China's endearing Olympics panda does brisk trade on blockchain

As the Beijing Winter Olympics wraps up, the craze for acquiring a Bing Dwen Dwen, the panda mascot for the games, has persisted, now expanding into the digital art market supported by blockchain technology.

On Friday, a San Francisco-based mobile-game company called nWayPlay rolled out its second batch of 200 Legendary Box packages containing the digital pins to several non-fungible tokens (NFTs) featuring images of the mascot. The panda-themed NFTs are authorized by the International Olympics Committee.

The NFTs are non-interchangeable units of data stored on a blockchain to offer public certificates of authenticity or ownership of digital artworks. The blockchain technology features an immutable data record that can be used and shared within a decentralized and publicly accessible network.

Each Legendary Box is officially priced 349 U.S. dollars, much more expensive than a stuffed toy figurine, which sells for about 30 dollars. However, the digital pins were sold out only three days after their launch.

"Bing Dwen Dwen is a panda, an emblematic animal in China, clothed in a full body suit of ice ... symbolises the physical and mental power of Olympians," reads the description.

"I missed out on the Beijing Epic box drop, so I'm excited to get a chance at a Legendary box," @TimMount tweeted.

According to the nWayPlay online marketplace, a bidder on Friday paid 996 dollars for a Short Track Speed Skating variant NFT.

On Feb. 12, nWayPlay tested the water by dropping its first batch of 500 pieces, which was named Epic Box and priced at 99 dollars. They sold out immediately, with one bidder paying 1,888 dollars, according to the trading record.

The mania for the winter-sports-equipped mascot in digital form came amidst a frenzy of shopping for the physical version, with aficionados forming long queues for hours in front of authorized stores in China.