You can now own a Ferrari through this new digital token

CurioInvest and Merj Exchange are partnering to offer tokens backed by collectible cars

A computer monitor displays data on the temperature, fan speed and hash rate of graphics processing units as they mine cryptocurrency pools for Electroneum in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Cryptocurrencies are not living up to their comparisons with gold as a store of value, tumbling Monday as an equities sell-off in Asia extended the biggest rout in global stocks in two years.  Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Always dreamed of owning a Ferrari but can't afford one? Well, this may sound vaguely familiar but blockchain has a solution for you.

CurioInvest, an investment platform, and Merj Exchange, a Seychelles-based digital asset exchange, are partnering to offer tokens backed by collectible cars.

The companies said the investment strategy could make the luxury assets widely accessible to a bigger pool of people.

"You can have a guy in Uganda who's able to invest in a rare car that's kept in a vault in Stuttgart, 'tokenised' by a company in Liechtenstein and it all fits within this recognised regulatory environment," Jim Needham, head of digital strategy at Merj, said.

“It’s a perfect illustration of what this, as a tool, what blockchain technology and distributed ledger technology can do to democratise the capital markets.”

CT1, as the token is known, is part of resurgence of offerings emerging amid a recent bounce in cryptocurrency prices.

The method, which lets companies bypass the venture capital process and allows investors to purchase fractions of an asset, originally gained traction during the cryptocurrency craze in 2017 and 2018.

Back then, hundreds of companies took advantage of the situation to raise billions in funding.

The bubble burst after regulators started to crack down on initial coin offerings, citing fraud and questionable practices from a number of ICOs that cost their investors millions in funds.

New offerings slowed significantly over the past year after topping out at $5.8 billion (Dh21.3bn) in July 2018. Companies raised about $11 million in January, according to data compiled by CoinSchedule.

But CurioInvest and Merj are betting that the value of rare and collectible assets – which includes vintage cars, wines, and jewellery, among other things – will continue to appreciate.

Vintage cars, for instance, had returns of more than 330 per cent in the 10 years through 2017, according to a Knight Frank report.

The two companies are planning to bring as many as 500 collectible cars worth over $200 million on to the exchange.

The cars, of which a $1.1m Ferrari will be among the first on the slate to be "tokenised", will be stored and maintained in a vault in Germany.

Unfortunately, token holders won’t be able stop by to drive the cars.

“When you look at fine art, collectible cars, they have been perceived historically as safe havens,” said Fernando Verboonen, founder and chief executive of CurioInvest.

“They’re held by very few and by bringing a different technology, we’re making it truly possible for everyone to benefit from those features or traits that define the asset class as a whole.”

Exotic cars have for years played a central part in the world of digital assets. In 2018, they became the ultimate status symbol for many rags-to-riches traders who built wealth in a field they hoped would dismantle the traditional world of finance.

And the CurioInvest-MERJ partnership isn’t the first to issue a token backed by rare or collectible cars: BitCar, a blockchain platform, issued a whitepaper on its collectible exotic cars' token in 2017.

Among the newest batch of offerings is SardineCoin, a digital token backed by “vintage” canned sardines. It’s being offered by MY Sardines, a Luxembourg company that’s betting on the storability and durability of the densely-packed fish, which the company says can last hundreds of years as a collectible.

There's also the Bananacoin, which is pegged to the export price of 1 kilogram of bananas, and the notorious Dogecoin, which has a market capitalisation of close to $300m.

But the CurioInvest-Merj venture stands out because it's properly regulated, said Mr Needham.

“The technology is really only half of the story – the other half is about proper regulation,” he said.

“You’re talking about a very well-regulated, well put-together offering that will be listed on a full securities exchange. I might be wrong but I think that’s probably different to someone 'tokenising' vintage sardines.”