Breaking Down the Story and Meaning Behind Curio Cards - The First Ethereum Blockchain Digital Art

July 17, 2021 - 12 min read

A detailed breakdown of the meaning of each card in the Curio set.

Breaking Down the Story and Meaning Behind Curio Cards - The First Ethereum Blockchain Digital Art

The Meaning Behind The Designs of The Oldest Known Art NFT and Ethereum

If you enjoy this article and want to get weekly notifications when new posts go live, subscribe to my e-mail list here

On May 9th, 2017, the Curio Cards digital art collection was released to the public. Curio Cards was created by Thomas Hunt, Travis Uhrig, and Rhett Creighton. If you want to read more about their story, how Curio Cards came to be and how the artists were selected, you can read about that more here.

Because the set has been recognized as the first digital art released on the Ethereum blockchain, collectors are starting to take note. Sales volume and prices have been heating up the past few days, and those interested may be wondering why certain pieces are selling for more, or which ones may be a fun buying opportunity. 

I’ll break down the 30 cards, with population data, and some history from the founders and the artists who created the cards (number of owners and cards in circulation on Opensea change often). 

Please note, the term “burned” refers to a token being taken out of the blockchain (this is a permanent change). 

It’s also worth noting that at least cards 1–3 (and more likely 1–10) were initially given a supply of 100,000, but 98,000 copies were intentionally burned.

Editor Update: There are copies of these cards that are in a permanent wrapper (they were submitted into a faulty wrapper without an unwrap function). After some artistic debate within the community on the nature of what constitutes form (the Ship of Theseus), these copies are considered Permawrapped rather than burned, as they are still transferrable, buyable, sellable, and created by wrapping Curio Cards just like the others. However, as they cannot be unwrapped back to their original form, some believe they should not have value. Special shout out to Crypt0x for helping me with this editor update.

(1) Apples 

Curio Card #1

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Issued Copies: 1,809 

# of Locked Copies: 0

Hunt had an English Literature background and has said the Apple is meant to represent the fall from grace in the story of Adam and Eve, plus Apple computer and it started with an A, making it fitting that it was the first card released in the set. 

Created by Phneep

(2) Nuts and (3) Berries

Curio Card #2

Source: gallery.curio.cards

The Nuts and Berries are grouped together intentionally, as they represent sustenance, and reference lyrics from a Talking Head song

Nuts

Issued Copies: 1,630

# of Locked Copies: 0

Berries: 

Issued Copies: 1,584

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(4) Clay 

Curio Card #4

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Clay starts the new series of cards that represent the building blocks of art. It’s also the first card on the list with a lower supply. 

Issued Copies: 460

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(5) Paint

Curio Card #5

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Paint continues the trend of representing the building blocks of art and offers an even smaller supply of 438. 

Issued Copies: 438

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(6) Ink

Curio Card #6

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Ink is part of the same theme as the two cards that precede it — the building blocks of art. What’s fun is that the following cards then represent art that can be made using these building blocks. 

Issued Copies: 438

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(7) Sculpture

Curio Card #7

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Sculpture is the first art in the series that represents what can be made with art building blocks (clay). 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 135

Created by Phneep.

(8) Painting

Curio Card #8

Source: gallery.curio.cards

The painting, depicting Mona Lisa, ties to card 5 (paint) and represents the art you can create with paint. There have been discussions about whether or not this is the first Mona Lisa on the blockchain (logically, this argument makes sense), but there isn’t a definitive source to confirm. Thomas Hunt shared that he told artist Phneep they needed a painting for the collection, and he came back with the Mona Lisa. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(9) Book

Curio Card #9

Source: gallery.curio.cards

The book art card matches to card 6, ink. It represents what can be created with ink. 183 copies of the art were locked, leaving a supply of 1,817. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 183

Created by Phneep.

(10) Future

Curio Card #10

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Card 10 represents the future and going down the road of the artist's journey. The first 10 cards set the stage for sustenance, tools to create art, the creations themselves, and now we are able to head down the road toward the future of art in the collection. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(11) BTC Keys

Curio Card #11

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This is the first card in the collection created by a new artist, Cryptograffiti, who’s also been called one of the most “prolific” Bitcoin artists. This card kicks off the “Bitcoin Propaganda” seen across these 10 cards, starting with Bitcoin Keys. This art is in reference to the UBS logo.

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Cryptograffiti.  

(12) Mine Bitcoin 

Curio Card #12

Source: gallery.curio.cards

The second card in this set created by Cryptograffiti, depicts a rendition of the Master Card logo. 2,000 copies were issued by 163 were locked, leaving a supply of 1,837. The next few cards in this set take on the theme of using famous and recognizable logo designs with the insertion of bitcoin and cryptocurrency references. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 163

Created by Cryptograffiti.

(13) BTC

Curio Card #13

Source: gallery.curio.cards

“I used to put these logos on neighborhood ATMs. Repurposing banking materials has remained a theme in my work. I like the idea of using soon-to-be-extinct items to help spread the new cryptocurrency movement.” — Cryptograffiti

This art is based on the Citi logo and it’s no secret this collection of financial-inspired logos is meant to send a message about the artist’s take on the future of cryptocurrency. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Cryptograffiti.

(14) CryptoCurrency

Curio Card 14

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This art inserts Cryptocurrency into a globally recognized Coca-Cola logo. Thomas Hunt said that Phneep created a lot of Bitcoin movie posters, which can be found here

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(15) DigitalCash

Curio Card #15

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This art inserts Cryptocurrency into a globally recognized Wendy’s logo.

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(16) OriginalCoin

Curio Card #16

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This art inserts Cryptocurrency into a globally recognized Heineken logo and completes the set of food and beverage-inspired art cards. There's a reference to "open source" in the art, a detail that highlights one of the most attractive qualities of cryptocurrency.

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Phneep.

(17) UASF and UASF “17b”

Curio Card #17

Source: gallery.curio.cards

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 8

Created by Cryptopop

On August 1st, 2017 a proposal to scale bitcoin was deployed, although it caused some controversy along the way. UASF stands for User-activated soft fork. Effectively, a soft fork becomes a method to create backward compatibility to supplant historical governance. For a more detailed definition, you can check this article out here

Luis, the artist, was celebrating UASF, the protocol deployed to help scale bitcoin. Because bitcoin is decentralized, community consensus is required for changes to the blockchain and there was much debate about this new introduction. 

UASF “17b”

Curio Card #17b

Source: Opensea.io

The #17 card was discovered on an alternative contract, which meant that there were actually two functioning number 17 cards. 

Hunt said that people were able to buy the “error” card and lots of people wanted it to be part of the set.

Issued Copies: 500 (Opensea lists a supply of 500 out of 2,000)

# of Locked Copies: unknown

(18) To The Moon 

Curio Card #18

Source: gallery.curio.cards

After dipping our toe into Bitcoin, this captures the now very recognizable “to the moon!” phrase. Signaling a change in how people view currency and its future.

Issued Copies: 500 

# of Locked Copies: 8

# of Owners: 65

Created by Cryptopop.

(19) Dogs Trading 

Curio Card #19

Source: gallery.curio.cards

The final card in the “dogs” card set features dogs sitting at a poker table. If you look closely - you can see a few references to the ICO (initial coin offering) boom in 2017. You may notice a dog passing a Monero (privacy coin) under the table, and you may also notice that each coin has a label, a reference to 2017 coins (some still functioning today, others aren't).

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Cryptopop.

(20) Mad Bitcoins

Madbitcoins

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

This card depicts MadBitcoins head on James Bond’s body. Initially, this card was supposed to raise money for MadBitcoins but it didn’t work. Mad Bitcoins had a popular YouTube show and is one of the founders of Curio Cards. 

Issued Copies: 2,000

# of Locked Copies: 453

Created by Phneep.

(21) The Wizard 

The Wizard

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This is the first art in this set created by Robek World, who got selected as an artist after creating a gallery for the founders to be a part of the project. When Robek’s cards were released, he couldn’t even buy them. The Wizard is the persona of Thomas Hunt, and it's a play on video game avatars. Robek was an early supporter of Curio Cards and didn't need convincing to produce art for the project. He even created a commercial for the three cards in his set.

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Robek World.

(22) The Bard

The Bard

Source: gallery.curio.cards

This card is unique because it is the only one in the set with the number on the right side of the card. It represents a song-singing leader, inspired by co-creator Travis Uhlrig.

Issued Copies: 500

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Robek World.

(23) The Barbarian 

The Barbarian

Source: Gallery.Curio.Cards

This card could be the first animated NFT (it can only use two frames because of the technology available at the time). It’s said to be Rhett Creighton’s card because he was the tech muscle behind the project. Robek chose the supply of his cards and intentionally reduced card 23 to a supply of 250 because he foresaw collectors wanting all 3 cards in his set. It incentivized people to quickly buy this card so that they could complete the set - turns out he was right and his set sold out.

Issued Copies: 250

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Robek World.

(24) Complexity 

Complexity

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

Daniel Friedman shared hand-drawn art on his Flickr account (link below) and was brought on board after the founding team discovered the account. He’s currently a researcher in entomology and it was said that he had a great attitude toward his art and spreading it like a hobby. This art is special because it brought physical artwork to the digital space. Across the Curio Card collection, we see a blend of art that comprises most of what we see in modern NFT projects today.

Issued Copies: 333

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Daniel Friedman.

(25) Passion 

Passion

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

What’s interesting about this set by Daniel Friedman is that the supply was released as follows: 333 copies, 222 copies, 111 copies. Again, Friedman had a positive attitude toward his art and treated it like a hobby. The way the supply was released reflects this playfulness toward the art. 

Issued Copies: 222

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Daniel Friedman.

(26) Education 

Education

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

After the 333, 222, and 111 supply releases, plus 5 locked copies of this card, it is the rarest in the entire set. There are 106 total copies and currently 47 owners. Its last sale was 17.9 ETH (over $44,000). 

Issued Copies: 111

# of Locked Copies: 5

Created by Daniel Friedman.

(27) Blue

Blue

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

The Blue card starts us off on a set created by Marisol Vengas meant to represent fine art. Marisol Vengas is an anonymous artist, adding some mystery to this microset. It's later been revealed that Marisol Vengas is an art collective lead by Max Infield as his studio. These cards took real-world photography and layered in artistic design on top of it. Artists worked in stations and collaborated to produce these. Again, it's fascinating that Curio Cards brought physical art, photography art, meme art, thematic art and creator-supporting art into this project.

Issued Copies: 600

# of Locked Copies: 35

Created by Marisol Vengas.

(28) Pink

Pink

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

This is the second card in the fine art set with a slightly lower supply than the blue card. Like card 27, this features a real-world photograph with art layered on top of it.

Issued Copies: 400

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Marisol Vengas.

(29) Yellow

Yellow

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

This is the rarest fine art card in the set with a supply of just 200. 

Issued Copies: 200

# of Locked Copies: 0

Created by Marisol Vengas.

(30) Eclipse

Eclipse

Source: Gallery.curio.cards

This is the only card in the set that was released on the day of the Great American Eclipse. Cards were typically released on Tuesdays, but this card finishes the set and was based on that eclipse on August 21st, 2017 (occurred on a Monday). 

The supply of this card is 821, which represents the date of the eclipse, 8/21.

The artist who created card 30 is very private and wishes to remain anonymous even to this day.

Issued Copies: 821

# of Locked Copies: 5

Created by Thoros of Myr. 

Jon Torrey

written by

Jon Torrey

NFT Enthusiast