How To Tell If An NFT Is Real: A Quick Guide For Savvy Collectors


Just because something is on the blockchain doesn’t mean its authentic. I know this may sound wild, as the blockchain’s whole thing is verifying authenticity through decentralization isn’t it? When it comes to NFTs you want to make sure that what you are buying is really what it claims to be. Where it gets complicated is that the blockchain is great for showing you that an item in fact exists and the history of it, but that doesn’t give provenance.

From a technical perspective, nothing is stopping me from uploading an image of the Mona Lisa to a popular NFT marketplace, but if I did, we all know its not “real.” So how do you identify what is authentic on the blockchain and what isn’t?

Verified Collections: Ensuring Legitimacy

Verified collections are the easiest way to tell if something is really from the artist or collection that it claims to be from. Verified collections are groups of NFTs by either an artist or project that a marketplace is certifying.

For example, Opensea, one of the most popular marketplace’s for NFTs uses a blue badge to show if an account is verified. For Opensea, the requirements for this are around a minimum trading volume as well as some additional account metrics. Depending on where you are shopping, you will want to look into what verification actually means.

Some marketplaces may verify based on looser qualifications such as connecting a twitter account that is also verified (which can be bought). A verification badge from this process means little more than that someone linked it to another account.

The more you trust the marketplace and its policies for verification, the more you can trust that a verified NFT or NFT collection in that marketplace is authentically from the creation or collection it seems to be from.

But with trade volume as a requirement for verification, it is very possible that collections from an artist aren’t verified and are genuine and the other way around. So how else can you tell?

Provenance In Art And Collectibles

In the art world, we like to talk about provenance. Provenance refers to the origin of an item and often its history of ownership, and is important in tangible art as well as digital collectibles.

Consider a painting at the Museum of Modern Art. As a collector or appreciator, I may not know the whole story of the work, but I can assume that because it is being shown by a reputable institution that it is real.

Likewise, if I have a personal connection with an artist, I can trust that the art I buy from them directly is in fact theirs and was created by them.

What the blockchain brings to the market is a publicly accessible history of the NFT you are considering buying. You can see what other digital items have been minted to the blockchain from the same smart contract or creator, and which other wallet addresses have owned this NFT in the past.

While investigating this takes work, it can quickly help you identify “fakes.”

Verified accounts, as we talked about above are one great way of checking the provenance of an NFT. If you know that the account you see on a marketplace is from the actual artist/creator, then you can trust anything on their page is real.

Alternatively, we have to look at the blockchain itself.

How To Track Provenance On The Blockchain

When you are looking at any website, you are choosing how you trust or interpret what the website shows you. This is true for any content on the web from wikipedia, to Google search results to NFT marketplaces.

With so many NFT marketplaces, and websites that allow the creation and minting of NFTs, for each one you are putting their trust into what they show you based on their brand and you own experiences.

If you want to get to the source and verify that the content you are being shown is accurate to what is on the blockchain you have two choices.

Choice 1: Learn how to interface with the blockchain in question directly (which is a bit too involved to go into here)

Choice 2: Go to a trustworthy site built to explore the contents of that blockchain.

One such site for the popular blockchain Ethereumethereum
is Etherscan.

Etherscan allows you to look at the content and transactions that are on the blockchain so you can make your own judgement calls around what is going on within a particular smart contract.

Screenshot of the World of Women NFT Smart Contract on Etherscan


The screenshot above is for the smart contract for the popular NFT collection World of Women. By looking at the transaction volume, reading the smart contract yourself (if you are code savvy), seeing who is buying and selling. Comparing the transactions here with the transaction history seen on Opensea, and talked about in social media, all lets me know that this is the real deal.

Determining The Real Value Of NFTs

A major component in the value of art of any collectible relates to its authenticity. If you want to have a landscape hung from the wall of your living room, you can buy whatever frames poster or picture you find online, but if you want to collect something by an artist, are into collectible cards, or are part of the Pogs revival, you want to make sure that what you are buying is real, otherwise it doesn’t have the value of the brand or creator behind it.

The same is true for NFTs. You may be able to change your Twitter icon to show an NFT that is actually a copy of a major collection, but just like walking down the street with a $30 knockoff Birkin, you know yourself its fake, and you won’t be able to sell it to anyone serious.

Minting, Counterfeits, And Blockchain Misconceptions

Would you buy a fake watch, handbag, or other fashion accessory. For some people its not a big deal. They want the look without the price. But buying into an established bring is often about more than fashion.

When you buy into luxury goods, or display art from a world renown creator, you are showing your status. Its like joining a club, and the difficulty of getting these coveted items and the expenses they took to obtain are just as much a part of the journey as owning the item itself.

The same is true when it comes to digital goods. Take the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club collection of NFTs. As one of the most coveted collections, they demand a steep price and are owned by a slew of prominent celebrities. If you buy a “fake” you could still display it as your profile photo on Twitter, but it would not put you in the same proverbial club as the other holders.

How Do Scammers Make Fake NFTs?

To understand how a fake NFT can come to exist requires understanding how they are created.

An NFT is really just a bit of data stored on a blockchain. We talk about them like they are magic, but really that is it. How that data gets written to the chain is through a script of code called a smart contract. The code in that script (which is also stored on the blockchain) controls who will have future to update, add to the transaction history, and perform other actions on the NFT.

While the format and data inside the NFT can vary wildly, there are several established standards for each blockchain for how this is written. A particularly popular one for Ethereum being ERC-721.

Often, the image that we think of as the NFT isn’t even kept on the blockchain and instead is stored in the way we would keep any traditional image on the web, or in some cases in a decentralized storage solution. There are some rare exceptions though that include the image data in the NFT itself.

With this in mind, anyone can create a smart contract and deploy it to a blockchain and use that to make NFTs, and they can have the content of those NFTs and the images that they link to be anything that they want.

Making Smart Choices

To ensure that you are making wise, well-informed decisions, invest time in researching the NFT’s history, the blockchain it’s hosted on, and the verification processes employed by the marketplace you’re browsing.

By going the extra mile in your due diligence, you’ll not only avoid falling prey to counterfeit NFTs, but also bolster your confidence in the value and legitimacy of your collection. After all, the true essence of collecting, whether it’s tangible art or digital assets, lies in the appreciation of the creator’s work and the sense of connection it brings to a community of like-minded enthusiasts.


Post Disclaimer

The information provided in our posts or blogs are for educational and informative purposes only. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information. We do not provide financial or investment advice. Readers should always seek professional advice before making any financial or investment decisions based on the information provided in our content. We will not be held responsible for any losses, damages or consequences that may arise from relying on the information provided in our content.


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