Visa has purchased its first piece of non-fungible token (NFT) artwork, a CryptoPunk collectible that ended up selling for 49.5 ETH (approximately $150,000 at the time of sale). The company says it invested in the NFT because it first and foremost “wanted to learn” and have firsthand knowledge of the NFT market.
“We also wanted to signal our support for the creators, collectors, and artists driving the future of NFT-commerce,” said Cuy Sheffield, Visa’s Head of Crypto. “Lastly, we wanted to collect an NFT that symbolizes the excitement and opportunity of this particular cultural moment.”
The NFT hype of early 2021 was quickly labeled by much of the media (including us, admittedly) as a short-lived craze with a high potential for general scammery. Visa’s investment in the NFT economy months later tells a very different story.
VisaPunks — Launched in 2017, CryptoPunks is largely considered one of the first-ever NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain. There are exactly 10,000 CryptoPunks in existence, each of which can be bought and re-sold by their current owners.
Visa bought CryptoPunk 7610, one of 3,840 unique “female” punks in the series. It has a mohawk, green “clown eyes,” and “hot lipstick.” The company worked with Anchorage Digital, a digital asset platform, to complete the sale.
There doesn’t seem to be any significance to which CryptoPunk Visa ended up buying; for most buyers, it’s a matter of personal preference, current re-sale availability, and price point.
Here for the long haul — As one of the biggest payment processing companies in the world (second only to China’s UnionPay), Visa is very much a hallmark of the traditional financial industry. Non-fungible tokens — and, more largely, the cryptocurrency networks that make NFTs possible — are often viewed as the antithesis of old-school financial institutions.
Visa is switching up that narrative by actively participating in crypto and the NFT economy. The company doesn’t just want to collect one CryptoPunk and move on, either — Sheffield says Visa is “thinking deeply about this space and how we can apply our expertise in enabling seamless and secure digital payments to make NFT-commerce accessible and useable for buyers and sellers.”
Buying CryptoPunk 7610 is big for Visa. It’s also an outstanding endorsement for the general NFT marketplace, a bet from one of the world’s most important financial institutions that NFTs aren’t diminishing in importance any time soon. All signs point to quite the opposite.