From Stamp-Collecting to Digital Collectibles: Terra Virtua opens up Virtual Treasures to the Mainstream.

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Collecting has evolved enormously over the years. What began as a niche hobby for fans of stamps and coins back in the War Years of the 20th century became much more mainstream towards the end of the millennium as new, limited-edition genres began attracting collectors from all ages and genders.

From trading cards and comic-books to plush toys and action figures, it seemed that everyone had an affinity for collecting something and every loft or attic had a box of treasured items that the owner thought had value, whether sentimental or monetary.

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Collecting became a serious pastime and a lot of publicity was generated when a Princess Beanie Baby sold for $500,000, or a rare baseball card fetched several million dollars! These types of stories galvanised the industry and Collectibles became part of the fabric of the economy.

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With the advent of computer games and the internet, a new type of treasured commodity was introduced; that of the ‘Digital Collectible’. Initially introduced as something that could enhance your game-playing performance such as a more powerful sword or a more resistant armor, gamesplayers would be able to purchase these virtual items for their in-game character, allowing them to progress more easily to higher levels. In some games, you were allowed to trade these items with other players and so the concept of ‘Digital Collectibles’ was launched.

As these virtual items became more and more accepted, particularly due to the growth of games on mobile devices, the actual functionality of the item became less important as people began looking for ways to differentiate their character from everyone else. So clothing, adornments and other accessories were offered to make your character stand out from the others, or used as an expression of your own personality. The smash-hit game, ‘Fortnite’ was significant in that regard and offered players every type of ‘Skins’ where the cost (up to hundreds of dollars) was a reflection of that item’s rarity. This created a sea-change in the mass-acceptability of digital items, although the actual collectability element was yet to be established.

The problem with the long-term collectability of items in games like Fortnite is that they have a finite life. Effectively, when you ‘purchase’ an item, you are only really licensing it as one day in the future the game will eventually be decommissioned and taken offline… and all of those virtual items will cease to exist. But a new technology was poised to change the face of the entire digital market.

The Blockchain was introduced to most people when they read about cryptocurrency and discovered ‘virtual coins’ that increased in value from a few cents to 10s of $000s over a relatively short period. The perceived activities of money laundering, terrorism and drugs perpetuated by the media gave cryptocurrency a bad name and, by association, the blockchain. Fuelled by a fear and lack of understanding of what the blockchain actually was, any business involved in that area was viewed with mistrust, which was both unfair and unwarranted.

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Blockchain is a core technology which creates an immutable ‘ledger’ across a network of ‘hosts’. These hosts individually operate a complete record of the network, and the integrity of the network is maintained by all hosts agreeing on each new block to add. This creates permanent records of transactions which are stored and encrypted in such a way that they are essentially unhackable.

This means is you can have proof of a monetary transaction — and therefore ownership of an item — which is permanently on record and accessible to everyone as evidence of your title to that item, although stored in an anonymised state. In other words, when someone wants to authenticate the owner of a blockchain-recorded item, they are given a ‘wallet address’ comprised of 34 assorted characters. This Wallet Address is essentially your blockchain identity. This has nothing to do with cryptocurrency or Bitcoin but is simply the function of the blockchain: to record a transaction and hold a permanent record of it in a state where ownership is shared and so the data is not controlled by a single party. In fact, if the item in question is subsequently sold to another party, then not only is the ownership transferred accordingly but the records of previous transactions are still visible, allowing people to see the provenance (history) of that item in terms of ownership and value.

Which brings us to the new age of digital collectibles, powered by the blockchain. Earlier, we referred to the fact that once the game is decommissioned then any digital item purchased within that game also disappears. However, now the blockchain allows these digital items to exist permanently, regardless of whether the company who created it disappears. These items are ‘immutable’… and can even be specified as part of your estate and left in your will to your kids!

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But there is another advantage to blockchain with regard to digital collectibles — in addition to the provenance, the record of the item can display and certify any other feature, most important of which (in this context) is how many of this particular item/model/collectible has been minted. This is a demonstration of the authenticity of that item; if only 50 have been created then no more of this edition can be added. In other words, the rarity is ‘locked’ and the creator is unable to make more and sell/trade them as ‘original’. And that information is permanently on record for interested parties to check and verify. This type of virtual collectible is known as a Non-Fungible Token, or NFT, as it is recorded on the blockchain as a unique (‘non-fungible’) item.

So now we have a new, exciting market for Digital Collectibles, which affords authentication of ownership, record of provenance (history) and certification of rarity; something previously impossible in the traditional world of physical collectibles.

However, what has been lacking is the ‘tactile’ element that physical items afford. Most digital collectibles are 2D, inert images which, although minted in limited numbers and therefore offer a rarity value, have no intrinsic utility other than the few which are used in certain games. This is where Terra Virtua is breaking new ground and reinventing the concept of collecting. Creating collectibles from high-profile brands and original IP, Terra Virtua offers 3-dimensional, animated models which can interact, not only with you, but also with each other. To support this, there are 3 different platforms which enable these collectible models:

1) An AR app for mobile devices, allowing you to interact with your animated collectible and take a photo (or video) to post on your favourite social media channels.

2) A PC-based 3d ‘Fan-Cave’, which is a customisable room/environment allowing you to not only display all your 3D collectibles but also invite friends in to view and enjoy a social interaction with the environment and the items within.

3) A VR version of the Fan-Cave, enabling a fully-immersive social hub for you, your friends and your collectibles.

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All of the above is accessed by the main Terra Virtua hub — on which is the core trading platform for discovery and acquisition of our 3D digital collectibles with links to the 3 interactive platforms described.

This bold, innovative and exciting ecosystem is unique in concept and execution, in which we hope to bring the mainstream market into the world of Digital Collectibles to enjoy, make friends, trade, and maybe even make money through this new exciting market. This is just the beginning and we hope you will be part of it.

Gary Bracey

CEO — Terra Virtua

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