Avatar-Free NFTs

Wow, this space is moving so fast, it doesn’t stand still long enough to write about it 😅

I suspected in February, before Miami Tech Week, that the world in general was not ready for NFT communities without avatars, although I was hoping for the development of more community-first focused efforts (i.e. start with group utility, not the jpeg, and let the images, if any, reflect those values). While the profile picture (PFP) scene is still very much alive and kicking, during the activities here in April I learned about a couple of important forays into the imageless (or at least avatar-free) space. I like to say when I’m wrong, and was ready to write about about it! But things are happening fast, and now I’m not so sure. I’ll just tell you what’s up, and let you decide! I don’t own an NFT in the first projects below, so to stay free from any copyright issues I’m not going to include those images here, but please check the links for yourself. Let’s go!


The BFF NFT project (or myBFF) is promoting the idea that women and non-binary folks take a greater piece of the projected $10 trillion Web3 market over the next 5 years, citing that less than 20% of current participants are female. The star-studded project began in January with an airdrop of 8444 (not sure why this number) ‘friendship bracelets,’ all identical, so initially this seemed like a departure from the avatar model. However, literally as I write this, minting for the project’s second phase, ‘You‘ is taking place. Created by artist Jade Purple Brown, this is a colorful, feminine 10K profile picture (PFP) collection that really pops. From looking at their Roadmap, though, it’s not clear what benefits come with You, without the bracelet, although currently it seems you need a bracelet to mint a You. I’m not sure how this will work going forward, say if you can buy a You later on Open Sea without a bracelet. Let’s see.

The Roadmap does say that, for bracelet holders, the utility to be further developed in Phase 3 will include access to private chat and BFF Con, their premiere event, presumably IRL (in real life). Also there will be additional curated NFT collections for which bracelet holders will be given priority.

Update, 4 May: Okay, there is a kind of ‘crypto sale’ going on right now, so in the spirit of Warren Buffet’s ‘Be greedy when others are fearful,’ I took the plunge. Here is my gorgeous You #4669. Oh, and I got the bracelet too. I’ll report as things progress 🤗

Proof Collective

I don’t know if you’re typically a link-clicker while you’re reading online, but do yourself a solid and check out Proof Collective on Open Sea. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

What did you think? Is it what you expected? Tapping into the ‘black card’ mystic of issuers like Amex and MasterCard, the tokens for Proof Collective are simple, minimal, identical. I don’t know what the floor price will be when you are reading this, but while at this writing the price range is 131 – 888 ETH. At today’s price for Ether, that’s about $400K to 2.6 million. What do you get for that price, besides a black card, you might ask? Proof Collective is led by Kevin Rose, an internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist and podcaster. The collection is limited to 1000 NFTs, and membership benefits are listed to include access to a private Discord, early access to the PROOF podcast, IRL events, and other goodies exclusive to members, including new artist NFT mints curated by the project. You can decide if these benefits are worth it or if you’d rather have (another) apartment in a cool city. Before you answer, take a look at this one. I know, it’s probably a guy thing.

Seriously, though, before you decide that Proof Collective has moved beyond avatars, you may have already heard that this group has also released Moonbirds, a collection of 10,000 highly-pixelated (like Cryptopunks) owls with sales outpacing other predominant projects in the space including Bored Apes and the Punks themselves. The ‘birds come with a private club membership, which at a current floor price of 26 ETH (about $78,000 today) folks may be considering a bargain compared to other Proof Collective offerings.

Putting things together

So what trends in the NFT space are these projects indicating, specifically around avatar design and community utility?

There seems to be a shift as the NFT community idea evolves toward more long planning and enterprise creation, i.e. moving beyond an initial drop of 10,000 avatar-based NFTs alone. A few high profile projects are setting up a community with no variation images (i.e. the same for everyone) with an initial focus instead on value creation for the community and how they will deliver utility and keep the community engaged long term.

I love it!

It’s nice to see projects breaking the mold with NFT-image design, and to have a focus on community value. However, it’s worth noting that what both BFF and Proof have going for them is serious name recognition. Folks are likely to join these projects because they want access to the personalities involved. Hopefully this trend will be able to continue with less star power in support of communities fostering education, professional interests, human rights, and other great Web 3.0 connections between people.

Interestingly, despite their strides, neither BFF or Proof have completely left the avatar-based NFT model behind. I admit that, while I was skeptical at first, collecting them is somewhat addictive and I have PFPs (profile pics) from several great projects. An observation, though, is how differently this is playing out along gender lines. I was sensing something but hadn’t completely put it together until I had a conversation on the topic with a professional man who was looking for a great NFT community to join that would also provide him with a cool PFP that wasn’t an animal, zombie or cartoon character. He couldn’t find one! Of course the space is vast, and he is still looking. For women, there are currently lots of great options.

Changing gears a little bit, I’ve saved one of my favorite innovative image NFT projects for last. No mutant melting mugs here, just vibrant, amazing, real … people!

Crypto Cuban Social Club

This delightful project, led by Cuban artist Gabriel Guerra Bianchini, is a gorgeous, colorful collection of 1492 Cubans (this number I recognize!) photographed in a variety of adornments. The project plans to bring more cryptocurrency awareness and access to Cubans, allow for direct support of Cuban-made goods, and when all tokens are minted, celebrate with a giant party in Havana. I hope they make it! I would love to be able to meet the real person behind my beautiful Crypto Cuban Social Club 79. What a beautiful idea 😊