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When members of the Harvard College Class of 2021 returns to campus this month, they will receive more than a long-awaited in-person Commencement — for the first time in Harvard’s history, they will also have the opportunity to claim a commemorative non-fungible token, or NFT.
NFTs are a form of digital asset that represent ownership over the original copy of a real-world image or other object. First minted in 2014, the tokens’ popularity has erupted in recent years, with some selling for tens of millions of dollars in auction.
The commemorative NFTs the Class of 2021 will receive were created in partnership with FTX.US, a cryptocurrency exchange based in the United States.
“To commemorate our time at Harvard College and recognize the unique moment we are at in history, we have a timeless gift for each of you,” the 2021 Class Committee announced in an email to the graduates last week.
Thirteen random recipients will also win a “rare” NFT redeemable for merchandise and other “benefits” at graduation and alumni reunions, according to the announcement.
Following their eviction from campus due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, members of the Class of 2021 spent the rest of their college experience under pandemic restrictions and took classes virtually. After spending a semester on a low-density campus, the Class of 2021 attended a virtual Commencement.
Class Committee Secretary Devin B. Srivastava ’21 said the committee members hoped to provide each graduate a unique “digital representation of this time.”
“We want to commemorate this special moment in history, and we were thinking of a way that we could do that,” said Srivastava, a former Crimson News editor. “And I think topical in this time period is digital ways to remember the special moments.”
Yuke Zheng ’21, who spearheaded the launch of the commemorative NFTs alongside Cyrus N. Faruque ’21, said they were “inspired” by a MIT student who gave undergrads at the school $100 worth of Bitcoin in 2014. The cryptocurrency has since multiplied in value significantly.
Though Srivastava said he was unable to provide an “explicit value” for the NFTs, he said they may appreciate in value “in many years” depending on the market’s circumstances.
Zheng said he and Faruque are “optimistic” about the potential future value of the commemorative NFTs due to the buzz they have already generated — including Twitter memes created by members of the Class of 2021.
“The virality of NFTs historically is what tends to bring the most value to them,” Zheng said. “It depends on the market and the hype generated around them, but overall, we’re definitely optimistic.”
Faruque said he believes the commemorative NFTs could become a “popular or valuable collector’s item” in the future.
According to Srivastava, anyone who graduated in the academic or social Class of 2021 — including those who took a leave of absence — will be eligible to redeem an NFT.
“This is really the first of its kind, and we’re really happy that the Class of 2021 is going to be able to be the class that has it,” Srivastava said.
—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.
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