Stock-trading apps such as Robinhood and Stash allow users to trade whole or fractional shares of company stock, but how does that translate into artworks, collectibles and fashion pieces?
Today, Otis, the culture investment app, launches its trading feature that allows users to buy shares of previously released assets on the market. Trading brings liquidity to the investment experience, where now investors can sell shares for money instead of waiting for Otis to sell the asset for profit or appraise the piece, the company said.
“From a user perspective, we hope Otis Trading feels like an integral part of the Otis experience and less like some separate part of the app,” said Otis founder Michael Karnjanaprakorn, who first discussed the concept in 2019 with the opening of Otis’ East Village gallery. “Investing via trading is fundamentally no different than investing via one of our drops. The only difference is that you’re buying the share from another Otis member rather than directly from Otis. That said, the availability of trading should make all of the cultural assets on Otis more attractive in that they potentially become far more liquid.”
Otis has made three assets on its app available for trading: Kehinde Wiley’s “Saint Jerome Hearing the Trumpet of Last Judgment,” Takashi Murakami and Virgil Abloh’s “DOB and Arrows: Patchwork Skulls” and The Incredible Hulk issue number 181, notable for the debut of the Wolverine character.
Prior to launching this feature, Otis did 12 sneaker drops this year, including Nike Inc. and Jordan’s collaboration with Travis Scott, the “Freddy Krueger” Nike Dunks and a collection of sneakers curated by Chris Gibbs. The app also added the Air Jordan 1 High Dior sneakers to its portfolio.
Though sneakers have been popular investment assets as of late on resale apps, platforms and auction houses, Karnjanaprakorn said Otis users have also been investing in “highly culturally relevant” drops.
“We focus a lot on vetting every asset on our platform from an investment case standpoint, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that cultural relevance is right up there in terms of importance for many of our members,” he said. “The Banksy painting we dropped, which was sort of a commentary on the police, did really well, the LeBron James rookie card we just dropped sold out in less than 15 minutes and the Nike x Travis Scott collection we dropped sold out in about eight. These items have very little in common other than their strong cultural relevance.”
The pandemic spurred increased sneaker trading activity, and did the same for Otis as well. As the future seemed uncertain at the beginning months of lockdown due to COVID-19, many looked to sell off their collections for quick cash or bought low to sell high when things rebound.
“If anything, COVID-19 has caused demand to increase,” said Karnjanaprakorn. “I think there are two factors at play here. The first is that people are looking for ways to diversify their investment portfolios and investing in art and collectibles can be a great way to do that. The second is that people are looking for more ways to connect with the things they care about. Otis checks both of these boxes.”
He added, “The one big way that COVID-19 negatively affects us is that we really want our members to be able to see the assets on our platform in person — and the pandemic has obviously made any live events really challenging. We’re looking forward to when we can start getting people into our space again.”