Amid all the hype and furor around blue-chip NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks, you may have missed what may be the ultimately absurd status symbol in crypto: Etherrock, a collection of 100 cartoon pet rocks based on free clipart that have sold for millions of dollars.
A few days ago, according to blockchain records, an NFT collector accidentally listed their valuable Etherrock for 444 wei instead of 444 ETH (just over $1 million) and someone snapped it up immediately. To put that in perspective, 1 ETH is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 wei―444 wei is less than a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a penny. It’s worthless.
“In one click my entire net worth of ~$1 million dollars, gone. Is there any hope? Am I GMI? ” a collector, who goes by Dino Dealer, tweeted late Wednesday claiming the rock was theirs and that a bot had "sniped" it. "Can snipers show mercy?"
According to the EtherRock website, the current owner has listed the NFT for 234 ETH, or around $600,000.
Most replies expressed disbelief with a little mocking thrown in. One Twitter user replied, “the silver lining is that your entire net worth is no longer in a rock jpeg?”
EtherRock is a four year old NFT project that inexplicably went viral last year and saw its prices skyrocket. The project consists of 100 free clipart images of the same cartoon rock, each featuring a slightly different color, turned into NFTs. In October, a bid was placed on one EtherRock for 900 ETH (then $3.5 million).
Dino Dealer asked in vain about a refund on Etherscan. "Hello ser," they asked in the comments section. "Can you return the etherrock? I made a huge mistake. Your bot snapped it up in the same block as my transaction so I never had a chance. I hope you can find it in your heart to show mercy, please?" Dino Dealer was quickly assailed by scammers offering a "refund" if he called their WhatsApp number or sent them an email.
Motherboard sent a request for comment to the owner of the address that sold the EtherRock NFT via the Etherscan chat function, but did not receive a response.
Bot sniping has become rampant in NFT marketplaces over the past year―to the point that websites offer bots to help you beat others that may be a millisecond faster. One listing on gig work platform UpWork, to take one example, claims to offer an NFT sniping bot in various tiers for thousands of dollars so you can get a “competitive edge” if you’re “tired of being LAST” when trying to buy NFTs.
The success of EtherRock has spawned numerous duplicates on NFT marketplaces, but none of this explains why they are valuable or why one might spend thousands on bots that snap them up. The rallying cry of EtherRock holders is simply, "we like the rocks."