May 24th - This Week in Alternative Investments

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  • Ethereum ETFs are coming

  • OpenAI’s rough week

  • A $30 million Babe Ruth jersey

  • Spring art auction roundup

Plus: More crypto legislation passes, the whiskey market, an Elvis auction (and an update on Graceland), and much more.

Upcoming Event

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Market Updates

Ethereum on a dark leather surface.

The SEC approved a rule change that will allow Ethereum exchange-traded funds (ETFs). This comes after Bitcoin ETFs hit the market in mid-January, and its price has grown by nearly 50% since then. There is similar optimism for Ethereum’s prospects, and while its price has stayed mostly flat since the announcement was made, it is up 28% in the last week as anticipation for the decision fueled demand. Meanwhile, the London stock exchange approved exchange-traded products for both Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are set to start trading in the next week. As crypto continues to become more accessible to mainstream investors, it is likely to see a rise in demand, and perhaps a continued rise in value.

OpenAI faced two separate controversies. The first comes from actress Scarlett Johansson, who was “shocked and angered” by the voice of OpenAI’s new ChatGPT-4o model, which many noted for its similarity to Johansson’s voice. The actress revealed that founder Sam Altman had approached her to voice the model last year, but that she turned him down, so the similarity seems intentional. Altman tweeting “her,” in a likely reference to a 2013 movie where Johansson voices an AI, did the company no favors. For now, they pulled the voice after Johansson threatened legal action. The other controversy came when former employees revealed that they were pressured into signing non-disparagement clauses or risk losing vested equity shares. The company quickly backtracked on that, as well, but all this bad publicity is a tough look for a company that is already struggling to gain the mainstream’s trust.

(Heritage Auctions)

The jersey from Babe Ruth’s famed “called shot” will be auctioned in August. The authenticated and photo-matched jersey from Game 3 of the 1932 World Series is expected to become the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold when it goes on the block at Heritage Auctions later this summer. The estimated value of $30 million is nearly triple the current record of $10.1 million held by a Michael Jordan jersey, and over double the $12.6 million record for any sports collectible held by a Mickey Mantle baseball card. The jersey last sold in 2005 for $940,000, but the recent photo-match to one of baseball’s most famous moments has increased its value exponentially.

The New York spring art auction season generated $1.4 billion in sales for the four major auction houses. This was on the low end of estimates, which were pegged between $1.3 billion and $1.8 billion. The results did prove better than some pessimistic predictions, particularly after Christie’s suffered a hack that kept their website down throughout the period. Still, the marquee evening auctions saw a 22% drop from last year and a 55% drop from 2020. The repercussions from the middling results may continue into the fall art auction season, as potential sellers hold onto works rather than sell in what is perceived as a down market.

Smart Humans Podcast

In this episode of Smart Humans, Slava Rubin talks with Carry's Ankur Nagpal about tax optimization and getting the best return from your investments.


📝 Top Stories

  • Crypto legislation: FIT21, the first major piece of crypto-related legislation, passed the House this week with bipartisan support, and aims to give clarity to the industry about which tokens would fall under the SEC’s purview. It also sets a path for certain types of cryptocurrencies to be traded and used by Americans.

  • Home sales fall: According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of existing-home sales fell by 1.9% in April and the median sale price rose by 5.7% from 2023.

  • The Scotch market: A look at the secondary market for collectible whiskeys, with an emphasis on patience and diversification.

Exclusive Event: Today at 3 PM ET, VC Files’ brings you a discussion with Sophie Liao of Oyster Ventures. This is a Republic Note holder-only event. Get Notes to secure the invite.

 🎨 Art

Emmi Whitehorse’s “Canyon Lake I” (Phillips)

  • Beating expectations: While the overall auction results were at the low end of expectations, there were certainly works that sold for way beyond pre-auction estimates, including Emmi Whitehorse’s “Canyon Lake I,” which sold for $177,800 compared to its $12,000-$18,000 estimate.

  • More takeaways: The New York Times offers their analysis of last week’s auctions, with five main takeaways, including the fallout from the Christie’s hack and the rise of third-party guarantees.


  • Elvis’ bible: A number of items once owned by the King are up for auction, including a personalized Bible found on his nightstand after his death, which currently has a bid of $35,000.

  • Snoop Dogg’s auction: As the market for music memorabilia continues to boom, the pioneering rapper is auctioning off 135 of his own items, which ensures the items are authentic, and paves the way for more authorized auctions in the music space.

  • The Messi napkin sells: The first agreement between soccer club Barcelona and Lionel Messi sold for £762,400 against an initial estimate of between £300,000-£500,000.

🪙 Crypto

  • Genesis settlement: The bankrupt crypto lender reached a deal with the New York attorney general, and will pay $2 billion in restitution to investors, whose accounts have been frozen since November 2022.

💵 Private Credit


  • Dry powder at record highs: Private credit funds are awash in cash waiting to be deployed, but lowered demand and increased competition is making it hard to find deals. This could lead to weaker underwriting standards and lower returns in the asset class.

  • J.P. Morgan looking to expand: The banking giant is looking to add to its private credit business and recently looked into acquiring Chicago-based Monroe Capital, which oversees $19 billion in private credit assets, but the deal ultimately fell through.

🏡 Real Estate

Joseph Novak / Flickr

  • Graceland is not for sale: Elvis’ former home was set to be sold at foreclosure auction scheduled for yesterday, but a judge ruled the attempt was possibly fraudulent, after a challenge by Elvis’ granddaughter, the actress Riley Keough. Now, the company that tried to auction the property has dropped its claim, ensuring that the iconic mansion is off the market.

  • Real estate is #1: Americans ranked real estate as the best long-term investment for the 11th straight year, beating out out stocks, gold, savings accounts, bonds and crypto.

  • U.S. home prices hit another record high: The median U.S. home sale price hit $433,558, a 6.2% gain year-over-year, in large part due to a lack of new supply over that time period.

🚀 Venture Capital

  • Coreweave’s debt raise: Only weeks after a $1.1 billion equity raise, the AI infrastructure startup raised $7.5 billion in debt financing, led by Blackstone.

  • Synapse bankruptcy: The failure of the banking-as-a-service (BaaS) startup last month has led to hundreds of thousands of frozen accounts on a number of different fintech services, and is raising questions about the future of BaaS as a whole.

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