ST. LOUIS — Fan Expo St. Louis is under way at America's Center, and before the weekend is over, thousands of fans will celebrate all things pop culture.
Visitors can grab an autograph, pick up collectibles and even purchase one-of-a-kind artwork. There's also Creators Edition, a St. Louis startup that caters to comic book fans.
What's different about them? No traditional currency is required.
"You just try things and see if it works,” said artist Thompson Knox. "Sometimes it's nice to just play"
Like many artists, Knox also has a day job.
"I'm also the chief strategy officer at Steady Rain, which is a digital agency here in St. Louis. And ultimately, what I saw is this opportunity to bring the two things I love the most together," he said.
Creators Edition is a digital collectibles company that sells non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, to support comic book artists.
"In the middle of the pandemic, artists couldn't go to shows anymore (or) interact with fans, and they couldn't fundraise for themselves because most artists go to shows to meet fans, but also to sell prints and original artwork," said Knox. "And so what we came up with as an idea was to be able to sell these NFTs."
An NFT is a digital collectible that's purchased with cryptocurrency, a type of digital money that uses encryption technology to make it secure.
Cryptocurrency is also completely decentralized, meaning that no entity such as a company or a government can effectively control it. And it can be bought on any exchange like Coinbase, Binance, FTX or Crypto.com.
"If you're a fan, there's really no collectible like this. I go to the show, and I'm handing comic books back and forth. Cash is changing hands, but there's no record of who owned that piece of artwork or that comic book or that trading card before.
"And in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrency, all of that is tracked and logged. So you can actually track back provenance and authenticity of the pieces that you buy that are digital all through that technology," Knox said.
Creators Edition first art drop featured comic book artist Zach Howard.
"Any time as the world kind of moves on technology, it advances society with it. It is so important for artists not to be left behind because it's very easy for artists to find themselves in a position where they can't make a living," he said.
It helps pay the bills and connects Howard with his fans.
"People can have personal interactions with me on something of mine that nobody else has. You know, all the fun things that go with collectors—comic books, tech, all of the fun stuff," Howard added.
For Knox, it's about giving back to the community he loves and giving comic book fans a way to purchase art using the latest global currency.
"It's new. It's exciting. To our knowledge, we're the only folks (at the) show that are going to be doing this. We're doing it to help the artists," he said.
Creators Edition representatives can answer cryptocurrency questions at their booth—A403—in Artist Alley at Fan Expo St. Louis, which runs through Sunday.