The market for online status surrounding non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, is expanding at dizzying speeds, and absolutely nothing is normal. Case in point: On Tuesday, an investor purchased an NFT from the anonymous artist Banksy's website for a huge amount of money, only to learn that it's apparently a fake.
The saga began on Tuesday morning when a new page unceremoniously popped up on banksy.co.uk: banksy.co.uk/nft.html. On this page was a lone JPEG, a pixelated take on the luxe-tier CryptoPunk NFT collection seemingly commenting on the carbon footprint of blockchain technology called "Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster." The image linked to the Opensea NFT marketplace, revealing it was created by someone using the pseudonym "gaakmann," which is a hair away from the known Banksy pseudonym Bryan S. Gaakman.
All of this was enough to convince the buyer, who goes by "Pranksy" online, to buy the NFT for 100 ETH, or roughly $340,000 USD. And then the trouble started.
The page on Banksy's website disappeared, although it is still viewable on the Internet Archive. Although banksy.co.uk appears official, it's a mystery how the NFT page got there and why it disappeared. An article then appeared in the BBC, where the outlet said it asked Banksy's team about the NFT and reported that they confirmed the NFT is a fake. "Any Banksy NFT auctions are not affiliated with the artist in any shape or form," the spokespeople told the outlet.
In a Twitter DM with Motherboard, Pranksy, who requested to remain pseudonymous, said that he believes that the NFT's brief appearance on the website was "defo a hack," adding that he thinks it is "100% fake."
Spokespeople for Pest Control, which authenticates Banksy artwork and acts as a press office for the artist, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As of now, the not-a-Banksy NFT is attracting bids far below what Pranksy paid for it. Right now, the highest bid is 0.5 wrapped ETH, or around $1,700.
"Haha I will be keeping it," Pranksy said.
Later on Tuesday, Pranksy was sent back the 100 ETH he spent on the NFT by “gaackmann,” which blockchain records confirm. In a tweet, he speculated that it may be the actions of an ethical hacker proving a point.
Update: This article has been updated with new information.