And a big drop in prices could again send speculators fleeing. In its financial prospectus, Coinbase warned that its business results would fluctuate with the volatility of crypto assets, “many of which are unpredictable and in certain instances are outside of our control.”

The industry’s biggest issue — fulfilling the promise that the technology is more than just a place to park money — could take another decade to play out.

“There’s no doubt we’re in the latest boom, and I don’t know if that’s going to turn tomorrow or two years from now,” Mr. Tomaino said. “But the busts and booms are always higher than the last.”

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¿Por qué alguien pagó 560.000 dólares por una imagen de mi columna?

“A las personas de mi generación, que crecieron en la década de 1970, les encantará coleccionar libros de primera edición, novelas como el Ulises de James Joyce”, escribió en un correo electrónico. “Lo que las cripto y los NFT abrieron es la propiedad de los derechos para decir que uno posee tal cosa, ya sea tangible o intangible, en una forma que miles, si no es que millones, pueden ver y rastrear en tiempo real, en cualquier parte del mundo”.

André Allen Anjos, un artista de música electrónica de Portland, Oregón, que ofreció 5,69 etheres (cerca de 9200 dólares) por el NFT, me dijo en una entrevista telefónica que pujar por el token tal vez se podría considerar como un gesto simbólico de agradecimiento hacia mí y el Times de parte de la criptocomunidad por, sobre todo, tomarlos con la suficiente seriedad como para hacer un experimento con nuestra propia venta de tokens.

“Es como si una publicación convencional intentara interactuar con nosotros como comunidad de una manera real y sincera”, señaló. “Yo quería dar a entender que esto es fabuloso, que están planteando las preguntas correctas”.

Anjos mencionó que había crecido en la era de Napster, cuando los músicos se dieron cuenta de que internet podría destruir su modo de subsistencia al facilitar la reproducción de canciones de manera gratuita. Comentó que la tecnología de cadenas de bloques había cambiado eso al poder crear objetos coleccionables de edición limitada timbrados con el sello digital de su procedencia. Anjos mencionó que la idea de coleccionar los NFT no era tanto poseer las piezas en sí (la mayoría de las cuales pueden descargarse de manera gratuita de internet, pero sin las firmas criptográficas especiales), sino más bien demostrar confianza en este nuevo modelo de adquisición.

“No voy a llamarlo protesta, pero es una declaración”, afirmó. “Este es el criptomundo intentando probar que existimos; nos interesa revolucionar este modelo y estamos dispuestos a invertir nuestro dinero en eso”.

No todos los motivos de los postores eran tan nobles. Sterling Crispin, investigador de Apple que tiene otro trabajo como artista de NFT, mencionó que había ofrecido 4125 etheres (cerca de 6700 dólares) por mi token porque tenía en puerta una presentación virtual y esperaba que la puja atrajera algo de publicidad.

“Dije, bueno, estoy a punto de emitir un NFT para esta presentación en solitario”, comentó. “Valdría muchísimo la pena que aparecieran cuatro etheres en el Times”.

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Why Did Someone Pay $560,000 for a Picture of My Column?

$98,000.

$143,000.

$277,000.

After more than 30 bids, the auction ended at 12:32 p.m. Eastern time, with a winning bid of 350 Ether, or about $560,000. A few minutes later, after the auction platform had taken its cut, nearly $500,000 in cryptocurrency landed in my digital wallet. I was stunned. Congratulatory texts and media requests started pouring in. My colleagues joked about stiffing the charity and slipping off to the Cayman Islands. My editor said I shouldn’t expect a raise.

The whole ordeal was surreal, and it raised the question: Why would anyone spend the price of a high-end Lamborghini on a picture of my words? After all, the NFT was just a cryptographic signature linked to an image of a column that anyone could read on The Times’s website, albeit with a few bonus perks. (I also stipulated that I would feature the winner’s name and photo in a follow-up column, and Michael Barbaro, the host of “The Daily,” gamely agreed to throw in a voice message for the winner.)

The winner, whose handle on the auction site was @3fmusic, appeared to be a prominent NFT collector. The profile on the site was linked to a Twitter profile belonging to a Dubai-based music production company, and to an Instagram account identified as that of Farzin Fardin Fard, the company’s chief executive. The user’s NFT collection included a variety of other expensive digital works, including a $14,000 “emoji portrait” of the musician Billie Eilish and a $8,000 piece titled “Jumping Spider enjoying coffee in the morning.”

I reached out to @3fmusic to offer my congratulations on the purchase and to discuss the bid. They (it’s not clear if the winner is Mr. Fard or some other individual or multiple people) declined to be named — and, because of the pseudonymous nature of blockchain-based transactions, there’s no easy way for me to identify them beyond the information they volunteered — but they sent me a statement over Twitter direct message that read:

“We are already involved in art and media for a long time now,” the message read. “Our management team is always in cooperation with some highly knowledgeable and experienced art advisers who believe that we must grow with technological movements that help us to not only promote our business but also to support artists and the art market. Thus, we have proudly decided to dedicate sufficient funds and resources to invest in NFT as pioneers of this industry.”

They also gave me permission to include an image of their music studio’s logo in this column.

Jiannan Ouyang, an NFT collector who dropped out of the auction after a high bid of 290 Ether (about $469,000), told me that he had decided to bid on my NFT for both personal and professional reasons. He’s a former Facebook research scientist who is now a blockchain entrepreneur, and he’s married to a journalist.

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Buy This NFT Column on the Blockchain!

Foundation makes minting an NFT easy, but adding it to the Ethereum blockchain can be expensive. It requires paying a “gas fee” — a kind of congestion tax that is based on how busy the network is — and listing my token required two transactions: one to mint the token and another to generate the code that runs the auction. These days, gas fees to create a single NFT can exceed $100, although many are closer to $50.

The next step was to list my new NFT for sale. I set the minimum acceptable price of the auction at 0.5 Ether, or about $850 at today’s exchange rate. The auction will run for 24 hours after the reserve price is met, though more time gets added if people bid in the last 15 minutes. After a winner is named, the token will be automatically transferred to that person’s Ethereum wallet. I will transfer the proceeds to the Neediest Cases Fund (minus the 15 percent cut that Foundation takes and any costs associated with the donation).

In addition to selling the token, many NFT sellers add perks. Kings of Leon, for example, are sending a limited-edition vinyl album to people who buy their NFTs, and giving buyers of a special “golden ticket” NFT free concert tickets for life.

I don’t have concert tickets to offer, but I did want to sweeten the deal. So here’s what you’ll get if you win this NFT auction:

  • As with all NFT sales, you’ll get the token itself — a unique digital collectible that corresponds to an image of this column in PNG format. (Our lawyers want me to note that the NFT does not include the copyright to the article or any reproduction or syndication rights.)

  • You’ll also be featured in a follow-up article about the sale, along with your name, your affiliation and a family-friendly image of your choice. (NFT sales don’t require identifying yourself by anything other than your Ethereum address, so you can stay anonymous if you’d prefer. Also, my bosses want me to note that The Times retains editorial control over the follow-up column, and reserves the right to decline submissions that don’t meet our editorial standards.)

  • And as a bonus perk, Michael Barbaro, the host of “The Daily,” will send you a short, personalized voice memo congratulating you on your purchase.

The biggest perk of all, of course, is owning a piece of history. This is the first article in the almost 170-year history of The Times to be distributed as an NFT, and if this technology proves to be as transformational as its fans predict, owning it might be tantamount to owning NBC’s first TV broadcast or AOL’s first email address.

Of course, that’s far from a guarantee. NFTs could turn out to be a passing fad that is feeding a speculative bubble — the digital equivalent of Beanie Babies — and your investment could turn out to be worthless.

But if they stick around, NFTs could transform the way digital goods are created, consumed and traded online. Some news organizations, including Quartz and The Associated Press, have already experimented with selling NFTs, and YouTubers and other online influencers have begun creating their own lines of cryptomerchandise.

Some of the NFT buzz is shallow hype, no doubt. The cryptocurrency world is full of scammers and get-rich-quick hustlers whose projects often end in failure. (Remember the initial coin offering boom?) And critics point out that NFTs and other cryptocurrency-related projects require enormous amounts of energy and computing power, making them a growing environmental hazard. There are also legitimate questions about what, exactly, NFT buyers are getting for their money, and whether these tokens will turn into broken links if the marketplaces and hosting services that store the underlying files disappear.

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