On January 27, an fan known as “Cryptopathic” sent a message to his friend and well-known crypto Twitter personality Crypto Cobain—named for his resemblance to the late songwriter Kurt Cobain—about an upcoming artwork sale. Known as Hashmasks, they would feature thousands of pieces of original digital artwork and, just maybe, they might become the next craze.
“I was excited about the idea and thought it would at least be fun, and comparable to cryptopunks,” Cryptopathic told Decrypt, referring to the earliest form of —featuring small, pixelated faces, which now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Crypto Cobain read the message, shrugged his shoulders, and figured he would spend $100,000 of his personal cash to invest in Hashmasks. Why not?
“Why did I spend $100,000 on fucking hashmasks FUCK,” he tweeted, before throwing in yet another $100,000.
In less than a single week, Crypto Cobain’s reckless impulse was vindicated. Thousands of buyers poured in, snapping up the 16,384 artworks for a grand total of $16 million. They also pumped the price of the NCT token that was given out with each one—putting the value of his investment at $426,000 in addition to the value of his Hashmasks themselves. At a bare minimum, his investment grew 113% in five days.
But though this art sale hit the Ethereum community like a sudden tidal wave, it had been gradually building up momentum over a number of years.
The birth of Hashmasks
One Hashmask creator—who wanted to remain anonymous, so we’ll call him David—told Decrypt he began working on the launch of a project involving NFTs in the fall of 2019, without a clear idea of what it would become.
Back then, Hashmasks was just a vague and distant goal. In fact, when David first teamed up with his similarly anonymous partner—who we’ll call John—to launch an NFT, they could do nothing but disagree.
On one side, David stubbornly wanted there to be a large number of Hashmasks because he wanted to share as many with his target market as possible. On the other side, John fought back, arguing for there to be a select number of Hashmasks, making them rarer and more valuable.
In the end, John won the battle and the two visionaries settled on creating 16,384 pieces of art.
Those 16,384 pieces of art became known as Hashmasks, a digital art collection that—for the first time in NFT history—allowed each collectible to be named by the buyer, meaning each collectible’s value was determined by the art’s creators, as well as its consumers.
Each individual collectible presents a human-like figure—some more extraterrestrial than others—carrying a unique combination of traits like skin and eye color. They are wacky, bizarre and ultimately fascinating.
Apart from the unique traits visible to the eye, each Hashmask gains its rarity by its name, which is handpicked by the consumer instead of the artist. That’s where the NCT, or Name Changing Token, comes in. Each artwork has its own associated NCT that lets you choose the name. This was a key part of their plan.
But to build such a massive project, they were going to need a small army of diligent artists.
Recruiting an army of NFT artists
The two took to social media to seek burgeoning crypto artists who had talent. They also figured they could get a lot of art done via Fiverr, where artwork starts as low as $5. But with dirt cheap prices came exceptionally poor results.
“We had to take out lots of artists because they didn’t pass quality control,” David said.
The two kept plugging at it until they managed to find enough people who could deliver on their high expectations. But even when the two had recruited a 70-strong army of digital artists, their work was far from over.
The two founders commissioned the artists to…