eBay Main Street Sign

Last week, eBay CEO Jamie Iannone hinted in an interview with CNBC that eBay is exploring opportunities to enable digital assets. Clearly, the company was much further ahead in this pursuit as Jordan Sweetnam, eBay SVP and GM for North America, announced the following last night:

“Recently, we’ve seen a massive wave of attention, media coverage, and online conversation around high-end collectibles – or what many are calling alternate assets. Interest and investments have spanned everything from trading cards and comics to collectible sneakers and art. Seemingly unrelated categories that were once viewed as the domain of passionate enthusiasts are now recognized by a broader audience as serious business, and the space is exploding.“  

“This isn’t new to eBay. For 25+ years we’ve been the world’s destination for collectibles, connecting millions of buyers with sellers who have deep knowledge of the things they care about most. Our platform has helped collectors turn their hobbies into their livelihoods, and along the way, collectibles – ranging from beanie babies and railroad memorabilia to high-end art and rare coins – became an alternate asset class, combining passion with investment.“

“Technology is a driving force in this story, enabling experiences that many collectors never imagined. We’ve ushered in a new era of collecting, anchored by better data, greater transparency, and tools that make it easier than ever to discover, buy or sell anything. Recently released product features, like image-based listings, have made collecting more accessible to casual enthusiasts at a global scale.“

“These tech advancements are changing the collector’s experience, and another phenomenon has emerged in this space: digital collectibles. A few months ago, most people wouldn’t have known off hand what NFT stood for (‘non-fungible token’) or why the acronym was suddenly making headlines. You may have seen headlines about a piece of digital artwork by Beeple that went for $69 million – one of the most expensive works ever sold by a living artist. And we’re seeing new NFTs every day, ranging from Kurt Cobain’s last photoshoot to historic moments from The Golden State Warriors.“

In Pursuit of Passion 

“Any form of collecting is about the convergence of passion, interest, and opportunity. We’ve seen this play out in the physical world and now we’re seeing a transition to digital. This  emerging area has reached a tipping point of credibility, trust and adoption so that mainstream audiences now feel comfortable exchanging new forms of digital collectibles.“

“This recent investment wave can be linked to a number of things, including stay-at-home collectors passing along their hobbies and passions to younger generations, new buyers and sellers leaning into cultural pursuits over traditional investments, and digital platforms providing more access to invest than ever before.“

eBay Expanding Into NFTs 

“eBay has always been the world’s destination for buying and selling the most unique and hard-to-find items – and we’ll continue to be the destination for collectors of all kinds, physical or digital. This opportunity unlocks new assets for collecting, new ways for people to fuel their passion, and expands eBay’s appeal to a new generation of collectors.“

“Our open platform is a big part of why eBay is so successful, and that won’t change. NFTs offer greater access to a broader audience of collectors and creators. In the same way digital publishing brought more exposure for writers, digital collectibles bring greater opportunity for artists and creators. We plan to double down on this idea – combining eBay’s global reach with the principle that anyone can find almost anything on our platform. This premise is what makes NFTs on eBay so exciting, and why we want to partner with creators, sellers and brands who share our commitment to maintaining an open marketplace.“

“With this in mind, today we are updating eBay’s policy to include the sale of NFTs. In the short term, NFT inventory will be provided by trusted sellers who meet our high standards, across categories like trading cards, music, entertainment and art.“

“This is only the beginning. This initial rollout will help us learn more about what’s important to our community. Expect to see programs, policies and tools that will allow our audiences to buy and sell NFTs with greater ease and confidence, across a broader range of categories.“

“In the coming months, eBay will add new capabilities that bring blockchain-driven collectibles to our platform. I’m looking forward to bringing on new creators to share their passions in ways we can’t even imagine yet. Together we will ensure eBay remains the preeminent marketplace for collectibles of all kinds and serves the next generation of collectors.“

NFTs And Cryptocurrencies

When we posted the story last week that eBay was exploring accepting cryptocurrencies and NFTs, we noticed there is a lot of confusion between the two among many sellers.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are digital payment currencies, not controlled by governments. While in theory they are decentralized digital money that can be used for purchasing goods, the reality is that most cryptocurrency transactions today are speculative “investments.” Here is a better explanation of cryptocurrencies from Coinbase, a popular U.S. cryptocurrency exchange platform.

In contrast to cryptocurrencies, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are digital assets that allow the creator of a digital asset to retain copyright and reproduction rights. The two are related somewhat, but the usage is different. Here is a better explanation of NFTs from The Verge.

It is the latter that eBay is enabling and while the company didn’t rule out getting into cryptocurrencies like PayPal, the immediate news is that eBay is slowly expanding its platform to enable creators of NFTs to use the marketplace to sell their digital assets.

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