A non-fungible token (NFT) created for the 1961 arrest warrant of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has sold for $130,000 at auction. The funds will help maintain the Liliesleaf Museum Heritage Site, a farm where Mandela and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in the 1960s hid from authorities. But the funds will not be enough to re-open the museum, which has been hit hard by the lack of tourism during the COVID pandemic.
The founder of the Liliesleaf Museum, Nicholas Wolpe, says the museum still needs about $1.7 million (R25-million) before it can reopen.
“Based upon all historical figures to clear all the debt and to provide for at least for the next year or two," he said. "There need to be repairs, exhibits need to be fixed, and then the day-to-day operations, paying for salaries and getting the place back on its feet.”
Wolpe says last year he was approached by one of the owners of Momint, the company that runs the NFT marketplace. They explained that the museum’s artifacts could earn cash while staying on site for security purposes and preservation.
Wolpe said he thought it was a perfect opportunity for Liliesleaf to create an alternative source of income.
“He explained the process of NFTs to me and I said this is a wonderful opportunity for not only Liliesleaf but for historical sites around the world because we currently live in an environment where the reality is that government funding is not what it used to be,” he said.
Momint’s CEO Ahren Posthumus explains that NFTs, which use blockchain technology, are a way of putting a value to content on the internet. The buyer of the warrant, he says, gets significant long-term benefits.
“So, they are the only person in the world who will actually have the original of what’s called the Alpha File of the scan of the document. So, you can view the document online and it’s incredibly high detailed. You can see the ink bleeding through the paper but the owner of the document is the only one who will have the fully uncompressed version of this 3D file. It also gives the buyer access to the physical document as well as a five per cent royalty in perpetuity. So, as a buyer if they resell the piece and if the piece gets sold 10 or a hundred times, they will receive a royalty on the piece which is amazing. Liliesleaf Museum will equally be getting a royalty on the resale of the piece,” he said.
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president, was released from prison in 1990.
The auction of his arrest warrant followed the NFT auction of a gun pen owned by Mandela’s fellow liberation leader Oliver Tambo. That NFT sale in November raised $50,000, also for the museum.
Wolpe says the Momint team has photographed a number of other artifacts they believe are valuable.