Sports-card pioneer Karvin Cheung is reimagining NFTs

What if an NFT have been someway linked to one thing as old-school as an precise bodily product? This is the idea behind the Grid, a brand new platform the place individuals should purchase NFTs (nonfungible tokens) of digitized, sports activities memorabilia—an NBA jersey, say, or a participant’s sneaker. Then, by accruing sufficient factors via buying and selling and promoting these NFTs, they’ll wind up with the true jersey. 

It’s an idea that takes NBA Top Shot—which set off the craze for NFTs that includes basketball stars making jaw-dropping dunks and performs—a step additional, and that Karvin Cheung says capitalizes on the “nostalgia issue” of sports activities collectibles. “NFTs are such a brand new phenomenon, however there’s not a whole lot of nostalgia inbuilt,” Cheung says. “We’re introducing a game-use memorabilia merchandise together with a bodily merchandise to bridge that hole and produce nostalgia into the digital NFT area.”

Cheung would know. As a senior govt on the trading-card firm Upper Deck, Cheung created the Exquisite Collection, which pioneered the concept of packaging and presenting sports activities buying and selling playing cards as a top-of-the-line expertise. The gathering launched in 2004 with a set of playing cards tied to a rookie named LeBron James. Right now, the playing cards promote for upward of $5 million. 

However as Cheung watched the sports-memorabilia world change into co-opted by the metaverse over the previous a number of months, he realized that one thing was lacking: the sort of sentimental attraction that is fueled most powerfully by with the ability to contact and maintain one thing, not simply have a look at it on a display screen. He is trying to rectify this via his work with the Grid, the place he is overseeing the creation of NFTs.


Created by Sher Chaudhary, cofounder of Nostalgia Labs, the Grid is a brand new NFT platform the place individuals should purchase nonfungible tokens associated to sports activities collectibles. Every NFT shall be a sort of snapshot of these collectibles—a swatch of James’s jersey, say. However via shopping for and buying and selling NFTs on the Grid, customers will earn extra factors. When a sure variety of factors is reached, the precise artifact (the jersey)—which the Grid is procuring via offers with collectors—shall be redeemed. 

Cheung provides that nostalgia is the important thing ingredient in the case of why individuals acquire. “My perception is that most individuals acquire issues as a result of it brings them again to their childhood,” he says. “Whether or not it’s Pokémon playing cards or sports activities playing cards, often with a collector that’s what they have been into at a younger age. Loads of occasions, individuals will say they began amassing once more as a result of there was at all times a card they wished to personal, or a toy, or a sneaker. That brings again recollections. It’s the one merchandise they now not have, or they at all times wished however might by no means get.”

Cheung has spent his profession within the trading-card trade, even opening up his personal retailer at one level. He has designed hockey playing cards, basketball playing cards, baseball playing cards, and soccer playing cards. (He has even designed his personal company title: the Architect.) His ardour for buying and selling playing cards dates again to his childhood in Toronto. He remembers being 6 years previous and watching older children throw hockey buying and selling playing cards up within the air for enjoyable. Cheung would make a mad sprint to seize them as they fluttered to the bottom, and remembers the time he lastly succeeded. “I needed to dive right into a puddle to get it,” he says. “It was ripped, broken. It was virtually like a conquest.”

Now he’s increasing into music, which is one other ardour (he was a deejay in his twenties). His new firm, the Infinite, is creating collectible playing cards of musicians, with the concept they may faucet into a complete new neighborhood of rabid followers. For its debut assortment, that includes The Weeknd, the Infinite partnered with Billboard, which pitched the Canadian pop-R&B sensation to commemorate the truth that his hit tune Blinding Lights just lately surpassed Chubby Checker’s The Twist as No. 1 on Billboard’s Sizzling 100 Songs of All Time record. Cheung says The Weeknd had full artistic approval over the playing cards, which characteristic visuals from the Blinding Lights video. (The limited-edition playing cards will be ordered on The Weeknd’s website.) 

[Image: courtesy of The Infinite]