When I first started collecting NFTs (non-fungible tokens), I was enamored by the culture of collectors seemingly all from diverse yet similar backgrounds of gaming, tech, street culture, and collectors all calling me back to a time when I was younger and collected baseball and Pokémon cards, Pogs, Ninja Turtle action figures, or any other iconic cultural element from my past. In addition to the intriguing community of NFT collectors, investors, personalities, and sham artists, I found a re-kindled love of art and bought into a number of projects simply because I loved the art. I also quickly became addicted to the thrill of the chase as it related to NFTs: the WL grind, the constant search for alpha and new products, trait and rarity sniping off the floor. But most importantly, I became enamored with what NFT technology would mean for creators, brands, and the next generation of community-driven, crowdsourced business ideation.

During these first few months, I invested in winners, losers and everything else in between. I got a taste for it all but as I have learned more and as I have experienced different levels of community engagement, I've begun to develop a framework for collecting and investing in NFTs that I will take with me going forward. I feel as if this strategy for collecting and investing will serve me well whether the market is hot or cold as it places bets on the two things that I think are foundational in any industry getting off the ground: the people behind projects and teams who I feel are building for the future and not just hype cycles and floor price support. This means I have been consolidating into fewer and fewer projects that have these things: Adam Bomb Squad, Deadfellaz, Coolman's Universe, Capsule House, and the subject of this article Stapleverse. It is also important to note that in addition to being an investor in these projects, hoping to make a return on that investment in the future, I am also a collector of these projects, appreciative of the brand and the art. This means that even if the investments fail, I am happy with my decisions on these projects regardless.  

In this post, I will explore one of the projects I have invested in significantly, Stapleverse. I will explore why I learned to stop worrying about all of the typical concerns about NFT projects and love what Jeff Staple and the team are creating over at Stapleverse. I will talk about what aspects of the projects first chapter, Empire Staple Pigeonz, have made me go all in on this project and why I think they are a team and project worthy of my investment criteria; I will share why I believe they will come out the other side of any bear market and why they are building a brand to last the next 25 years, not just the next 25 months.

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: nothing in this article should be construed as financial advice; do your own research before making investments in any project. I am heavily invested in Stapleverse and own 17 hood pigeon NFTs, 2 poop gang NFTs, and 5 feed clan NFTs. It is my biggest holding of NFTs out of any collection.

Who is Jeff Staple and What is the Stapleverse?

Jeff Staple is a "creative visionary with work encompassing graphic design, fashion design, footwear design, and brand marketing." His work in fashion, brand marketing, and the creative process has led him to work with brands such as Nike, Sesame Street, Coca-Cola, and many many more. You can see the full breadth of his portfolio on jeffstaple.tv. My personal connection to him comes through his impact on the sneaker committee. He is the culture when it comes to sneakerheads most coveted drops and legendary sneakers, from his OG Pigeon Dunks to the What the Dunks and the Panda Pigeons. It is the belief in his brand and the value he has created with his innovative designs over the years that was my first indication that Stapleverse would be a project worth investing in. Jeff knows what it takes to a) create a brand that is relatable, engaging, yet highly valued and b) build a brand that lasts rather than a fad - Staple Pigeon, his clothing and streetwear brand has been in business since 1997. I'm excited to see what he does in the next 20 years.

Stapleverse is his brainchild that brings his brand into the web3 era and allows him to use non-fungible tokens to create the next level of brand experience for his iconic pigeon brand. The name of the new project being a simple combination of Staple and metaverse. The best introduction to the project are Jeff's words himself in this intro video to the project:

The first chapter of this new narrative journey into Jeff's mind was entitled Empire Staple Pigeonz and welcomed the community to the setting of New York City, the birthplace of the Staple brand and one of the cities that has been influential in Jeff's life and career! As the Stapleverse World section of the site reads, "The legend of the STAPLEVERSE begins in New York City. The birthplace of hip hop culture, sneaker culture, and street culture. The home of EMPIRE STAPLE PIGEONZ. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

So what does it take to not just survive, but thrive? A hustler’s mentality. An insatiable appetite to reach new heights. A willingness to risk it all for a chance to win big. If things don’t go according to plan, you gotta pick yourself up and get back in the air. Find solidarity in your crew. Are you with the FEED CLAN, HOOD SQUAD, or POOP GANG? Choose wisely. Things aren’t always just as they appear."

As soon as I read that introduction, I was hooked. Not only was this an NFT project by a brand and creator that I trusted, but it already seemed to bring innovation in terms of interactivity and storytelling with its multiple chapters, phases within those chapters, and character clans you could choose from. It combined a choose your own adventure novel with an NFT collection and then gamified it. This type of innovation that seeks to make use of on-chain choices and decisions by its community to drive forward a story intrigued me.

Now Feed Clans, Hood Squads, and Poop Gangs may not make sense right now but I'll explore each of these elements next. The important part to know is that they are all elements in a series of NFT drops and storylines, metagames on chain, and gaining exclusive access to the Staple Pigeon brand and community. So let's dive into Chapter 1: Empire Staple Pigeonz with a discussion of the introductory NFT collection and phase 1: Feed Clan.

Empire Staple Pigeonz: How to Feed a Community

Holders that were allowlisted to mint the project, minted 1 of 20 random food items native to the streets of New York. Some of these items were tasty and desirable, while others were less so. Feed ranged from NY staples like pizza, bagels and coffee to neighborhood based fairs like dumplings to trash and items found on the street such as joints and cigarette butts or subway tokens. The art by B Thom Stevenson, immediately stood out as something familiar but with the rough and tumble aesthetic of New York City. It immediately evoked childhood memories in me of food items that were special treats (a slice of New York pizza or a hot pretzel); the traits took that a step further by talking about the type of ladybug, flavor of pizza, strain of weed, etc. This type of individualization of the items was not only a way to encourage trait-based rarity trading by the market but also fed into theories of where the story would take us or if certain types of feed would be more beneficial during the Toss period.

I personally minted 4 feed based on allowlist spots I won in the project from being an active participant in the Discord and for owning some of the announcement NFTs from Jeff's Mirror post announcing the project. I was able to mint a rare ladybug (which I flipped for 4.4 ETH), a kebab, sunflower seeds and roasted nuts. These Feed NFTs would end up being the important entry into Phase II of Chapter Empire Staple Pigeonz: The Toss, where game theory would take effect and people would be asked to "burn" their Feed NFT for a random chance at a Hood Pigeon or Poop Gang NFT.  Or players could choose to keep their Feed NFTs and remain in the Feed Clan. Extremely dedicated collectors could collect all 20 types of feed and forever become a part of the Big Apple Guild! These collectors received a B.A.G NFT and hold a special place within the community! These on-chain choices came with consequences and perks for the rest of the Stapleverse experiment and narrative story.

Personally. I ended up selling my ladybug, burning my 3 other original feed items for 2 pigeons and a poop. I then ended up buying 5 feed items off of secondary (pictured below) so I could remain in the Feed clan and have mint passes/allowlist spots to the future chapters of the Stapleverse project. I tried to pick items that either had personal relevance to me (e.g. pizza as my favorite food and coffee as my morning beverage) or items that I thought would continue to be rare or valued by the community (tea, joints, dumplings). In addition to getting to participate in Feed clan activities, each group was dropped a free merch item for their participation and declaration to that group.

However, before we get to the effects of Toss and the other groups. I wanted to talk about community and how a group of hand drawn pictures of food brought one together. Because as we all know, without food, the pigeons wouldn't be attracted to the city to eat their meals and without them doing that there wouldn't be poop! The first thing to bring the community together in Phase I was the w3w (what 3 words) feature of the Feed NFTs. Each feed was tied to a particular location in New York City. Here is an example of my dumpling's w3w result: https://what3words.com/curve.after.goat! This geo-tagging of NFTs to particular locations in the metadata gave the community an IRL activity to do by traveling to each Feed sight in the city. It also got people sharing memories of those locations and different ways in which New York has effected them in their lives, similar to how NYC shaped Jeff Staple's life and career. This also gives the team options for more metagames down the road. You can tell these community elements were successful because not only did you have active Discord discussions but you had people consciously have to make decisions around burning a ~0.4 eth floor price burnable NFT to enter the next phase of the game! This created true game theory and the foundations for a lasting project, in my humble opinion!

Empire Staple Pigeonz: We Love the Pigeons

The Stapleverse wouldn't be the Stapleverse if there wasn't pigeons. The pigeon is the iconic brand symbol of Jeff's retail fashion streetwear brand Staple Pigeon. The Staple Pigeon website's about section provides the best description of how the pigeon logo evolved:

What started as a small T-Shirt line handmade by jeffstaple, grew organically and began to gain visibility in NYC. In the process of building this burgeoning brand, Nike asked jeffstaple in 2005 to create a special commemorative sneaker that would represent New York. The STAPLE x Nike Dunk Pro Low SB "NYC Pigeon" was conceived and lead to much fanfare upon its release and exposed Staple—as well as sneaker culture—to the masses.

STAPLE is now a world renowned brand which reflects the gritty and never-ending energy New Yorkers (and all urban dwellers) possess. It not only exists as a representation of New York, but The Pigeon is also the influence behind Staple’s extensive apparel range and collaborative items available across the world. Inspired by street culture and design, Staple’s reach encompasses many different landscapes such as fashion, music, sport, and art.

B Thom Stevenson adopted the pigeon to his own unique art style and added flourishes of New York's rough and tumble streets, iconic scenery, sports teams, and fashion. The team then added collection elements that we can only imagine will play a role in game mechanics down the road. Each pigeon comes from one of 15 "hoods" in New York ranging from Bed Stuy to Soho to Chinatown. There were 3 hoods selected in each of New York's 5 boroughs to arrive at the 15 that would be part of the Stapleverse narrative. There were also 7 "auras" that pigeons could have including love, sex, stability, power, intuition, creativity and consciousness. It has yet to be revealed the significance of these traits outside of statistical rarity. There were a number of "legendary" pigeons as well that were released as well, including my late night takeout pigeon, Spiderman, Ninja Turtle, New York Yankee and others! These legendaries were said to be critical to the story of phase 3 and I cannot wait to see how that narrative plays out.

What I love about the art is that each pigeon's hood and personality comes through. Each owner could literally write a whole background to their pigeon and in fact, Stapleverse held a fantastic community engagement event, encouraging their community to do exactly that! I also think there are enough metagames and on-chain mechanics possibilities that come out of this for phase 3 that it started encouraging me to think about what strategy and game theory I wanted to adopt going forward. My strategy is now to collect all 15 hoods (I have 14 - Stapleton, I'm coming for you), all 7 auras (I have 4), and a legendary pigeon (I have 1). I think this will pay off whether it's a staking mechanic, a story about birthing eggs in the birdhouse to create the next generation of birds, a story of flight and migration to a different city and chapter, trait-based royalties for Staple Pigeon streetwear, hoods banding together in mini-games, the key to future collabs or drops (metapigeon 2.0) or an exercise in building the Staple Pigeon IP. Having multiple pigeons has already been a key part of raffles for legendary Staple-branded Nike shoes, raffle entries to amazing NFT projects, token-gated access to exclusive Staple merch (Nasa x Anicorn watch, only 250 ever made, and Sesame Street plushes). It has been an investment that has paid off. However, while the possibilities are endless going forward, I am confident that having an extensive coop of pigeons (you can see mine above!) with a variety of hoods and traits will be important going forward.

Empire Staple Pigeonz: Where There's Pigeons, There's Poop

The poop gang is one of the most intriguing groups out of the 3 possible factions in the Stapleverse. Like their name represents, they are a bunch of little shits and just like in life dealing with little shits or literal shit is messy, chaotic and a fact of life. During Toss, one of the first actions of Poop Gang was to hijack one of Jeff Staple's spaces and tell them they were kidnapping 500 pigeons from the possible stash of pigeons to be held in a treasury vault. They would later use these pigeons to win one of the raffles for the legendary "what the dunks" and also store those in their vault. Like I said, they are little shits. This collective action and branding of their personal edgy style from the beginning, set the stage for them to form and operate as more of an autonomous collection within the Stapleverse, a DAO-like entity, if you will. Their mission is to stir up shit but operate for the collective good. My strategy here was to own a couple so I would have voting/governance power in what was to come but also because I felt as if owning all 3 clans was a good gameplay strategy moving forward.

My two pigeons can be seen above. The art isn't what you would describe as your typical profile pic (PFP) project; after all, who would want their avatar to be poop?! But the art is representative of the messy parts of life, where poop can cover every aspect of our lives (our finances, our relationships, our favorite places). The artist represented these as different backgrounds (familiar brands, locations, or monuments) with different poop splatter and graffiti tags (representative of NY street art) over them. The poop was big, small, messy or miraculous and somewhat beautiful, as represented by the poop in my collection that looks like a pigeon with Jeff Staple's face in it. To me the aesthetics of this part of the project was a reminder to embrace the messy parts of life as necessary to growth and evolution.

I am the least sure about how Poop Gang will effect Phase III and beyond of the project. But I do know that they'll continue to be a playful antagonist to the other two clans and a forcing function to embrace the improbable and unexpected in the game. They will certainly cause trouble but I think there is a lot of potential for the Poop Gang to use their collective governance power and extensive treasury for good. They could use their captured pigeons to participate in WL raffles and then distribute those to the broader web3 community, democratizing access to other projects. They could sell their pigeons building a war chest to sweep the floors of their own or other projects. They could build brand IP around poop and enter into partnership agreements with other blue chip projects to create poop-wrapped versions of their NFTs. They could use their governance power to influence future chapters of the game or build out their own missions within this web3 space that is in its infancy. While the possibilities are endless, it is harder to nail down where poop gang will land but I am excited to be a part of the ride.

In conclusion, it was a combination of incredible art, an amazing brand IP and storytelling/narrative foundation, a tight-knit community brought together by interests around streetwear, sneakers, and hip-hop, and a technology platform that enables pushing the envelope of what's possible with NFTs in web 3 through on-chain mechanics that blend with real world experiences that caused me to stop worrying about all of the troubles of the NFT space and to love the Stapleverse for everything it is and might become! It may not work out as an investment, but I know I will certainly enjoy being along for the ride and am excited to contribute as an active member in this community and story we are building together. If you have any questions, pop in the Discord and say hi (ryancsmith.eth#7772), say hi on Twitter (@ryancsmith2222) or find me on OpenSea (https://opensea.io/ryancsmith-eth)! COO! COO! SQUAWK! my fellow pigeons!