It all started with the Marvel superhero Cable. Cable was from the future, he had the powers of telekinesis and telepathy, and could battle the Silver Surfer while levitating an entire city. This superhero’s mix of strength and vulnerability appealed to my 12-year-old imagination and could spark and sustain endless hours of fascination because I was—and remain—a true fan.
In the early 1990s, Marvel released a series of nine X-Men hologram trading cards. I rode my bike to the comic shop, allowance in hand, to nab Cable and later the rest of the series. Completing the grid and sliding it safely into its Mylar sleeve brought me a sense of satisfaction so powerful, I can still feel it. I know I will never sell the series. It’s probably worth something decent, monetarily speaking—maybe a lot—but it doesn’t matter. Its value to me isn’t in dollars, but the elusive sensation I can still feel in my fingertips when I touch these comic books
Being a fan of something—anything—is ultimately about connection: connection to a world, a place, a character, a creator you love. As I flung open the door to the comics shop, it was not the material card I was truly after. Rather, it was acquiring something that ignited my imagination, something that inspired me, something marvelous. And the shop itself was more than a place for a commercial transaction. The people who worked there, the other shoppers, and certainly the owner—they were all fans. They loved those cards and comic books and figures and the worlds they represented. I was connecting to all that, but I was connecting through Cable, Captain Marvel, and Wolverine.
I started Curio, a new NFT (non-fungible token) platform and exchange because I’m not the only fan, collector, and trader out there. I wanted to create a place that would bring fans together to connect with the characters and stories they loved, but with all the new tools that the NFT space allows. The thrill of buying, collecting, and trading NFTs replicates the same feelings I had growing up and removes the limits of what can be collected. Twelve-year-old me would not have understood the possibilities of a company like this, shelves and shoe boxes replaced by a distributed ledger, all for the love of media with no physical attributes, no cardboard, no Mylar sleeve, no bubble-gum smell. But he would have loved the way that NFTs allow you to engage with the content you love in previously impossible ways. Now, however, as CEO of Curio, I have a new, additional motivation: to create an experience where both savvy, experienced collectors and newcomers to the NFT space know that the work they’re about to see is not only thrilling, but also curated, high-quality, and officially licensed.
NFTs embody the future of fandom. Now, being a fan does not end the moment you acquire that last card in the Marvel series and complete the mosaic. Rather, the interconnectedness of the internet allows the fan experience to stretch and connect in a way never before imagined. The idea that you can meet the artist, the actor, the writers, the directors—and that creators could have direct connection with their fanbase: that isn’t possible with physical collectibles. And that’s why I’m thrilled to be part of this next frontier.
Of course, the thing about collecting those cards—Cable, with his cybernetic body parts and bandolier, Wolverine with his claws and signature chops—wasn’t the card itself, it was the way it made me feel part of something I loved. I was a true fan, and I wanted to connect with that marvelous world wherever I went. The way those cards fit into the larger mosaic, however, made for an even richer experience, and it’s that “larger something” that will keep that particular collection with me through life, regardless of its market value. NFTs will allow the next generation to experience this same feeling. After all, we collect as we are and we are as we collect.
Juan Hernandez is a lifelong collector and CEO of NFT platform Curio.
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