Welcome to the Crypto 90s

Daniel James
Daniel James
Welcome to the Crypto 90s

The upcoming Crypto 90s NFT collection celebrates crypto and the 90s decade — mashing together two decades that never had the chance to overlap.

Last week, I launched Crypto 90s, a fairly inane but inevitably nostalgic collection of NFTs that will launch on the Internet Computer in April. The collection pairs 90s-themed graphic design with the crypto slang and phrases we use daily. While the collection started primarily as a joke, I’m beginning to think that it actually offers substance—a combination of factors that make Crypto 90s meaningful, memorable, and hopefully a valuable contributor to the Internet Computer NFT ecosystem.

I learned early, back in 2013, that crypto had a culture and lexicon entirely of its own, with DogeCoin being one of the earliest examples. The crypto community consists of passionate and often eccentric people from all over the world. With so many “early” people, there’s an inevitable sense of a big secret — something we know that the world hasn’t caught on to yet. It’s part of what makes crypto fun.

Words, in particular, carry extra weight in the crypto community, probably because many people prefer anonymity, and chat is the default form of communication. The results? WAGMI. gm. gn. frens. FUD. KYC. And dozens, or hundreds, of other examples. This dialect is the backbone of crypto culture, and it stood out to me as a prominent focal point of an NFT collection.

If you’re going to design a collection around words, what design aesthetic should you pair it with? I found myself asking that question, and “nineties” stood out as a fairly obvious option. The nineties offers bright, colorful, crazy shapes and designs, often paired with stark black and white elements. It’s instantly recognizable and relatable, particularly to millennials, who compose a significant portion of crypto fans.

When you begin to merge crypto culture with 90s design styles in your head, an apparent paradox emerges: there was no actual intersection between crypto and the nineties. (Of course, cryptography existed, but I’m using “crypto” loosely to refer to the contemporary blockchain ecosystem.) And when you smash the 90s together with crypto culture, the results are almost always humorous because they don’t belong together. That’s how Crypto 90s was born, but I think there may still be a deeper layer.

Most people who dismiss NFTs point to their lack of utility. You’re reading this, and you’re likely a crypto degen, so I don’t need to argue the case otherwise. But on some level, this criticism is correct. The general non-crypto population sees collection after collection of avatar-based artwork. Apes are the most obvious, but take your pick of hundreds of other animals or characters in generative 10k collections. At some point, you have to ask what is the difference between a goat collection and a sloth collection, besides the art style?

I’m a huge fan of dozens of avatar-based collections, so I don’t direct any particular criticism toward any group. I hope they all succeed. But as each successive collection reaches deeper into the well of increasingly obscure animal subspecies, you begin to see where the mainstream critiques of NFTs have merit. To reiterate — I LOVE many avatar-based collections, and this is not a criticism of them. But it’s worth considering where the mainstream mindset lies.

In part, Crypto 90s is just as inane or meaningless as a new 10k collection of pufferfish. (No offense to pufferfish.) But one slight difference for Crypto 90s is that it resonates with communities that existed before the collection itself. When a collection like BAYC launches, it gradually builds a community around itself. The common trait among community members is their interest in the NFT.

With Crypto 90s, this is not the case. Lovers of the 90s already exist, as do lovers of crypto. And there’s an overlapping contingent between the groups — people who love the 90s AND crypto — that will exist whether or not Crypto 90s is ever minted.

The single, certain utility of every NFT collection is its community, assuming the collection succeeds. And we hope that Crypto 90s will succeed in creating something meaningful by tapping into the potent nostalgia of the 90s and the hardened HODL mentality of cryptotopians. If it doesn’t, we’ll keep our Spice Girls’ jokes to ourselves.

*The article has been published at the behest of Max Ogles and the team. Max wrote this article.

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