Originally published 16/12/2022. Updated below.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? Former US President, Donald Trump, AKA once one of the world’s most powerful people, has revealed that the “major announcement” he has been teasing is a series of Donal Trump “digital trading cards.”
That’s right, Trump is now flogging NFTs with little videos of him as, say, a superhero with laser eyes, or an astronaut wearing Aviator sunglasses. There’s also one of him as a cowboy and another of Trump as a racecar driver. I wish this was a joke, but I’m kind of thrilled it isn’t.
The “rare digital collectible” images depict the kind of fever dream a 10-year-old boy might have if he’d been locked in a room his entire life and made to watch endless hours of 80s American action movies while force-fed a diet of McDonald’s and dressed entirely in American flag clothing.
“These cards feature some of the really incredible artwork pertaining to my life and my career,” Trump said in a video on Truth Social announcing the NFTs.
“Each card comes with an automatic chance to win amazing prizes like dinner with me. I don’t know if that’s an amazing prize but it’s what we have. Or golf with you and a group fo your friends at one of my beautiful golf courses. And they are beautiful,” he explained.
Trump also introduced himself in the video as “hopefully your favourite President. Better than Lincoln, better than Washington.”
The NFTs themselves cost USD$99 or around $149 Australian and have to be stored in a crypto wallet like other NFTs. Interestingly, Trump has previously scorned cryptocurrencies, writing on Twitter in 2019 that he is “not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies.”
“Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity,” he wrote.
The internet has responded exactly as you would expect it to about the announcement.
“Just when you thought this grifter couldn’t humiliate himself any more than he already has, there’s this,” CIA whistleblower and author John Kiriakou wrote. Below is a selection of some of the best Twitter had to offer.
Yesterday, former US President and failed Putschist Donald Trump told his social media followers to expect a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT. Today, he has announced his own range of NFTs, in one of the most hilariously shit videos I have ever seen: pic.twitter.com/RkLT7ziypJ
— Oz Katerji (@OzKaterji) December 15, 2022
Donald Trump major announcement is that he’s selling his own Pokémon cards 😭
— Santiago Mayer (@santiagomayer_) December 15, 2022
Donald Trump's "major announcement" appears to be that he still thinks people will give him $99 when he asks.
— Ginger Gibson (@GingerGibson) December 15, 2022
this is somehow hilariously dumber than even I had expected https://t.co/oRX89KWQTf
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) December 15, 2022
You can’t make this up. Donald Trump’s “major announcement” are digital trading cards that cost $99 each. Classic grifter and narcissist behavior. He has truly lost his mind more than I can possibly imagine. DOJ & Jack Smith, please hurry up and indict this man.
— Victor Shi (@Victorshi2020) December 15, 2022
Even Trump’s long-time collaborator, Steve Bannon, said, “I can’t do this anymore” in response to the cards, advising that anyone involved in advising the venture “oughta be fired today.”
Trump’s entry into the crypto space also comes at a questionable time, given that crypto assets have taken a plunge in terms of value over the last few months. FTX, one of the biggest crypto trading platforms, collapsed recently, dragging much of the market down with it. Since the war in Ukraine broke out, Bitcoin has been on a downward slope, hitting multi-year lows at present.
Perhaps it’s less questionable now, however, as Trump has been hit by waves of legal costs for tax evasion and other crimes. His company, the Trump Organization, was fined USD$1.6 million just last week, and Trump himself has recently been fined USD$4000 for contempt of court.
Buying a Trump NFT will enter you into a sweepstake, with prizes like meeting Trump, attending a cocktail party at his Mar-a-Lago residence, or a free dinner at Trump Towers in New York. In total, there are set to be 45,000 of these NFTs minted, with some having more ‘rarity’ than others.
The artwork was created by Clark Mitchell, a California-based digital artist who has previously created work for Disney, Hasbro, and Coca-Cola, as well as NFTs for celebrities and athletes.
According to the Collect Trump Cards website’s NFT license agreement, it appears that anyone purchasing these cards is buying ownership rights of the “token” or digital address on the Polygon blockchain that the NFT is minted to, but not the rights to the NFT or the artwork itself.
“Purchaser shall have only a limited license to the individual layered files, traits, and digital works associated,” the agreement reads. Essentially, the NFTs can’t be traded as a digital file, only as access to the address with a digital file in it. This isn’t uncommon in the NFT space, but it does limit their appeal as investor items, one of the main reasons why people buy NFTs, as the site expressly restricts users from selling the NFT. The token can however be sold, although the digital contract will grant Trump Cards 10% of the transaction, forever.
Some online have suggested that this may be more of a “data grab” than a genuine attempt at selling NFTs as access to payment can’t even be made on the site without inputting your personal information.
“It’s not just that he’s stupid, it’s that he is also very aware of just how stupid his supporters are,” freelance journalist Oz Katerji has written.
So, if there’s someone in your life you truly have no interest in ever speaking to again, why not get them a Trump NFT? As Trump himself states: “Christmas is coming and this makes a great Christmas gift.”
Disclaimer: Please don’t actually buy a Trump NFT, even as a joke. Do not give money to this man.
Update: Donald Trump Trading Cards Use Stolen Art
Trump’s trading cards sold out hours after they were announced. However, it was then quickly revealed that the art used in the NFTs in question is not actually original artwork.
Users on Twitter discovered that the art appeared to be badly ripped off stock images taken from various websites. Trump’s image of himself as a cowboy, for example, seems to be lifted from an Amazon listing for a men’s duster jacket.
In some of the images, watermarks used to ensure images cannot be used without a licence, appear to remain on some of the trading card artwork. There is even an Adobe watermark on one of the images, meaning whoever made the cards was using trademarked and copyrighted images without permission.
— Matthew Sheffield (@mattsheffield) December 16, 2022
Matthew Sheffield, national correspondent for The Young Turks, has reported that the images are “assembled randomly and automatically by a computer program from a pre-defined collection of backgrounds, costumes, and heads.” This appears to contradict claims on the Trump Cards website that the art was illustrated by Mitchell.
“There are slight differences with some of the above images and their sources, meaning that it is very possible that the NFT collection is derived from unlicensed images as well as AI-generated copyright infringements,” Sheffield wrote on Twitter.
Adobe watermark by Trumps ear 💀 pic.twitter.com/jYpdG8XgpV
— Morgan (@Helloimmorgan) December 17, 2022
Update: Trump Cards Allegedly Used for Money Laundering
One aspect of the cards that had people looking sideways – and there are many – was the fact that the cards cost USD$99 and could only be purchased in lots of 100. It seemed odd that the company selling the cards would restrict the number that could be bought, however, it starts to make sense when you realise the total spent on cards cannot be more than USD$9,900. That is just USD$100 short of the number that would require the transactions to be declared for tax purposes.
According to TikTok user TizzyEnt, this set-up means Donald Trump “can get more than $4.3 million dollars and never have to disclose a single one of the transactions involved.”
“Let’s say you own a business, and you got your hands on a whole bunch of money that is dirty and you need to clean it,” he explained.
“You start another business where you sell air at $99 a pop. And then you can just sit there with the click of a mouse, $9,900 at a time is justifiably yours.”
Even if it isn’t money laundering, there’s enough here to suspect that the whole operation is very much not above board. Journalist Kurt Eichenwald has traced the shadowy ownership of the NFT International LLC company and it appears to be a sprawling shell company. Many of the addresses, companies, and people associated with NFT International have been connected to international fraud, scams, and tax evasion.
This is even before you get to the fact that one NFT analyst has found that a wallet most likely owned by Trump himself or someone closely associated with him, minted those 1,000 NFTs that were kept back from the public. 45,000 of the cards were created, by only 44,000 were available for purchase.
1/ Turns out Donald Trump minted a thousand of his own nfts to his vault wallet
Keeping a giant portion of the most rare nfts in his collection for himself
The 2nd minted nft was a rare 1-of-1, the chances … pic.twitter.com/3m0MQGQydp
— OKHotshot (@NFTherder) December 17, 2022
The first 1,000 were minted by an address created for that purpose a day before the cards were announced. That address just so happened to mint the rarest cards, owning some 26% of one-of-one cards and 28% of those bearing Trump’s signature. Those cards are likely to attract the biggest sales in the aftermarket and that money is likely to go directly to Trump or someone associated with the company.
“If this was a 10,000 unit collection about monkeys, the whole discord would be blowing up about how this is a rug and a scam and that the team is holding one-fourth of the most rare supply,” the analyst told CoinDesk.