12-year-old makes £290,000 selling whale artwork as an NFT

12-year-old makes ?290,000 creating NFTs
Caption: 12-year-old makes ?290,000 creating NFTs

A 12-year-old boy has earned the equivalent of £290,000 from creating digital artwork and selling it as a non-fungible token (NFT).

Benyamin Ahmed, from north London, created the ‘Weird Whales’ pictures during his school holidays and sold them online.

NFTs, which have exploded over the last year, allow artists and musicians to put a digital stamp on an original piece of work – whether it’s a jpeg, MP3 or video clip – and sell it to someone else.

The sale is recorded on the blockchain ledger and asserts authentic ownership of that particular item – even if copies are made.

Benyamin has been coding since the age of five and says he became interested in NFTs earlier in the year.

He created Weird Whales – a collection of 3,350 pixellated whales with individual traits and sold them through a marketplace. His earnings are stored in Ethereum – a type of cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin.

‘I’m not a natural artist but I watched a few YouTube videos and worked out how to draw whales in pixel form really quickly,’ he told the Telegraph.

‘It took me a few weeks to create the base images and various accessories and then I fed them into my programme that helped me to configure the rarity across the different traits, making some more collectible than others.’

Weird Whales is Benyamin’s second art collection and it sold within nine hours of being listed.

Benyamin and his brother Yusef were both taught to code by their father Imran, a software developer who works in the finance industry.

‘I’m so proud of Benyamin and what he has achieved,’ he said.

‘People are shocked that someone so young can create something like this and we’ve had some people thinking that he must be a Russian hacker impersonating a child and not a 12-year-old schoolboy from London.’

What is an NFT?

NFT stands for non-fungible token.

Things that are fungible can be swapped for an asset of the exact same type and value – traditional currencies such as the pound work like this.

When something is non-fungible, it cannot be changed this way because it is unique. Think of it like a famous painting or a rare trading card – there will only be one original, no matter how many copies are made.

An NFT is a distinct cryptographic token that cannot be replicated, which acts as a certificate of ownership for virtual items.

The blockchain protocol, though wrapped in complicated maths and terminology, is a publicly available document that proved no two NFTs are the same. If you owned an NFT, it was indisputably yours.

Anthony Hamer-Hodges, Programme Leader of Music Business Management at London College of Creative Media (LCCM), told Metro.co.uk: ‘The current hype around NFTs is interesting as it demonstrates these essential economic principles of scarcity, value, supply and demand whilst simultaneously being much harder to pin down.’

What is the point?

Manager buying cryptocurrency through mobile phone app
An NFT is a way of putting perceived value onto a digital asset (Getty)

Physical works of art and other rare memorabilia have long been sold for large sums of money but if you create something digitally it is hard to make gains.

So NFT offers a chance for artists in the internet age to make some money by selling ownership to anyone who wants it, and we have already seen popular GIFs such as the Nyan Cat raise more than £375,000 worth of Ether cryptocurrency.

The artist behind Nyan Cat, Chris Torres, recently told The Verge: ‘It gives power to the creator.

‘The creator originally owns it, and then they can sell it and directly monetise and have recognition for their work.’

Selling a digital asset does not mean the original creator loses copyright either, unless it is explicitly stated as part of the sale.

Of course, this does not stop the image being easily copied by anyone online, but an NFT provides someone the honour of knowing they ‘own’ the original image.

As with any blockchain system, records cannot be forged or divided, as they are logged on computers around the world that are part of the network, meaning ownership is verifiable.

As Bitcoin investor Cameron Winklevoss puts it, NFTs ‘liberate art’.

‘Traditional art is confined to time and space,’ he recently tweeted.

‘You have to be in the right city, go to a museum, be invited to someone’s home, etc. Anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection can view NFTs and take them in.’

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