Former President Donald Trump drew widespread mockery last week when he teased a special announcement – speculated to include anything from a vice presidential pick to a policy announcement to a return to Twitter to a run at the Speakership of the house — which turned out to be the launch of a new NFT collection, available for $99 each at CollectTrumpCards.com.
Trump launched the NFTs at what could charitably be called the tail end of the NFT craze, and also at a time when the Republican Party is trying to make hay of the recent arrest of crypto billionaire and Democratic donor Sam Bankman-Fried.
Also, the announcement needed to provide an explanation of how NFTs work, as Trump’s older base likely has little understanding of the newer technology.
Many, including former adviser Steve Bannon, questioned why Trump, who is officially running for president again, would spend his time on something like this, at this particular time.
Then there were the cards themselves, featuring what looked like crude photoshops of Trump in a boxing ring, as a cowboy, an astronaut, a race car driver, and more. Those purchasing the NFTs were also offered the chance to win prizes, such as dinner with the ex-president or a round of golf at one of his golf courses.
The “digital trading cards” did sell out their allotment of 45,000 NFTs within 24 hours, creating a windfall of about $4.5 million, although it’s not clear how much of that is Trump’s cut personally (1,000 more were held back by the creators).
This is perhaps unsurprising, as Trump’s fans are known to give him money when he asks, often in the form of campaign donations. The NFTs, however, are not affiliated with Trump’s 2024 campaign or any other political entity, as the collection’s fine print makes clear.
However, the news hasn’t been so great for the NFT collection since its launch.
First, “Saturday Night Live” made fun of the NFT launch.
Then, according to crypto news site Decrypt, the value of the Trump NFTs started “tanking” almost since launch, with the floor price dropping 74 percent from Saturday to Tuesday. They are, however, still trading much higher than their initial price, while trending downward.
“After prices and trading volume surged over the weekend, both metrics have fallen sharply as the hype around the disgraced former U.S. president’s project is apparently fading,” the site said.
There’s another big problem with the Trump NFT collective: Accusations have arisen that the NFTs use copyrighted materials.
According to Benzinga, it’s been noticed that some of the images “ seem to be Trump’s head on images from stock photography, small apparel business websites, or even clothing available on Amazon and Walmart.”
One image is said to use a photo taken by a Reuters photographer of Trump playing golf, without permission to use it.
“The Trump golf NFT is a slimed-down and photoshopped-up take from a David Moir/Reuters file photo from 2011 when Trump was playing at his Scotland club,” Twitter user Skeeter Bombay pointed out. “Even the folds in his pants are the same.”
Could Trump, or his collaborators on the NFT project, be sued for copyright infringement? They could, although legal precedents concerning NFTs can be murky. There’s no word from anyone concerned about an actual threat of legal action, although the story is still relatively new.
Coindesk this week looked into how crypto obsessives of Twitter have looked into the Trump NFT collection.
“In the wake of the project’s apparent success, internet sleuths have dug deep into the project and the parties behind the wallet addresses associated with Trump’s collectibles,” the site said. “Among the nuances and inconsistencies alleged on Twitter: the company that created the collectibles is hoarding a large amount of them; that the project poorly relies on stock imagery; and that most of the buyers opened new wallets without holding any cryptocurrency, sticking them with an NFT and no way to derive any future value from them.”
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.