Christie's now accepts auction bids made with cryptocurrency

While currently only for a single digital artwork auction, the move further signals the rapid rise of cryptocurrencies.

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In a move that was perhaps as inevitable as it is ironic, the famous Christie's auction house announced earlier this week that it will accept cryptocurrency transactions within an upcoming sale later this month. Fans of the digital artist Beeple will be able to bid on Everydays: The First 5000 Days, their non-fungible token art piece (if that sounded like word vomit, check out our explainer on NFT art here) between February 25 and March 11 using Ether.

While a first for Christie's history, the auctioneers are still limiting Ether payments to solely the lot's principal price and not its "premium," aka an auction house's cut of an item's overall sale. The final buyer will still need to cough up some cash for that portion of the purchase.

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An 'accessible' $100 starting bid — According to Noah Davis, a specialist with the auction house, one of the driving reasons behind the decision to offer both Beeple's artwork and accept cryptocurrency is the desire to break into new, wider markets. "There are 1.8 million people who follow [Beeple] on Instagram and for whom a $100 starting bid, up to a few thousand dollars, is accessible. We want people to play the game and see that bidding is not this impossible-to-do, sort of velvet rope way to engage in popular culture," Davis told Bloomberg yesterday.

Of course, while $100 might be affordable to some, this is only the starting bid Davis is talking about. The sale runs just under two weeks, and we find it hard to believe people will be outbidding each other a penny at a time. Add the significance of Christie's first cryptocurrency-supported auction into the mix, and it's safe to say the winning bid on March 11 will be substantially higher than most people's idea of an "accessible" price point.

A small dip into a deep well — While a relatively small decision on Christie's part (Davis called the Beeple auction "the perfect way to dip our toes in and give this a shot"), the move represents the extent to which cryptocurrencies have become acceptable alternative financial methods within the economy. Christie's announcement comes on the heels of Bitcoin's worth recently surging to its all-time high, heavy promotion from people like Elon Musk and Jay-Z, as well as capitalist behemoths like Amazon looking into developing its own crypto services.

Although initially sold as a decentralizing force within finance, it really was only a matter of time before the wealthiest among us (or, perhaps more accurately, above us) dove into the cryptocurrency world.