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Solana is already one of the world’s most popular blockchains when it comes to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and decentralized finance (DeFi). It’s currently ranked as the fourth-most popular cryptocurrency globally, and there’s no question that interest in Solana NFTs, in particular, is heating up.
Users want platforms with faster and cheaper transactions, and Solana answers both of these demands. As a result, a number of leading platforms are moving to — or already do — integrate with Solana. And as more and more integrations are added, users move to Solana at ever-increasing speeds.
In this respect, Solana NFTs are one of the more significant things to hit Web3 in a while. But, unfortunately, onboarding to new blockchains and NFT marketplaces can be a little daunting. Which is why we’re here to help. This guide is intended to walk you through everything you need to know to seamlessly participate in the Solana ecosystem. Here, we take a deep dive into what Solana is, how it works, why there’s so much interest in Solana crypto and NFTs, and how you can make the most out of this fresh, new world.
In short, Solana is a public, open-source blockchain. It was built to host a wide array of scalable decentralized applications (dApps), and its native cryptocurrency is SOL. Like the rest of the world’s most popular blockchains, Solana supports smart contracts. This is critically important, as NFTs are minted and traded using smart contracts — they assign ownership, allow users to access digital assets in the NFT, and so on.
Founded in 2017 by Anatoly Yakovenko, Solana was designed to solve the high costs and slow transaction speeds that limit the scalability of other blockchains, such as Ethereum and Bitcoin.
At the time, blockchains could only process about 15 transactions per second (TPS). Major credit cards, on the other hand, could process around 65,000 TPS. Additionally, users have to pay fees for every transaction they attempt on a blockchain. When blockchain networks get congested, like during a popular NFT launch, these fees can become prohibitively expensive and soar to hundreds of dollars. Solana was created to solve both of these issues, and it did.
Today, Solana’s TPS rivals that of Visa and Mastercard, making it an industry leader in terms of speed and global scalability. Additionally, Solana’s price is astoundingly low. Unlike Ethereum and its high fees, which make it challenging to use for those who don’t have a high-risk threshold to participate in NFT trading, Solana’s transactions price is only a fraction of a penny apiece. This has made Solana remarkably popular and one of the fastest growing ecosystems in crypto. At the time of writing, SOL’s fully diluted market cap was more than $67 billion.
Solana runs on a combination of Proof-of-Stake (PoS) and Proof-of-History (PoH) mechanisms. These algorithms contrast sharply with that Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanisms that are used by Ethereum and other blockchains.
In short, PoW requires computers to compete with one another to solve complex puzzles to add blocks and transactions to the blockchain. These puzzles are astounding complex and require a lot of computer power to solve, which results in astronomical amounts of energy loss. Solana removes these puzzles from the equation. As a result, it doesn’t cause such energy loss, and it has a far higher TPS.
If you want to see a quick comparison of Ethereum, Solana, and some of the other NFT blockchains, the following image offers a pretty good overview. Read on for a more detailed breakdown.
In PoS, users stake an amount of their cryptocurrency for the chance to be randomly chosen as a block validator. To break this down even further, in PoS, crypto holders stake their Solana crypto to a validator. Validators are computers that are chosen to add the next block of transactions on the Solana blockchain based on how much Solana crypto their owners have staked (along with a set of other requirements).
The idea here is that Proof-of-Stake encourages user loyalty when it comes to the SOL crypto. How? By measuring the level of commitment the network participants have (i.e., measuring the amount of crypto they staked) and rewarding those who invested the most for their dedication.
PoW works in tandem with PoS and is used to cryptographically verify the passage of time between two events. In terms of the Solana blockchain, it’s used to ensure that transactions are in the right order and found by the correct leader (validator).
Here’s how it works: Each validator is responsible for 1) continuing a count that tallies the time and 2) counting the transactions for the block they have been chosen for. This is done through averifiable delay function (VDF). Each validator that is selected spends exactly five seconds working through the VDF to get to their assigned slot and produce a block. And that VDF, in short, is the Proof-of-History mechanism.
If the process was written out, it would look a little like…
And the process continues in this fashion.
As a result of these two algorithms, Solana is much faster than the blockchains that came before it. The team notes that they can process 65,000 transactions per second at peak; however, the numbers typically average out closer to 3,000 TPS. That’s still impressively fast when compared to Ethereum’s 15 TPS. And as noted above, these mechanisms also cost less energy and make Solana much more environmentally friendly.
The most popular method of buying and selling crypto is on a crypto exchange. A crypto exchange is a platform that allows users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies like SOL, Ether, Bitcoin, and Dogecoin. They function a lot like traditional stock markets and brokerage firms do, except that users are obviously trading cryptocurrency instead of stocks. You can buy and sell SOL crypto on every major centralized crypto exchange, including Gemini, Coinbase, and FTX.
You can also use a crypto broker. These are centralized providers that act as an intermediary between a user and the cryptocurrency markets to facilitate cryptocurrencies trades. As a result, users aren’t trading with each other based on current market prices. Instead, the price is set by the broker. Brokers are also generally better suited for advanced users (not beginners).
If you want to get a full breakdown of the various exchanges and crypto brokers that you can use to buy SOL crypto, see our guide here.
There are a number of different wallets you can choose from when it comes to storing your Solana crypto and NFTs. But the important point is to investigate who has access to your data. If you would like to be the sole custodian of your SOL wallet (pun intended), you may want to consider a wallet like Phantom, as it’s one of the more popular non-custodial wallets.
With custodial wallets, the wallet provider can access your private keys. With non-custodial wallets like Phantom, no one but you can access any of your data, NFTs, and funds. Phantom is also user-friendly and allows you to easily buy, sell, and store your NFTs and tokens on the Solana blockchain.
In order to set up your Phantom wallet, head to the app’s website. To install your wallet, you’ll need to follow the steps that align with whatever browser you’re using (for those seeking ultra privacy and security, you should consider using Brave). Once that step is complete — and if you’re brand new to Solana — select “create new wallet.” Just like Metamask on the Ethereum blockchain, Phantom is going to issue you a secret recovery phrase. This phrase gives you access to every asset you hold in your wallet. Make sure to keep it in a highly secure location and never share it with anyone.
Now, you can transfer your SOL crypto into Phantom. To do this, once your Phantom wallet is open, click on “deposit SOL” or “receive” to find your wallet address, and then hit the “copy” button. Now, head to whichever centralized exchange you’re using and select the “send / receive” option. Select the amount of SOL you’d like to send yourself and hit “send now.” The transaction should be near-instant. You can also purchase SOL with MoonPay directly in your Phantom wallet by entering your credit or debit card.
Also, once your wallet is installed, you can pin it to the top of your browser, so you can easily find it the next time you need to open it.
Before creating your very own NFT on Solana, you’ll need to have a wallet set up. You’ll need that to pay the mint fee, which is required to successfully mint the token. Additionally, have another wallet address ready to go so you can send your NFT somewhere once it’s been created. You can set up an extra wallet if you’re sending the NFT to yourself, or get the address from someone else if you’re planning on sending it to a friend.
You also have to make sure you’re connected to the Solana network and have your terminal and command line set up on your computer.
Once everything is in place, it’s time to really get started!
The first step is to determine what kind of NFT you want to create — a song, poem, illustration, etc. That part is pretty easy (and mostly intuitive). Then, you will need to consider if you want to create a 1/1 (one-of-one) or an edition. A 1/1 NFT is exclusive. These are a little like paintings in real life in that only one exists. Editions can contain any number of NFTs. For larger, generative NFT collections, you may need to work with an artist to create your images and make sure you have a series of attributes that can be randomly generated to ensure different tiers of rarity. From there, you can either create your own metadata JSON file, work with a developer, or use a no-code solution to create the metadata and mint your NFTs on the Solana blockchain.
If you want to work on your own, there are a number of tools, smart contracts, and other infrastructure available to make the process of creating and launching NFTs on Solana easier. You can see a list of the NFT tools on the Solana website. You can also follow this detailed, step-by-step guide to take you through the process here.
Ethereum is still the world’s most popular blockchain. As a result, most of the world’s most popular NFT marketplaces live there. However, as previously mentioned, user preferences are quickly changing due to the energy use, transaction speed, and enormous fees that need to be paid when using Ethereum. As a result, Solana NFT marketplaces are becoming more popular and major platforms like OpenSea are adding Solana integrations.
Magic Eden is arguably the most popular Solana NFT marketplace. There, users can create, sell, and buy NFTs. It’s a great marketplace to use if you don’t want to pay to list your NFTs. Magic Eden has a 0% listing fee and makes money by taking 2% on every transaction.
Solanart is another popular marketplace and hosts a number of popular projects, such as Degenerate Ape Academy, Aurora, and Solpunks. It has a transaction fee of 3% for every successful NFT sale.
There’s also Solsea, which claims to be the first NFT marketplace that allows creators to embed licenses when they mint NFTs. This is a significant and much needed development, as there have been many questions regarding who holds the intellectual property (IP) rights to the digital asset attached to an NFT. In fact, these questions have long plagued some of the world’s most popular NFT projects, like CryptoPunks.
Solana NFTs differ from Ethereum NFTs the most when it comes to utility. Because Solana doesn’t have the same high fees as Ethereum, and because it requires developers to know a much more challenging coding language, it’s an ideal chain for builders to try new and wild ideas.
There are also some great PFP projects who’ve dedicated themselves to building some of the strongest communities in all of Web3. For example, Solana Monkey Business (SMB) Gen 2 owners created MonkeDAO, Solana’s first NFT DAO. MonkeyDAO holds frequent events and initiates innovative projects for its members – an emphasis on community that really shows. At the time of writing, the SMB floor was at 235 SOL.
Cets on Creck is another PFP project whose focus on art and community has quickly led it to become a household name on Solana.
With the NFT industry focus shining a bright light on this burgeoning ecosystem, there’s no telling what awesome projects we’ll see drop next!
The second-annual Zoratopia event — presented by community-led platform, Zora — was held this week during NFT.NYC. The goal of the event was to showcase the diversity present in the NFT space by featuring an array of creators who have innovated in all sectors of the NFT and Zora ecosystems.
Spanning three days of programming, Zoratopia was spearheaded by a mish-mash of influential creators, including Zora’s own head of community programming, Latashá. Kicking off with yoga and brunch on June 21 at Gaia Nomaya in Brooklyn, the first day of activities drew to a close with music and art. Headlining the slew of art performances for the day’s guests were BXB Love, Blaire WYMN, and Jem Gold.
The following day saw panels featuring industry leaders. These segments, dubbed The New Internet Panel, touched on topics such as building tools for emerging mindsets, and how diversity will play a crucial role in building the future of Web3. Each of Zoratopia’s events brought out a diverse — and at times, a predominantly non-white — audience that spoke to Zora’s mission of inclusiveness, curating events that accurately represent the NFT space as a whole. The second day also saw a photoshoot for members of Zora’s NFT fam in attendance.
On the third and final day of the event, Zora hosted what was surely one of the most sizable undertakings of all the NFT.NYC satellite events. Beginning with an NFT exhibit promising attendees exclusive (and free) access to merchandise, the day’s events segued into a raucous afterparty starting at 6 p.m. EDT: the Zoratopia Ravey Bashment. Throughout the night, influential acts like TOKiMONSTA, Iman Europe, Mick Jenkins, and Latashá herself graced the venue’s two stages.
These performances were accompanied by NFT displays, immersive art installations, and free food and drink keeping attendees flowing through the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York.
Just when we thought the 2022 crypto timeline couldn’t get any crazier, deceased American tech retailer RadioShack has been resurrected on Twitter as a snarky Web3 brand. Instead of a one-stop-shop for batteries, computer cables, and remote-control toys, theonce-beloved electronics dealer has been reinvigorated as a cryptocurrency swap.
RadioShack has actually existed as a Web3 company for a couple of years now (don’t fret, this isn’t some sort of Mandela effect) thanks to the handiwork of entrepreneur investors Alex Mehr and Tai Lopez.
It all dates back to November 2020 when the aforementioned Mehr and Lopez made headlines after they bought RadioShack out of bankruptcy. While the deal definitely raised some eyebrows at the time, the company’s recent social media campaigns have been drawing quite a bit of attention in the NFT and crypto space.
Reportedly spearheaded by influential NFT collector fxnction, the RadioShack Twitter as of late has been on a tirade, roasting NFT traders, calling out other discontinued brands, and engaging in witty (and sometimes vulgar) back and forths with members of the NFT community. Yet it seems the stunt was mostly a bid for the attention of the greater NFT ecosystem as RadioShack looks to compete with other crypto swaps and exchanges during a bear market.
Stunt or not, once the news was out that fxnction was behind RadioShack’s snarkiness, many other prominent NFT personalities joined in on the joke, engaging in some (probably much-needed) blockchain comedy relief. Although it remains to be seen if RadioShack will keep up its streak as a hot topic, the simple fact that a retro brand has transformed into a fully-fledged Web3 entity is truly incredible.
One of the most challenging aspects of buying and selling NFTs is finding the right one to purchase. Choosing the perfect NFT for your collection can be as simple as browsing a marketplace in search of art you enjoy (much like browsing through items on Amazon). This is where many people get their start in the NFT world.
But NFTs offer a lot more than just art. Smart contracts in NFTs (bits of computer code that allow them to be minted and traded without third parties) let owners access unique assets contained within the NFT, manage their transferability, and more. There’s also a massive social aspect to buying an NFT. When you become an NFT owner, you become a part of a project’s community, led by a team that (often) has plans to expand the project for months and years to come.
There are plenty of good reasons to buy NFTs, and each person in the community has their own motivation for doing so. To be clear this is not financial advice — never spend more than you’re willing to lose. But if you’re ready to find the NFT that’s right for you, this guide covers everything you need to know. To make things easy to digest, we’ve broken things down based on the primary reasons people generally have for buying NFTs: To empower artists, for collectibility, to use as an investment, and to join a community.
One of the best things about the advent of NFTs is that they enable artists to directly profit from their work, removing the need to go through intermediaries like large, cumbersome cultural institutions. This empowerment is one of the main things we celebrate here at nft now. It has opened up a new creative economy for all kinds of artists, including musicians, who have long languished in the shadow of unfair treatment by streaming services like Spotify.
Finding an artist you are already a fan of on the NFT marketplace can be a bit of a challenge as the industry is still in its infancy. While several well-known artists have taken to NFTs, many have yet to. That said, thousands and thousands of artists sell them, giving you a great chance to discover artwork and creatives you might never have otherwise come across.
An excellent place to start looking is Undervalued, our weekly series that lists existing NFT projects and artists that we think are well worth your time and deserve more attention from the NFT community. You can also check out Upcoming Drops, our weekly breakdown of notable projects that are launching in the near future.
Another good way to find artists and projects is by following well-known collectors in the NFT space. RAC, Zeneca_33, 4156, Anonymoux, Jason Bailey, Mike Darlington, DeeZe, Gmoney, Misan Harriman, Illestrater, Mondoir, Lady Phe0nix, NFT Girl, 6259, Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, Brett Shear, and 33NFT, are just some of the space’s well-respected collectors. For more information on these and other influencers in the NFT community, check out the NFT100, our annual list of some of the most notable tastemakers, builders, innovators, and leaders in the space.
Finally, one of the simplest ways to explore the NFT world is to go to an NFT marketplace like OpenSea, LooksRare, Nifty Gateway, Magic Eden, and others and simply browse through their artists and projects. While quite random, it’s a great way to serendipitously stumble upon projects in the space.
NFTs have made it a great time to be someone who likes collectibles, having taken the concept behind things like trading cards and moved it into the digital era.
NBA Top Shot is probably the best example of this. NBA Top Shot is a blockchain-based virtual trading card platform from a collaboration between Dapper Labs, the NBA, and the NBA Players Association. The collectibles, called Moments — which are NFTs of various NBA highlights — are traded on the Top Shot marketplace and vary in their rarity. Top Shot users are some of the most passionate about collecting memorabilia, and many of them bank on the value of their collections growing over time.
Basketball fans can also collect The Association NFTs, the NBA’s version of digital trading cards, compared to the captured highlights of Top Shot. 30,000 NFTs were minted during the recently-ended 2022 NBA playoff run, amounting to 125 editions per player. The NFTs are connected to live data feeds for each team and player and update automatically; even the players’ appearances will change as these stats evolve.
For baseball fans, there’s the MLB ICON Leadoff NFT collectibles project, a partnership between digital collectibles company Candy Digital, Major League Baseball, and MLB Players Inc. Featuring 720 players, the collectibles’ stats will be updated as the season progresses, turning the NFTs into a baseball card that is never quite the same from one moment to the next. Each card comes with various distinctions and rarity levels.
Collectors can also buy Play of the Day NFTs, similar to NBA Top Shot’s Moments. Each day during the regular season, a moment will be picked and made available as an NFT for a limited amount of time the following day.
Tennis fans can check out 3-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka’s Ballman Project (which he helped build) on OpenSea. Consisting of 6,200 unique 16-bit trading cards, the project has done 205 ETH (almost $250,000 at the time of writing) in trade volume.
Apart from sports-related projects, many of the NFT projects, like PFP projects, can be considered collectibles as well, but we’ll dive into those later.
If you’re hoping to get in on the ground floor with the next multimillion-dollar NFT project, it’s going to require a lot of research and legwork. To begin with, if you’re trying to buy an NFT as an investment, it’s important to remember that there has been an extreme rise in NFT scams and fraud. Even some of the most well-known individuals and organizations have been caught promoting NFT scams or behaving unethically. So it’s essential to learn how to research projects properly before you start.
There are five main things to keep in mind when determining if an NFT project is legitimate or not.
Firstly, check who’s behind the project. Are they well-known in the space? How long have they been active in the community? When were their NFT marketplace accounts created? Vetting (to the degree that you can) artists and project developers is a key point of focus here.
Secondly, check their social media following and look for excessive numbers, which is a good indicator of fake followers. Spend a few days clicking around the project’s Discord. Get a feel for the community and, most importantly, the developers. Are they answering people’s questions? Do they have information about official links, roadmaps, and sneak peeks? A good rule of thumb is that a project is only as good as its community, so if you’re getting some strange vibes about that community, it’s probably best to trust your instincts and take your money elsewhere.
Smaller projects that have the potential to grow and become something significant are your friend. You can use tools like Icy Tools and Rarity Tools to check out projects that are minting now and in the near future to decide if you want to get in on the ground floor or not. Be sure to take a look at our article on tools for tracking NFTs for a more comprehensive list.
Thirdly, investigate the mint price. NFTs are usually priced in ETH, and the legitimate ones will most likely be priced fairly. Even Bored Ape Yacht Club, the most successful NFT project of all time, originally minted at 0.08 ETH.
The fourth thing to note is the project’s roadmap, which consists of the goals project developers hope they will achieve once the primary sale is over. If what the developers have planned seems too grandiose to be true, it might be. Also, remember that a fair amount of legitimate projects these days are shucking the idea of a roadmap. The successful Goblintown NFT project famously strode onto the scene with the tagline, “No roadmap. No utility. No Discord. CC0.”
Lastly, check how the community is (or isn’t) being managed. Again, the Discord is crucial. If moderators and project leaders are having unsavory interactions with the community or if there is an air of harassment or disinterest, it may not be the kind of project you want to get involved in.
Remember, NFT markets are highly speculative. Like crypto markets, they are subject to change, sometimes drastic change. Yes, people have come out of NFT trading with huge profits, but they’ve lost big, too. Never construe anything you read online (including this guide) for financial or legal advice. Never invest more into a project than you can afford to lose. The value of an NFT or an NFT project is only worth what people are willing to pay for them, and there is no guarantee that that value will increase (or decrease) at any point in time.
Most often, the NFTs that end up selling for millions come from PFP NFT projects. PFP NFT projects are NFTs made to be used as profile pictures on social media. They’re the perfect size and shape for profile display and have grown in popularity immensely in the last few years. In fact, the most popular PFP projects made those who purchased the items millionaires.
Finding good PFP projects starts with following respected and established collectors in the space, which you can find on our NFT100 list. You can also check out our guide on how to find the right PFP project for you, which lists projects by price and gives a sense of the ethos of the community behind the project and what they stand for.
Speaking of community, joining one in the NFT world is one of the best parts of getting into NFTs.
When done right, developers and artists build up a welcoming, diverse, and evolving community around their projects. And, because you’ve collected one or more of a project’s NFTs, you are now a part of an exclusive group, which always has its appeal.
While no one thing will be true of the countless NFT communities out there, it’s generally the case that most community interactions occur in a project’s Discord. A healthy and thriving community will be at least somewhat consistently active in the Discord and feature members helping answer questions about the project and onboarding newcomers in the space to the NFT ecosystem.
In the Discord, a project’s team will generally provide information about upcoming drops, give occasional sneak peeks into the future stages of the project, provide a space for people to share suggestions, hold AMAs with the team, and warn members about scams. Some projects will even organize IRL events and get-togethers to further foster cohesion. And if you’re lucky, the project developers and moderators will also have a sense of humor.
If community is your focus, find a project whose art you like first. One of the best things about a community is the ability to share in your love of a project’s art. Then, take your time exploring the Discord. Even if it looks good at the outset, there are things you can only really understand after being a part of that community for days at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out there — how the team and other members respond will tell you a lot about what kind of a community it is and whether or not you want to be a part of it.
Everyone has a different reason for wanting to get into NFTs. For some, it’s simple curiosity, which is as good a place to start as any. Whatever you’re looking for, make sure you do your research. If you can navigate the space with a healthy awareness of the risks, you’re more likely to end up having a great time. Web3 is a great place to be, after all.
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