First, it was a home video.
Fifty-five seconds of two adorable brothers, Harry and Charlie, sitting in a black chair. A toddler’s gleeful nibble of a single finger. That was all.
Then their father posted the clip to YouTube (to share it with their godparents) and it became something else: One of the platform’s first big viral videos, a bedrock piece of the early internet.
Now “Charlie Bit My Finger” is transforming again, into a non-fungible token – a unique, verifiable digital object – and departing YouTube after racking up 883 million views in 14 years, according to a website launched by the Davies-Carr family. Bidding started at $1,000 over the weekend. The auction history shows that “3fmusic” beat out “mememaster” with a bid for $760,999 on Sunday.
The sale completes the beloved video’s old to new internet metamorphosis, making it the latest in a string of high-profile NFT sales. One of the most viewed videos ever will now belong solely to the winning bidder, who will also “have the opportunity to create their own parody of the video featuring the original stars, Harry and Charlie,” the family wrote on auction site. The boys are now 17 and 14, respectively.
“Bid to own the soon-to-be-deleted YouTube phenomenon, Charlie Bit My Finger, leaving you as the sole owner of this lovable piece of internet history (while also getting the chance to say Charlie bit your finger, if you want to see what all the hype is about.”
NFTs create a unique certificate of ownership that represents a specific version of a digital file – whether it’s a song, a video game or a simple image. Using the same technology that bitcoin uses, people can “mint” NFTs, creating a record of ownership that’s spread across thousands of computers around the world that cannot be changed by anyone except the owner. It’s a way of turning a digital file into something that can be bought and sold like a physical object. The value comes from the knowledge of authenticity.
As interest in cryptocurrency has exploded, so has the NFT market. More than $2 billion was spent on NFTs in the first quarter of 2021, according to NonFungible.com, which tracks NFT transactions. That’s a 2,100 percent spike from the fourth quarter of 2020, and doesn’t even include the $69 million sale in March of a digital collage by Beeple, which was traded on Christie’s through a partnership. The sale was the third highest ever for a work by a living artist.
Notably, there were twice as many NFT buyers as sellers in the first quarter of 2021, according to NonFungible, an imbalance that shows the growing appetite in the market.
Other early Internet icons have recently made the same journey, netting real cash for the people behind the content. 3fmusic — a Dubai-based music studio and collector of NFTs — scooped up the “Disaster Girl” NFT in April, whose sale earned Zoe Roth about $430,000 for the photo that turned her 4-year-old self into a mischievous meme. 3fmusic also purchased “Overly Attached Girlfriend” for $411,000, according to Decrypt.
3fmusic didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.
Pretty much anything can be an NFT, as evidenced by the range of other big transactions: In February, an NFT-version of the flying Pop Tart/cat hybrid sold for $580,000. Kings of Leon became the first band to put out an NFT-only album in March, generating more than $2 million from the sale. Also in March, Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey hawked his own first tweet, which says “just setting up my twttr” as an NFT for $2.9 million.
The Davies-Carr family didn’t understand at first why their home video became so beloved, the boy’s father told ABC in 2012. But as its popularity increased, they realized that other people would end up profiting off their accidental success if they didn’t. They used the revenue from YouTube to pay for Harry and Charlie’s education.
Now, making the video an NFT gives the family “a little more control” Howard Davies-Carr told Time. Harry and Charlie (and their two younger brothers) will continue to benefit from their moment of childhood fame.
“This could make the difference between them having cheaper student loans, nicer accommodation, not having to get a bar job,” Howard told Time.