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Coinbase announced a major new project today in the form of Base, a layer-2 scaling network for Ethereum built in collaboration with Optimism. To mark the news, the crypto exchange dropped a free open edition Ethereum NFT for anyone to mint—but it's not through Coinbase’s own struggling NFT marketplace.
“Base, Introduced” is a free NFT that Coinbase made available through Zora, an NFT minting platform and startup focused on Web3 creator tools. It’s an open edition NFT, which means that anyone can claim one of the identical collectibles until the minting window ends on Sunday, with a limit of one NFT per wallet.
Already, more than 24,000 of the Ethereum NFTs have been minted since this morning’s announcement of Base. As a result, the NFT’s smart contract—which contains the code that powers the project—has become the largest “gas guzzler” on the Ethereum network, with over $271,000 worth of gas (or network transaction fees) used over the past three hours.
Zora is a well-known NFT minting platform for Web3 creators, but Coinbase already has its own NFT marketplace. However, Coinbase NFT has gained very little traction since launching last spring, with public blockchain data showing less than $8,000 worth of total NFT trading volume over the past week.
Compare that to some $596 million worth of trading volume over the last week at Blur, the top NFT marketplace that recently surpassed longtime leader OpenSea on the back of whale traders flipping assets at a rapid race to maximize BLUR token trading rewards.
Coinbase NFT shows the Base, Introduced NFTs on its marketplace, but they’re secondary listings posted by users who minted through Zora. Coinbase President and COO Emilie Choi said on an earnings call this week that the exchange is “not throwing in the towel” on its NFT ambitions, despite having “a very lean team on it now.”
The exchange's NFT marketplace has supported NFT mints in the past, including significant drops like The Bill Murray 1,000. However, the company confirmed earlier this month that it "paused" creator drops on Coinbase NFT to push resources towards other features on the marketplace.
The free Base NFT nods towards the recent “open edition meta” in the NFT world, in which creators launch low-priced NFT mints that then layer in gamification elements, in some cases providing incentives to holders to “burn” (or permanently destroy) a number of them in exchange for a unique, rarer version that isn’t identical to the others.
Coinbase hasn’t promised any future utility or benefits for the Base NFT. However, the NFTs are finding some traction on secondary markets. Most of them are selling for a relatively low price right now, about 0.01 ETH ($16) apiece, but some of the early-numbered editions or those with so-called “vanity numbers” are commanding higher prices.
For example, NFT #888 sold for 0.888 ETH (about $1,455) this morning, and the buyer has listed it for 8.888 ETH ($14,700) in the hopes of securing a sizable flip. Other three-digit NFT editions have sold for hundreds of dollars since the free mint launched this morning.