EBay enters NFT business, with assist from hockey icon Wayne Gretzky


The headquarters of eBay in San Jose, California.

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EBay is getting into NFTs — with an assist from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

The company announced Monday that it’s launching 13 limited-edition digital collectibles in partnership with Web3 platform OneOf, each of which contains a 3-D animated rendering of Gretzky making one of his signature moves on the ice.

NFTs are a type of digital asset created to track ownership of a virtual item using blockchain technology. Such unique items could be artwork or sports trading cards. Each NFT is unique and can’t be replicated and accrues value independently, stored in digital wallets as collectors’ items.

“Forty years ago, I was grateful to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it was a monumental moment in
my life,” Gretzky said in a statement. “I’m honored to bring this collectible experience to my hockey fans who have followed my career for decades.”

Canadian professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers in action on the ice for an away game during his rookie season, 1979-80. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

B Bennett | Bruce Bennett | Getty Images

There are 142 million eBay buyers worldwide. It is the second-largest player — though a distant second to Amazon — in e-commerce. Electronics & accessories is the company’s most popular category, which appeal to a younger consumer demographic. Earlier this month, eBay bought a 25% stake, worth $263 million, in toy maker Funko alongside a consortium including former Disney CEO Bob Iger, sports agent Rich Paul and the Chernin Group.

“NFTs and blockchain technology are revolutionizing the collectibles space, and are increasingly viewed as an investment opportunity for enthusiasts,” said Dawn Block, vice president of collectibles, electronics and home at eBay. “Through our partnership with OneOf, eBay is now making coveted NFTs more accessible to a new generation of collectors everywhere.”

OneOf claims to be a “green” NFT platform that uses energy efficient blockchain technology. The cryptocurrency mining process can use a large amount of energy, in some cases as much energy as entire countries. OneOf, which uses a “proof of stake” blockchain network, claims to use more than 2 million times less energy than what are known as “proof-of-work” networks. Additionally, the company — which to date has focused primarily on the music business — says more than 80% of the collections featured on its platform come from minority creators and women-led projects.

“Our software and eBay’s software will be integrated to provide a super easy NFT purchase experience for the consumer,” OneOf CEO Lin Dai told CNBC this past weekend at Gary Vaynerchuk’s “VeeCon” — a four-day NFT and Web3 conference hosted in Minneapolis. “Our goal is to bring on the next 100 million [currently] non-crypto users and I think this partnership helps us do that.”

About one-third of eBay’s total customer base use the mobile shopping app each month, which makes it the third most popular shopping app in the U.S. after Amazon and Walmart. 

Throughout the remainder of the year, OneOf plans to drop additional NFT series’ in partnership with eBay featuring iconic athletes and “reinterpreting iconic Sports Illustrated covers in the era of Web3.”

The company says each NFT is “priced for the everyday fan” starting at $10 each.

During the recent collectibles boom, Gretzky trading cards have set records for hockey memorabilia, with a rookie card selling for $3.75 million in 2021. In 2020, another Gretzky card became the first hockey card to sell for over $1 million.

NFT collections have experienced a significant slide in value this month. Some of the more prominent collections, such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Crypto Punks, saw prices fall 28% and 32%, respectively, according to CREBACO research.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency — the asset class that fuels each NFT purchase on the blockchain network — has experienced a downturn. The price of ethereum has recently traded down by as much as 60% from its 2021 peak, while bitcoin hit its lowest level since December 2020 last week, under $26,000.

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