How Bored Ape Yacht Club Became a Cultural Phenomenon and a Status Symbol
The parent company of Bored Ape Yacht Club is Yuga Labs. The project launched in April 2021. Owners of a Bored Ape NFT are granted access to a private online club, exclusive in-person events, and intellectual property rights for the image.
The collection exists on the Ethereum blockchain and contains 10,000 unique NFTs derived from 172 unique assets. The NFTs function dually as a membership card to Yacht Club. Membership to the club includes access to THE BATHROOM (stylized in all caps), a digital graffiti board where users commonly "draw dicks," according to the founder. The NFTs were originally sold for 0.08 ether each, around $190 at the time of their April 2021 launch and were sold out in 12 hours.
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BAYC co-founder Gargamel stated that "Thomas Dagley, Migwashere, and a couple who chose to remain anonymous" handled traits and environments. Seneca did however, "develop some of the major traits, like the grinning mouth, the popping eyes, and the beanie." Gargamel stated he was "struck" by the expressiveness of Seneca's characters and that "for the apes, we arrived at exactly the mood we were after: existential boredom." Although unable to share specifics, Seneca did state her financial compensation was not ideal, but that she was "grateful for the experience" and stated that "not of ton of people know that I did these drawings, which is terrible for an artist." [sic]
Bored Ape Yacht Club holds hosted events in New York, California, Hong Kong, and the UK for its owners. In November 2021, the company held a yacht party and a performance featuring Chris Rock, Aziz Ansari, and The Strokes as part of an entertainment weekend in New York; an "ApeFest" event in June 2022 at South Street Seaport featured LCD Soundsystem and Haim alongside "Doop Snogg", a Snoop Dogg impersonator who several attendees confused for the real Snoop Dogg.
For example, in June 2021, every Bored Ape holder was allowed to 'adopt' a canine companion NFT for free (only paying for 'gas', which is the fee you have to pay for processing transactions on the Ethereum blockchain). That's how Bored Ape Kennel Club was born. The club used secondary sales of these canine companions to raise $1 million for animal shelters.
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To top it off, BAYC has started hosting club members at real-life, offline events that will become a yearly tradition. BAYC held its first annual Ape Fest in November 2021, which included a gallery exhibition, a costume contest, and a party on a real 1000-capacity yacht off the coast of Manhattan. Lil Baby, the Strokes, Questlove, Beck, Chris Rock, and Aziz Ansari all made surprise appearances at the grand finale "warehouse" party in Brooklyn.
Many lost a lot of money in this trading mania including entrepreneur Jeffrey Huang, aka Machi Big Brother, who sold his large collection of Bored Apes at a whopping $4.2 million loss. Other traders who regularly bought the Bored Ape dip include Franklinisbored who lost almost $4 million in a Ponzi scheme and subsequently sold most of his collection.
But rarity is not the only reason people pay millions of dollars for Bored Apes. In addition to owning a unique avatar, people also gain admissions to an exclusive membership club, imposed with tokens. That gives them entry into an inner circle of elites, bringing them status and more profitable opportunities.
Evan Luthra, the CEO, and founder of EL Group International and a BAYC's exclusive club member discussed the allure attached to the elite association. The 26-year old angel investor referred to the membership as something that is "very strong for the Wall Street folks."
Outside of using these as digital avatars, the NFTs also serve another purpose. Each BAYC NFT holder gains lifetime membership to a secret apes-only club. One of the more famous Bored Ape owners is the NFT star Stephen Curry, who paid $180,000 for a tweed-wearing Bored Ape NFT.
Diverging from Bored and Mutant Apes, an offshoot comes in the form of Bored Ape Kennel Club (BAKC), also numbering 10,000. This was an exclusive, one-time-only offering that ended on June 25th. During that one week, club members were eligible to receive one Club Dog NFT for each Bored Ape that they held. The features of each dog stem from a set of 170 possible traits, with various tiers of rarity.
Of course, because rarity is the name of the game in the world of speculative art, the combo that results in the rarest traits tends to gain the highest bids. For example, only 108 Bored Apes have cyborg eyes. Rarer still, only 49 have bored dagger mouth, out of 10,000.
Then there are apes sporting sunglasses and apes smoking cigars, along with those with a pizza dangling from their mouths. While these hipster-like apes appear to be setting a hyper-modernist fashion statement of their own, there are others that look like punk rock stars of an exclusive avatar club.