Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
The SupDucks are a collection of 10,000 pictures of ducks hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. You might have seen one of their owners upload them as a profile picture on Twitter or Discord, or been bowled over by the staggering prices they can fetch: As of mid-October 2021, the floor price for a SupDuck is 1.69 ETH, or $6,895—around the same price as a fancy watch or a used car. In this article, we’ll explain what the SupDucks are, why they’re so popular and how to buy them.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
Why SupDucks are so popular
SupDucks are NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. These are cryptocurrency tokens, usually (and in the case of SupDucks) on the Ethereum blockchain, that operate through smart contracts: self-executing bits of code. They’re decentralized deeds of ownership that prove that one wallet possesses the rights to transfer a SupDuck to any wallet they like. The work to maintain this deed is distributed across computers all over the world, and it’s difficult for a government to shut down the network (although individual countries, such as China, have banned “mining”—the process by which these transactions are verified).
It is unclear when NFTs first came about. Early versions of the technology were first sold in 2013 on Counterparty, a third-party application for the Bitcoin blockchain. Then developers on Ethereum, the first smart contract-supporting blockchain, created unique digital assets months after it launched in 2016. The ERC-721 token standard, by which many Ethereum-based NFTs abide, was launched in January 2018 for the CryptoKitties NFT game, which was wildly popular at the time.
From around 2018, digital artists began to dabble in the technology created by developers of CryptoKitties. But the technology didn’t go truly viral until late 2020, when Bitcoin and Ethereum blew up in price. More and more digital artists came to the space, and in early 2021 the industry had its largest sale to date when a digital artist called Beeple sold one of his works for $69 million.
From there, it was clear that NFTs had legs. But the thing about selling a unique art work (known as a 1/1), or even copies of the same piece (known as an edition) is that you can’t do much but display that art in a virtual gallery or set it as your wallpaper. Sure, the fun is in knowing that you, and you alone, ‘own’ a beautiful image, but it’s tricky to build a community around it; that piece of art might express how you feel, but you can’t readily use it as your identity. Around the same time as the Beeple sale and those like it, collections of mugshots spiked in value.
The most popular was called CryptoPunks. It was created in 2017 but wasn’t valuable until early 2021. The plan was for a collection of 10,000 mugshots of randomly-generated pixelated characters, each of which looks a little different, some containing rare attributes, like zombies or smokers. People started to use them as profile pictures. Owning one became a badge of honour, and confers status in an online world where Maseratis and expensive watches hold no cachet. Now CryptoPunks owners can congregate in exclusive online chats. Some people edit their Punk into pictures of their real life selves.
The origin of SupDucks
After CryptoPunks became successful, lots of other people tried their hand. SupDucks, which launched on July 17, 2021, is one of them. “Ever wanted 10,000 friends? Well you’re about to cop your one-way ticket to the sickest clubhouse on the block…chain,” it advertises on its site. “The generous overlords at MegaVoltCorp have painstakingly hand drawn some of the dopest and I mean dopest MFin’ artwork so you can have an avatar you’re not ashamed of.” They’re all sold out, of course. Buying ten at a time cost 0.07 ETH per duck, and now a single one sells for 1.65 ETH.
Of the 10,000 ducks, there are 16 backgrounds, 18 skins, 38 combinations of clothes and hats, and 27 combinations of mouths and eyes. Each of the attributes was procedurally generated from a collection of pictures drawn by Franky Aguilar, an NFT artist who built a viral sticker app in 2013 and has since collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, and MajorLazer. There are also 10 super ducks—ducks drawn from scratch. Among the roster of super ducks is a doodle duck (that looks like it’s been ripped straight from Aguilar’s sketchbook), a golden duck, a picasso duck, and a meta duck, which is an airbrushed picture of a duck. The project was created by a team of mostly anonymous founders. Unlike CryptoPunks, the ducks pop with colour and life.
What does a SupDuck do? “It grants you legendary status, what else do you need?” claims the official site. “Each Duck will enrich your life but most importantly, make your friends and colleagues jealous,” the project’s official OpenSea page reads. When you buy a SupDuck, you can flex your membership card on a proprietary iOS app, which certifies ownership. You can upload your duck to your Twitter profile. (You can do so without owning a SupDuck, but it is implied that you are able to back up your claim by flashing your membership card or Ethereum wallet). You also get commercial rights over your duck.
There’s more: “Additionally, your duck constitutes a membership and will afford you exclusive benefits like future drops, access to vip areas, promotions,” writes Stronk, one pseudonymous creator of the project, on Discord.
Like other NFT projects, SupDucks lets you use your NFT to claim another NFTs. Bored Ape Yacht Club let you claim Mutant Apes and dogs from the Bored Ape Kennel Club. SupDucks has King Frogs. Like the Mutant Apes, King Frogs inherit traits from the SupDuck used to claim them. For King Frogs, it’s the hat, eyes, skin, and background. Note that if you buy a SupDuck, the previous owner may have already claimed their King Frog NFT and you are no longer entitled to claim one. SupDucks promises that “frogs will have utility” but does not mention what utility they will provide. Other NFTs entitle access to exclusive chats, merchandise sales or “breeding” possibilities, whereby an NFT is paired with another NFT to generate a third NFT.
SupDucks also has its own ERC-20 token called Voltage ($VOLT). $VOLT is a fungible token, meaning that unlike NFTs, each is interchangeable with any other, like Bitcoin or Ethereum. SupDucks owners generate $VOLT each day, just by holding them in the wallet. The project advertises it as a utility token rather than a financial investment: It is “quite literally the power source needed to execute upcoming mechanics in the SupDucks universe. These will include things like buying accessories, character unlocks, and so much more,” Stronk claimed in a blog post in September.” That said, $VOLT is a financial asset, with each $VOLT token worth $0.4 as of this writing. Under $30,000 of the token trades each day, according to data from CoinMarketCap.
You can also join the project’s thriving Discord chat, which has 18,390 members as of this writing. In the chat, people discuss recent sales, trade their SupDucks and discuss the future of the project. There’s a meme chat, an artist’s corner and a chat that only accepts the word “sup.”
Like lots of other profile picture-based NFT projects, SupDucks has a roadmap that outlines its ambitions for the collection. “We plan on making SupDucks ultra rad, long lasting and swagggy A/F!” exclaim the creators. On the cards is a Swag Shop “Where you can buy hoodies, shirts, bags, and other rad SupDuck gear.” Anyone can buy the merch, but SupDucks owners “get fat % discounts.”
The team also wants an animated series: “We got friends in high places, some are super high, and they think SupDucks would make an awesome animated series. We’re gonna have some chats about shooting a pilot and pitching to a network.” The team says the NFTs could also be used to create a tool that lets SupDuck holders generate a toy duck by combining their existing ducks. “This will grant duck holders free exclusive NFTs, that you control the look and feel of.”
SupDucks is not alone in its ambition to bring its NFTs to other media to create a multi-format brand: CryptoPunks’ creator, Larva Labs, has signed a deal with a major Hollywood talent agency called United Talent Agency; Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, has signed with music manager Guy Oseary to expand into other formats; a pseudonymous collector called 0xb1 signed a deal with the Creative Artists Agency to monetize their collection, and an NFT project called Pudgy Penguins sketched plans for an anime in its roadmap.
How to buy a SupDuck
Unfortunately, you’ve missed the launch sale, during which 10 ducks could be bought at a rate of 0.7 ETH a piece—which in the middle of July 2021 was less than $2,000. Now, they all sell on OpenSea, a marketplace for secondary NFT sales.
You can access the OpenSea page here. Before bidding or buying a SupDuck, confirm that it is from this verified collection; lots of derivative or copycat projects use similar names, and it’s possible to get scammed by a fake project.
To buy a SupDuck, you’ll have to connect your Web 3.0 Ethereum wallet. The most popular version of this is MetaMask, a web and mobile wallet created by Consensys. Then you’ll have to load up your MetaMask wallet with the currency with which you plan to buy your SupDuck. The SupDucks sell for four currencies on OpenSea: Ethereum (ETH), the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain; Wrapped Ethereum (WETH), an ERC-20 version of Ethereum; DAI, a decentralized stablecoin that uses a complex algorithm to peg its value to the US dollar, and USDC, a stablecoin that maintain its peg through reserves of real US dollars.
But OpenSea is just a platform, and the buyer of an individual SupDuck can choose to accept whichever Ethereum-based currency they please. Be sure to check which currency the seller has listed their SupDuck before you buy it. Note, also, that USDC is compliant with several different blockchains, and if you plan to make a sale on OpenSea, make sure that you buy the Ethereum version of USDC. If you’re buying USDC from a cryptocurrency exchange, ensure that you withdraw the funds to an Ethereum address, otherwise you could receive a version of USDC that is not compatible with OpenSea.
The easiest way to buy cryptocurrencies is through a cryptocurrency exchange that supports withdrawals. Several, including Binance, are banned in Ontario. Coinbase is a popular trading venue for Canadians, as are NDAX and Newton. Trading, deposits and withdrawal fees vary according to the exchange. Note that you may also have to pay Ethereum’s gas fee, which varies according to network congestion and could be close to $100.
Once you have sent cryptocurrencies to your MetaMask wallet and connected it with OpenSea, you can bid on a SupDuck or buy one outright. The seller determines the asking price and can reject bids at any time. One CryptoPunk owner rejected a bid of close to $10 million in ETH in the middle of October 2021. The owner, Richard Chen, said he had “built up a significant brand around” his CryptoPunk, and that “My identity along with [the] identity of other iconic Punks and Apes have value beyond the NFT itself.” The sale would have been the highest in CryptoPunk’s short history. Of course, this may not happen to you, but serves as proof that owners are entitled to reject bids.
Once you buy a SupDuck, the token will get transferred to your MetaMask wallet; from there, you can move it to an offline storage wallet like a Ledger, claim King Frogs, generate your membership card, earn $VOLT tokens or use it like an exclusive key to private chats or merchandise sales. Or of course, you could finally replace your profile picture on Twitter with your new NFT.
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