NEW YORK — In exchange for a cryptocurrency token, you can own a digital watercolor painting of Melania Trump’s eyes.
The former first lady launched a venture this week selling NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, on her website in exchange for a Solan token, currently valued around $180 each.
Melania Trump will release NFTs “in regular intervals” on her website, according to a news release, with a portion of the proceeds going to foster children. It’s unclear what percentage of the proceeds will be donated, or whether the donations will be given to specific foster child-related charities. An email inquiry about how the donations would be structured were not answered by Melania Trump’s press contact.
Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, says when a company says “a portion of the proceeds” will go to charity without indicating specifically what amount, “It’s a huge red flag.”
“It means that charity is not a serious part of their plan,” Dorfman said. “It’s a marketing ploy.”
The Trump family has a troubled history with charities, though Melania Trump was not directly involved in a clash over a charity the family ran in New York.
While still president, Donald Trump paid a $2 million court-ordered fine after conceding he used his charitable foundation as a personal piggy bank. The fine was ordered to be distributed amongst eight charities.
The Trump Foundation was dissolved.
In addition, Trump agreed to restrictions if he were to form a new charity or foundation and New York State required mandatory training for his children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, who were all involved with the Trump Foundation.
Non-fungible tokens are essentially digital certificates of authenticity that can be attached to art, music or any other type of digital file. NFTs confirm an item’s ownership by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain, which is public and stored on computers across the internet, making it effectively impossible to lose or destroy.
An NFT by the digital artist who goes by Beeple sold for nearly $70 million earlier this year. It sparked huge interest in the digital technology that has been around for several years, piggy-backing on a Bitcoin craze that made blockchain a household word. Digital cat characters were selling for six-figure sums as far back as 2017 and today you can buy digital LeBron James basketball highlight NFTs for anywhere from a couple bucks to nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
While often pitched as a fun hobby like collectibles because their values fluctuate, many treat NFTs as an investment. Like cryptocurrency, they are largely unregulated and many experts warn against putting money into them.