Right here Are the Traditional Web Memes Discovering New Life as NFTs

 Right here Are the Traditional Web Memes Discovering New Life as NFTs


  • Early 2010s web memes like Nyan Cat, Scumbag Steve, and Overly Connected Girlfriend are discovering new life as NFTs.
  • Some have bought for a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars}.
  • For some meme creators, it seems like long-overdue recognition.

Ten years in the past, a 25-year-old artist named Chris Torres created Nyan Cat—a pixelated animation of a cat with a Pop-Tart for a torso. Unceremoniously uploaded to Torres’ private web site, Nyan Cat was by no means meant as something greater than a gag. In some way, although, it took off as an early viral video. The outcome was fifteen minutes of web fame for Torres, and a decade of copy for what’s now probably the most ubiquitous and recognizable memes of all time.

In February of this yr, simply as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) slid into mainstream view, Torres seized the chance to revenue from the buzzy cryptocurrency tokens, which permit artists to public sale off discrete possession of digital photos. Torres bought an NFT tied to a GIF of Nyan Cat for 300 ETH, or almost $600,000. “It is simply actually recognizable,” Torres instructed Decrypt. “That is what created the worth.”

The sale began a development; NFTs of memes from the late 2000s and early 2010s have continued to promote for absurd quantities of cash, thanks partially to Torres and the group of creators he’s helped foster over the previous decade. With gross sales within the a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars}, the auctions are creating ridiculous valuations for GIFs and JPGs—significantly ones that don’t confer any authorized possession over the NFTs themselves. 

However for at the least a couple of bidders, the prospect of proudly owning the Nyan Cat, Scumbag Steve or Overly Connected Girlfriend NFT is definitely worth the cash. The memes had been among the many first items of genuinely viral web content material—picture macros that trickled down from websites like 4Chan and I Can Has Cheezburger and filtered into our collective unconscious; the deconstructionist memes of the post-covid period are intently tied to those lingering cultural reminiscences. 

Right here’s a fast rundown on essentially the most well-known Internet 2.0 artifacts that discovered new life on Internet 3.0.

Nyan Cat

Torres mentioned that again within the early 2010s, corporations would use Nyan Cat as a viral advertising and marketing instrument with out bothering to credit score him. “It type of turned a development, not only for me, however for a lot of meme artists that created something since then. It’s all the time been type of a battle.”

The magic of memes is of their transience and reproducibility—it’s unusual to assume that Nyan Cat was created by a person, because it’s handed via so many arms. (Snoop Dogg even partnered with Torres for a twist on Nyan Cat known as “Nyan Dogg”; it bought for $33,000.)

In contrast, NFTs are extra like connective tissue between artists and their artworks. Somebody may attempt to promote one other Nyan Cat NFT, however solely the unique hyperlinks to Torres’ handle on the Ethereum blockchain.

For creators dissociated from their memes, it’s proved a beautiful proposition. Torres instructed Decrypt that inside minutes of tweeting a few potential foray into crypto artwork, a consultant for the burgeoning invite-only NFT market Basis reached out about partnering up. Lower than two weeks later, Nyan Cat bought for 300 ETH, and a door was opened for the remainder of the classic meme group. 

Torres mentioned he was very happy to assist different creators get on board. “I had so many essential creators lining as much as ask for assist,” he mentioned. “I used to be like, what,  let me get you guys all arrange. So that is what I did, I principally walked each meme creator via the method of getting into the NFT area.” 

Torres and his longtime enterprise accomplice, Ben Lashes, have helped memes like Success Child, Grumpy Cat, and extra discover their manner into the NFT market. Torres clarified that he’s not taking a minimize of their gross sales. “I’m simply actually in it to assist,” he mentioned. “Ever since getting into the NFT area, I’ve simply had that mindset. Probably not in it for the cash, simply in for the artwork and in it for retaining issues cool.”

Scumbag Steve

One of many first individuals to succeed in out to Torres was Blake Boston, the 31-year-old behind the “Scumbag Steve” meme. Torres helped him get onto the NFT market Basis, and put Scumbag Steve on the blockchain. As a part of the positioning’s “Meme Financial system” public sale (promoted alongside Unhealthy Luck Brian, Grumpy Cat, and others) it bought for 30 ETH, or $54,000 on the time, to somebody with the deal with @yourethememenowdog—a reference to the early meme website “You’re the Man Now, Canine.”

The meme took form in 2006, when a 16-year-old Blake uploaded to MySpace a photograph of himself in an outsized snapback and large fur coat. From there, it discovered its manner out into the broader web as “Scumbag Steve”—the archetypal thoughtless bro. 

When the image first blew up, Boston and his household had been lower than thrilled. “My mother, who took the image, noticed [it] as soon as we went on the pc and seemed it up, and he or she began crying,” he instructed Decrypt. “She’s like, Oh my god, I ruined your life! I had no concept what was occurring. I did not even know what a meme was again then, so I needed to do my analysis.”

He’s nonetheless based mostly in Boston, town the place he was raised, and speaks with a thick accent to show it. Since that preliminary shock of web notoriety, he’s embraced his standing as a meme icon, and even launched a few goofy songs in character. 

Boston was working as a chef till the pandemic hit. He’s supported his children with unemployment checks since then, however the NFT windfall has been a weight off his shoulders.

“It’s such a stress reliever,” he mentioned. “Up till about two weeks in the past, my children have been doing distant studying from dwelling. So only a bunch of various stuff you gotta add on to bills, and you are not getting paid as a lot as you had been working. So it blew my thoughts and virtually made me tear up, as a result of I used to be identical to, wow, the help was wonderful. The entire course of was wonderful.”

Clarinet Boy

Clarinet Boy is a double publicity picture of a freckled child clutching a clarinet and prepped for a marching band. On the one hand he’s glad—clarinet in hand, smiling on the digital camera—and on the opposite, he’s staring off into the space, considering one thing unspeakable. 

The picture discovered fame on a weblog known as Awkward Household Pictures in 2009, however rapidly developed into one thing else solely. Lots of the early photos involving Clarinet Boy joked that he was stricken by flashbacks from the Vietnam battle.

The boy within the meme was BJ, now a 48-year-old psychological well being practitioner and educator dwelling in Texas. It was Mike Bender and Mike Chernack, the operators of Awkward Household Pictures, who turned Clarinet Boy into an NFT. In April, the token bought for five.555 ETH (roughly $12,000) on Basis.

The sale was one of some auctions centered round NFT-tied photos from Awkward Household Pictures; Bender instructed Decrypt he and Chernack will cut up the earnings down the center with the households liable for the photographs.

“After we wrote [BJ] a month in the past or so about this NFT concept, I believe it was a very engaging concept to him and all the households that we’re doing this with, as a result of in some methods the NFT offers these individuals a chance to reclaim that picture,” mentioned Bender. “They have been on this curler coaster journey for all these years, watching the picture go all over the place. And now they get to mint it and authenticate it. They get to place their stamp on it.”

Requested about why the earnings shouldn’t simply go solely to BJ, Bender mentioned the weblog already owns most of the photos it has acquired as submissions through the years. “We paid the households to license the pictures,” he defined. “So we may have theoretically simply gone and completed NFTs—however we might by no means have completed that.”

Catastrophe Lady

Zoe Roth was solely 4 when her dad snapped a photograph of her smirking in entrance of a burning constructing. The picture went viral in 2008, and have become a type of shorthand for taking pleasure in chaos.

Now, at 21, Roth is a bona fide thousandaire—in April, an NFT linked to the Disaster Girl meme bought on Basis for an eye-popping $390,000. The client was an account known as @3FMusic, which additionally purchased The New York Occasions’ NFT for $562,000). 

One for the grandkids.

Overly Connected Girlfriend

Overly Attached Girlfriend is a personality from YouTuber Laina Morris that went viral in 2012. Morris’s video riffed on Justin Bieber’s tune, “Boyfriend,” turning it right into a tune about an incessantly needy girlfriend.

Morris’s tune contains such persuasive couplets as: “If I used to be your girlfriend / I’d by no means allow you to depart / with no small recording gadget / taped below your sleeve.” Her video took off; to this point, it has 21 million views. However Morris’s fame extracted extra from her than she did from it. After a yr of importing comedy movies to YouTube, the stress and the strain began to overwhelm her. Morris struggled with despair, and ultimately quit YouTube in 2019.

Because the crypto artwork craze ratcheted up, Morris auctioned off the nonetheless that made her well-known as an NFT, taking dwelling a princely sum: $411,000. An account known as 3FMusic (it purchased the New York Occasions’ NFT, too) was the best bidder.

“You’re actually gonna make me emotional over a creepy face I made 9 years in the past?!,” she mentioned in a tweet after the public sale. “Actually, you haven’t any concept how that is going to vary my life. I imply it. I’m so extremely grateful and likewise nonetheless simply BLOWN AWAY.  So bizarre. So cool. Wtf. Thanks, web.”

“The creepy face was positively a final minute resolution,” she told Buzzfeed in 2020.

Keyboard Cat

Remember Keyboard Cat, the lovable kitty who performed a candy little tune on a synthesiser? Her title was Fatso, and he or she’s now an NFT. @yourethememenowdog, who picked up Scumbag Steve, snagged this one for 33 ETH—then $64,000.

Unhealthy Luck Brian

Kyle Craven, higher often called the star of the Unhealthy Luck Brian meme, bought his NFT for 20 ETH in March. Craven’s meme stemmed from a photograph initially meant for his highschool yearbook.

Within the image, Craven is wearing a dorky sweater and pulls a goofy face. He seems to be impressionable, even a bit awkward; no completely different than every other good-natured highschool scholar. Craven mentioned in a YouTube interview in 2016 that he was nothing of the type: he posed for the picture to amuse his buddies.

The prank image didn’t make it into the yearbook (the principal, Craven claims, was onto him). He saved a duplicate and it wound up on Reddit, the place issues started to spiral. “I happily don’t seem like the image, so I hardly get acknowledged in public,” Craven insists. What was not Craven’s intention was for his likeness to grow to be the butt of a whole bunch of hundreds of on-line jokes, every a play on the Unhealthy Luck Brian archetype: a pleasant man, and a hapless sufferer of endless unfortunate circumstances.

Craven, now 31, has lastly come into some good luck: the Unhealthy Luck Brian NFT he bought on Basis generated 20 ETH, or $36,000. And it couldn’t have occurred to a nicer man.

Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat’s actual title was Tardar Sauce. The cat was named Meme of the Year on the 2013 Webby Awards. Her proprietor, Tabatha Bundesen, translated Grumpy Cat’s viral second into profitable social media accounts and merch collections. In NFT form, Grumpy Cat went for 44 ETH, or almost $100,000.


Apologies to Maggie Goldenberger, in any other case often called the “Ermahgerd” woman—her NFT made simply $4,600.

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