A non-fungible token, more commonly known as NFTs, is a unique cryptographic asset that cannot be replicated and stored on a blockchain. By definition, fungibility is when an asset can be exchanged with more of the same good or asset–think of a dollar that can be easily exchanged into pennies or nickels and retain the same value. This means that by being non-fungible, NFTs cannot be traded or exchanged for an identical asset; one NFT cannot be exchanged for another NFT.
Throughout 2021, we have seen the meteoric rise in popularity of NFT, which can represent assets from artwork to videos and even real estate. In the case of artwork, it may be hard for someone to understand the value of buying a digital asset. The importance is ownership; the blockchain on which the NFT is stored verifies the identity of the asset’s owner in an immutable ledger.
In the discussion on NFTs, it is essential to consider that not all digital assets are classified as securities. Based on the Supreme Court’s Howey case, the Howey Test helps determine whether an investment contract exists and is used to classify digital assets. With this test, an investment contract typically exists “there is the investment of money in a common enterprise with a reasonable expectation of profits to be derived from the efforts of others.” If a digital asset meets these requirements and is classified as a digital security, it must be registered with the SEC or exempt from registration. With registration, issuers are required to disclose certain complete, non-misleading information to investors.
If an NFT can meet the digital security requirements, they can be offered through raises that happen under exemptions like Regulation A+. NFTs are not bound by federal securities laws and pose a potential investment risk without meeting these requirements.
What makes an NFT a good investment is its resale potential. If there is no market for the asset and it cannot be resold, it loses its value. It is not like other digital attests like cryptocurrencies, where one bitcoin is always equal in value to another. As the landscape of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and digital securities continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see their role in the future private capital markets.