Massive NFT collection crashes after creator's 'racist' cartoons unearthed

It may be the first time a high-profile NFT collection has been damaged by accusations of racism.

Daniel Van Boom Senior Writer
Daniel Van Boom is an award-winning Senior Writer based in Sydney, Australia. Daniel Van Boom covers cryptocurrency, NFTs, culture and global issues. When not writing, Daniel Van Boom practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, reads as much as he can, and speaks about himself in the third person.
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Daniel Van Boom
3 min read

The Jungle Freaks NFTs have crashed in price.

Jungle Freaks

NFTs are steadily becoming less niche and more mainstream -- and with more exposure comes more responsibility. In what was the first example of a major nonfungible token brand contending with allegations of racism, a popular NFT collection saw a huge price crash on Nov. 1 after the designer behind it was accused of drawing racist cartoons in the 1970s. 

The project in question is called Jungle Freaks, and is what's known as a "profile pic collection." It's a set of 10,000 hand-drawn NFTs, each with different properties that, like Pokemon cards, make some more valuable than others. Launching on Oct. 16, it had a "floor price" of 1.45 Ether as of Oct. 31. That means the cheapest, most common Jungle Freaks were selling for $6,260. Rarer NFTs were trading for much higher, like this Jungle Freak that sold for $95,000

Much of the project's success was tied to George Trosley, the designer of the NFTs. Trosley is a famous cartoonist, whose works have appeared in Hustler magazine since its inception in 1974. On Nov. 1, some of those '70s Hustler works were circulated on Twitter and on several Discord servers. Due to their confronting racist imagery, which includes but is not limited to depictions of the Ku Klux Klan, I won't embed the cartoons in this story. You can find them here, but be warned. They are discomforting. 

Their online circulation caused the price of Jungle Freaks to drop precipitously. The floor price dropped about 80%, to between 0.2 and 0.3, in the day following the cartoons' circulation. One owner to sell was actor Elijah Wood, who was known to hold several Jungle Freaks. He tweeted out a statement calling the racist cartoons "disturbing," adding that he's sold his Jungle Freaks NFTs and donated the funds to Black Lives Matter.  At the time of this update, on Dec. 6, the floor is .299 ether ($1,209).

In a YouTube video published Nov. 2, Trosley and his son George III, who manages the Jungle Freaks collection, said the comics were intended to shine a light on racism in America during the '70s. "The illustrations that I was contacted to drawn, some over 40 years ago, have been taken out of context," Trosley wrote in a statement on Twitter. "Today's generation may not have an understanding of what was taking place in journalism and the world during my time at Hustler magazine." 

In a followup Medium post, the senior Trosley wrote: "I am not a racist, nor was I ever a rogue racist cartoon artist during my time at Hustler Magazine; which unfortunately is the current narrative being portrayed within the NFT community." He added that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt was shot in 1978 by a white supremacist who was upset that the publication featured a spread including an interracial couple. 

On Friday, Dec. 3., the Trosley's announced they had donated $100,000 to Florida Memorial University, an institution focused on scholarships and education for African Americans. 

While cryptocurrencies live or die based on hype or market sentiment, community involvement is a strong element of successful NFT collections. This is because a collection's value is to a large extent determined by the lowest price one owner is willing to sell it for. The price fluctuations of Jungle Freaks in the coming weeks and months will test how a high-profile, profit-seeking NFT community responds to accusations of racism. 

Hustler didn't respond to a request for comment.

Update, Dec. 6: Adds Medium post and news of donation to Florida Memorial University.