go to the bank, and I tell them, ‘Hey, I have $5, and I want to give you $5. Please transfer it to this guy’s account.’ And the bank writes in their electric ledger that I sent you $5. In your bank, there is now $5 more than there was. The bank, in exchange, doesn’t necessarily make a fee for doing that, but they collect plenty of other fees, so they keep themselves alive. So, what if I didn’t need to go to a bank? What if there just wasn’t a bank involved? People, crypto miners, right now, are the bank.”
Selling a work of art, digital or not, as an NFT allows the creator to make as many copies as they want and sell them, or sell the original, which subsequently also allows creators to maintain control of the value of their work. Davis compared the process to selling a rare Pokemon card.
“You can think about the holographic Charizard, which there’s maybe 5,000 in existence, but they’re the rarest Pokemon card out there,” Davis said. “So you can release (art) as one of one, one of 100, one of 5,000 or whatever you like.”
So, how does someone make an NFT? Schott said there are still many steps as of now, but the process could become more streamlined in the future. He published a YouTube video detailing how he created an NFT and counted 26 steps.
“I’d say if you’re a traditional artist, it’s going to be more than that, and you’re gonna have to learn a few things about what types of files you should be putting up there,” Schott said. “You might need to change your art.”
Schott said 3D animations sold as NFTs are popular right now. He has used Photoshop and even computer software to insert animations as overlays on top of pictures he has taken.
“There’s an artificial intelligence software that’s easier to do it with, and so I cheat a little bit,” Schott said.
Schott first got into making NFTs during summer, 2021. He is a stay-at-home dad whose wife is a doctor. He also has Bipolar Disorder; a mental illness causing shifts in mood and energy, which makes it difficult for those afflicted to carry out basic tasks. He said creating NFTs is a way for him to get away from the challenges of his mental illness and interact with nature and other people.
His first NFT was Grand Forks-themed, and now he continues it with collections of NFTs showing off nature in the area.
“It’s downtown past the railroad tracks, and there’s a building with art on the backside of it,” Schott said. “There’s artwork on it, and it’s just kind of a unique little hidden little gem of Grand Forks.”
Schott likes to go out as far as an hour in any direction from Grand Forks. He has NFTs of photographs of bridges, fields, sunrises and other things that catch his eye. He also takes photos to represent his mood swings.
“Sometimes, I’ll do dark photos that might represent depression or bright photos that represent mania,” Schott said. “Sometimes, I’ll animate a photo and bring it to life.”
More than anything, Schott wants to use NFTs to show off the region he is proud to call his home.
“We might not think that Grand Forks and the Red River Valley is special, but there’s a lot of people that haven’t seen the horizons that we have andthe the wide open fields and plains,” Schott said. “To them it’s very unique and strikes them significantly.”