When the history books are written, and the documentaries are made on the formative days of NFTs, Jimmy McNelis, aka j1mmy.eth, will hold a special place in history as a creator, as a passionate advocate, and for having one of the greatest NFT collections of all time.
An NFT OG who started his journey on Dec. 5, 2017, when he purchased his first CryptoKitty, the 45-year-old American is also the founder of Avastars, an early PFP project from February 2020 that set the scene for intellectual property (IP) rights being given to holders.
That was popularized by Bored Ape Yacht Club and the 2021 PFP mania that saw IP rights for holders becoming the standard for most projects. Avastars was also a pioneer in putting the project on-chain, inspired by Autoglyphs, which minted 10 months earlier.
J1mmy also has an almost unrivaled NFT collection worth around $150 million at the peak. The astonishing collection includes eight Autoglyphs, 19 Chromie Squiggles, 30 Bored Apes, five CryptoPunks, 11 Gazers, 61 Meebits, 114 CyberBrokers and a Twin Flame by Justin Aversano.
“At its peak it was about $150 million. Whether or not that was actually liquid but $150 million was on one of the wallet portfolio sites. Today, it’s probably 1/10th of that,” says j1mmy.
“One thing that I maybe don’t do a good enough job really talking about is the collector aspect of my NFT journey and the art collector that I am as well. I believe that I have one of the best art collections in existence.”
“I see a lot of funds out there trying to recreate essentially what I already have and what other people already have as well, but to a lesser extent. I used to have 30 Autoglyphs but still have held onto eight of them. If you use those as an example, if a fund owns one single Autoglyph, that’s considered pretty significant.”
Not afraid to speak his mind as a key voice in often heated debates, j1mmy has also been one of the biggest advocates for creator royalties, watching what was once a key value proposition of NFTs fall by the wayside in recent times. Whether pro royalties, on-chain champion or defending IP rights, j1mmy doesn’t mind a debate while keeping perspective as a new husband and dad.
“I’ll be the angry old man yelling at a cloud meme. At the end of the day, I hope people understand that I’m very passionate about this stuff, that should be very obvious to everybody at this point,” says j1mmy.
“I love debating, so sometimes I’ll start an argument,” he admits. “I love hot takes because it’s interesting and not just agreeing with everybody and WAGMI and all that shit. All of this, I hope, leads to evolution of what we’re doing. I want us to evolve. I want us to continue to improve, and I think that’s the point of all this.”
Avastars – The project for the future
Avastars, j1mmy’s pride and joy as a creator, is often overlooked for the role it played in an array of different areas, including being arguably the first true intentional PFP project (Punks were an experiment at the time of mint), being on-chain and giving IP rights to holders.
Inspired by j1mmy’s frustration of discovering his CryptoKitties collection wasn’t stored on-chain and by Larva Labs Autoglyphs, which was the first generative art stored fully on-chain, Avastars was born in February 2020.
According to j1mmy, he saw it as a hybrid of CryptoKitties and CryptoPunks with their ability to create replicants.
“To me, they [CryptoKitties] had made a huge mistake right from the beginning, and it set a bad precedent. I was out there trying to fight that precedent so when the time came, we would have on-chain NFTs, and people like Elon Musk couldn’t say, well, they’re all fucked because they’re not stored on the blockchain.”
“I was literally anticipating the comments about NFTs from Musk on Rogan in January and February 2018. It was so ridiculous. You mean to tell me we have this blockchain and we have these NFTs, and we’re not storing the information on the blockchain? That’s the stupidest shit ever.”
J1mmy does feel strongly that his Avastars project is underappreciated.
“Avastars is still a better NFT project than 99% of the stuff out there. Technically speaking and historically speaking. To be honest, the only project that I really feel like is a spiritual successor to Avastars is CyberBrokers.”
J1mmy’s mouth-watering NFT collection
The collection is enough to make an NFT collector drool in awe, including pieces from just about every big artist in the space, including XCOPY, Beeple, Matt Kane, Snowfro, Hackatao, Josie Bellini and one of his personal favorites, Australian VR artist Giant Swan, who j1mmy commissioned to do a work to commemorate his wedding to wife, sunrise.eth.
But unlike some of his collector contemporaries who focus primarily on art-only NFTs, j1mmy enjoys collecting and trading PFPs and other interesting projects. He once minted 420 Bored Apes alongside his good friend and well-renowned trader, Pranksy, which helped set the BAYC mint on fire, and the rest is history.
“I have a really, really ridiculous NFT collection. I have three wallets now that I collect from — my original j1mmy.ETH, my vault wallet and my cold wallet. That’s where I basically hold all of my Ethereum NFTs. I think of it as a giant NFT mutual fund, just my own personal collection,” j1mmy says.
“I hope one day that I link up with an institution that wants to put my stuff on display because I think I have a really interesting collection that could be curated into quite a museum exhibit. The history of NFTs or something of that nature basically.”
“There’s so many things in my wallets, I don’t even have a handle on it at this point. My NFT collection is so extensive, I’ve forgotten so many things that I’ve minted,” j1mmy says.
Inside the mind of a top-tier NFT collector and trader
J1mmy’s top collecting and trading tip is to treat the market as being based on sentiment, not on reality.
“This is a sentiment based like economy right now. Everything right now is unfortunately not rooted in reality. Value is not rooted in reality. It’s based on sentiment and how people feel so the key to trading is to understand people’s feelings and how close they are to changing those feelings,” says j1mmy.
“Trying to read that sentiment and selling to people while the sentiment is really high is important and not being the last one. It’s a game of musical chairs sometimes. That could be a short-term game of musical chairs. Prices go down, prices go up. The one constant is, prices don’t stay the same. That’s the one constant that I constantly remind myself of.”
Similar to the great Warren Buffett quote, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful”, j1mmy has a similar philosophy to his NFT buying and selling.
“My approach is when everybody else is buying, I want to be selling and when everybody else is selling, I want to be buying. It’s not an original strategy, I’m pretty sure it’s a Warren Buffett-like saying. I just apply that to NFTs,” he says.
“I was a buyer during the 2020-22 bull market but I also sold some stuff too. During this bear market, I actually spent all my ETH. I’ve been a consistent buyer during this bear but just more selectively this time.”
trading jpegs is the painting with berry juice on cave walls using our fingers era for nfts.
nfts aren’t dead…they are barely taking their first breathe.
— j1mmy.eth (@j1mmyeth) September 13, 2023
From zero to hero
J1mmy reflects that his NFT journey has been truly enriched by still being surrounded and supported by a group of friends with curious minds from the early CryptoKitties days. Their mantra was they were either going to spend all of their money on CryptoKitties, and it’ll go great or not so well.
Ironically, it wasn’t CryptoKitties itself that worked out but the lessons they took from those days that put them in a strong position to capitalize on the 2020-22 bull run.
“It’s extremely satisfying to sit back and see where we are today versus where we were. We talked about zeros or heroes in 2018. A few of us ended up being heroes with NFTs, it didn’t end up being necessarily with CryptoKitties but we shot our shot, and came out on top,” j1mmy says.
“It’s really great to have gone through that with a group of people and not alone. Being successful is often a solo journey. We all went in our own directions, but having the camaraderie and the peers to succeed alongside of has been really the most rewarding part of all this.”
“I’m very grateful for the entire space, all of the creators, all of the community, everybody around. It’s been the best years of my life so far and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”
1/25 tl;dr “show me your friends, i’ll tell you who you are.” -my dad.
the people you interact with day-to-day will shape your knowledge and behaviors over time.
this is a story about a group of friends who learned nft together as a Mastermind Group, not a DAO
— j1mmy.eth (@j1mmyeth) January 22, 2022
Rapid fire Q&A
Favorite art NFT you own?
“My favorite one of one is my Twin Flames #19 by Justin Aversano. I’ve got the two punk rock twins.”
Favorite NFT in your total collection in general?
“My Avastar #141, which is my PFP.”
Are you still in Flamingo DAO?
“I am. I just recently put that back into my Twitter profile because I didn’t think people recognized that I was a part of it. I traded an Autoglyph to get into Flamingo. That turned out to be one of my best trades, even though it was a really rare Autoglyph. I traded an NFT, and now I own nearly 1% of one of the best collections in the space. Flamingo definitely rivals my own collection.”
What do you think is an undervalued or underappreciated NFT project right now?
“My answer is CyberBrokers. The level of detail, the extreme cost of putting all that stuff on-chain, and their continued building efforts are pretty incredible. The whole experience as a participant in CyberBrokers has been even better than that of Yuga Labs from an execution standpoint.”
“I think I have put more raw ETH into that than any other individual project and if I’m wrong about that one being a huge success on the market, then so be it. I still own all of this amazing on-chain art.”
What’s your advice to someone that’s just discovering NFTs today?
“This is one reason I really love Gary Vee. He’s a polarizing figure at times, but he gives really good advice I think, generally speaking. One of those things that he was telling people in 2021 was to do 40 hours of research before you make any purchases. I would even double that at this point. I would say spend a month or two learning what all this is before you decide that you’re going to put anything into this.”
“It’s easy for me to say now from where I sit, but I also wouldn’t go into this with the expectation of profiting right away. The other thing I would caution is, pay very close attention to how taxes work.”
What’s the best Art Blocks project?
“I think Gazers is the best Art Blocks project by far. Matt Kane is an incredible artist, and he’s flexed his muscle on Art Blocks like no one else has. I’m still trying to find displays where I can actually see his artwork every day. He created something so cool that there’s not an easy solution here.”
What advice would you give to j1mmy just before he purchased his first CryptoKitty back in December 2017? Would you do anything different?
“Fuck no man. I would not give myself any advice because I needed to go into this with blind ambition like I did. I needed to misunderstand what CryptoKitties were to think that they were on-chain because if I hadn’t, I would have never created Avastars.”
“You know, naivety is sometimes our greatest gift, and ignorance is bliss. Truly, with NFTs, I went in far too heavy, far too deep and far too hard, and look where I’m at today. It’s not often in life that overindulgence pays off, but in this case it did for me, It’s one of those rare situations where I wouldn’t change a damn thing.”
Avastars website: avastars.io/
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Greg Oakford is the co-founder of NFT Fest Australia. A former marketing and communications specialist in the sports world, Greg now focuses his time on running events, creating content and consulting in web3. He is an avid NFT collector and hosts a weekly podcast covering all things NFTs.
Follow the author @GregOakford