A couple of years ago, Gary Vaynerchuk invited me to a DM groupchat about investing in baseball cards. I didn’t get it. I mean, I grew up trading cards and still have my 3-ring binders, but I didn’t understand the mechanics of sports collectibles as modern investments. For decades, 40-year-old virgin hoarders – I mean collectors – have been jeered for believing that stockpiling Garbage Pail Kids and Star Wars figures in our youth would ever amount to a retirement payout. Being a 40-year-old virgin hoarder myself, I was skeptical.
“Bobby, trust me,” Gary texted, “Buy this LeBron card on eBay. It’ll grow in value.” I didn’t. And Gary turned out to be right. It was a thousand dollars at the time, but today, that card is hundreds of thousands. I had it right in front of me and I blew it! I’ll be honest. Sometimes, it nags at me that I could’ve effortlessly made 5x my money flipping rookie cards over selling clothing.
If you were around when social media started, you remember this word: FOMO. In 2004, author Patrick J. McGinnis coined the acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out” in response to the nature of smartphones and Instagram reminding everyone that they weren’t a part of something that could make their life better. At the time, these important moments were parties or TV shows. “How do you not know about this?!” FOMO was born out of fear of being left behind, left out of the conversation, and stems back to a childhood anxiety of being the last one picked on the playground.
FOMO never left the social media experience. It just mutated like a COVID variant. In the worst sense, I think people grew so aware of FOMO, that they learned how to weaponize it and capitalize on it to either injure or manipulate others (Marketers can attest to that…). FOMO is also what’s catalyzed politics and activism over the last several years. People fear not having the information to keep them safe from racists, from a virus, even from shame and cancellation for not speaking the correct vernacular or moving about their social life in accordance with a standard of responsibility. And whether we’re conscious of it or not, FOMO is now baked into a weekly Wednesday cycle of current affairs. How do you not know about Nik’s Dior Jordans at the inauguration, GameStop stonks, Bitcoin all-time-highs, and the Texas freeze?! As fragmented as the Internet has made us and our interests, we are all more rhythmically bound to the same water-cooler moments than ever.
Lately, I’ve been sharing a lot about cryptomedia and NFTs. The response has been overwhelming from fellow artists who want to tap into the space to get their work seen. But, I’ve also noticed this frantic alarm from creators who feel like they’re too late. Many feel frustrated for not entirely understanding the concept. They’re banging down the Clubhouse doors trying to access the information and are worried they’re losing out on that “better life.”
For one, FOMO is a collective lie. Your better life is always the one in front of you, with the resources and relationships at your disposal. Secondarily, especially with zeitgeist trends, have faith that the worthy ideas take time and thoughtfulness to sustainably build. NFTs will take years to properly coalesce as a mainstream infrastructure. The truth is nobody totally understands it; we are constructing the definition together, making history, every passing day. Bitcoin’s been around for a little over a decade and just now does it seem like the world is taking it seriously. Like cryptocurrency, NFTs are an (ALT) investment, and a long-term investment at that. This is not only an investment in digital collectibles, but an investment in thinking differently about ownership, new financial systems, a revised approach to wealth sharing and how art is appreciated.
A month ago, Gary tweeted, “Sports cards and Pokemon ect (sic) – graded cards are about to have a wild explosion… most think they missed it .. it hasn’t even started.” And, I agree. Just the fact that you’re wondering about NFTs and baseball cards right now means you’re ahead of the curve. And if you’re not? If you miss the curve completely (Like I did with that LeBron card)? That’s totally fine also. One thing I’ve learned is that having the knowledge and access to an opportunity is not enough juice to seize it. You also have to hold the passion and care, otherwise you won’t last. Different hearts are wired to latch onto different loves, so don’t dive into a venture simply because you’re afraid of missing the boat. There’s another boat out there specifically tailored for you. And you won’t be the one swimming after it. You’ll be driving it.