“My biggest triumph is probably just making a difference in a few photographers’ lives. The money I spend on photos will sometimes make a huge difference for those people. The biggest challenge is self-restraint”
Jeff Excell (@jeffexcell) is a collector, hospitality group owner, and self-proclaimed NFT degen. He has a background in and lifelong appreciation of skateboarding, and travel, with a surprising ability to fall backward into jobs he didn’t realize he was capable of doing. He has a degree in French from the prestigious San Francisco State University and owns four restaurants. In his own words, he’s a “middle-aged white dude from California who somehow ended up in the midwest.”
Jeff’s unpretentious demeanor and easy-going nature proceed him. He’s known for his transparency when it comes to sharing his perspectives as a collector, and online is almost always willing to guide artists and collectors who are just beginning to learn about NFTs. His collection is as diverse and varied as his interests, which include the work of Hannah Whitaker, Emily Swift, Benson Apah, Maciek Jasik, and Cody Cobb among many others.
In our conversation, we talk about how he balances his financial constraints with his drive to support the photographic arts, as well as, going from celebrated collector to launching his very own NFT collection.
Art3: What was your first introduction to NFTs and how long after did you begin collecting?
Jeff: It took me about 4-5 months to get in. I first saw Bored Apes when they came out and everyone was talking about them in the crypto bubble. At first, I honestly kind of hated them, even though I ended up owning one at one point. I bought an ape at around 16eth and rode it up and then got a mutant. I had a false sense that it was always going to be that easy and have been chasing that kind of money ever since. Haha.
Art3: If you could only keep one of the NFTs you have collected, which would it be?
Jeff: That is hard. Part of me wants to say my World of Women Night Goddess because it is my most valuable, but honestly, that value doesn’t mean anything except money. There are a lot of photographs that I connect to Joe Robles, Julie Pacino, Omar Robles, Matthew Morocco, and Joey L. But I am not gonna pick a favorite photographer. That’s too hard.
I would keep Jeez, who is my favorite character from the collection my friend @helloCDR and I are creating. Our project is called @Bighugsnft and it’s coming out in a few months. It’s an incredible amount of work though and I love doing it.
GM!!! 👀 Here's a new sneak peek at some of our HUGS.— BigHugsNFT (@bighugsnft) April 19, 2022
Can't wait to share the full spectrum of our art with you. We are SO much more than HUGS. We are a universe of emotional moments explored by many characters. More to come!
Help us grow the Big Hugs family. Tell your friends! pic.twitter.com/W6QJJwcy8e
Art3: Did you collect art before the blockchain? If so, does that inform how you collect digital art?
Jeff: I completed 3 years of a photography degree, painted, and created art for a long time. My bedroom at my parents’ house is packed full of it, but it’s all my own. I never had the money to collect before crypto, but feel like my background in art and photography helps me now that I do.
Art3: There’s a lot of talk in the community about how long to hold artwork and when to engage with the secondary market. Do you employ a strategy with your collection?
Jeff: With NFT photography I’m pretty strict about not selling (yet). If I have collected two works from the same collection then I intend to eventually sell one of them, but the secondary market for photography and 1/1s is not where I want it to be yet. With PFPs, I’m a pretty active trader. I make some money on the side flipping stuff I don’t care too much about.
Art3: Who are some of the artists that you think deserve attention right now?
Jeff: Yatreda’s ‘Strong Hair’ collection is what I consider to be one of the tops right now, JoeyL.eth seems underrated, Matthew Morrocco’s ‘Complicit’ collection is also insanely good, Omar Robles is a fantastic photographer and community builder, and ‘This is What Hatred Did’ by Cristina De Middel is a masterpiece and Mia Forrest’s work. There are so many really.
Honestly, I mention the artists who I think need more attention in my own gallery though.
As many of you know I’ve been fighting a huge case regarding my art and have suffered incredible injustices at the hands of the justice system. Here is my story and work for the New York Times. It will be on the front page of Sunday’s Paper (Thread)https://t.co/A3kDoh4N6P pic.twitter.com/JFQZMMXfJU— Drift (@DrifterShoots) June 4, 2021
Art3: What do you believe your primary role as a collector is?
Jeff: To talk about what I like and shining a light on collections is what I’m decent at. That’s really the biggest thing. What I have a hard time with is NOT talking about what I don’t like, but it’s made me into a more positive and better person in general.
Ideally, I want to buy beautiful art. It’s hard recently because I have been spending a lot of my money on getting my NFT collection going.
Art3: What has been your biggest triumph and your most challenging lesson since you began collecting?
Jeff: Honestly, my biggest challenge has been not losing my shirt financially. Thankfully, I’ve been able to balance it out. Photography NFTs are not something anyone can get rich on (except the artist if you sell a lot). Flipping them doesn’t really happen. When people complain that there are not enough collectors, they’re essentially asking people to buy your art for art’s sake. I don’t think a lot of those people are in the crypto/nft world yet. There are some, but not a lot. NFTs for a lot of people are financial vehicles, and as such, it’s hard to convince someone to part with 10k for a photo they will never be able to sell again.
My biggest triumph is probably just making a difference in a few photographers’ lives. The money I spend on photos will sometimes make a huge difference for those people. The biggest challenge is self-restraint. Accolades and people liking you is nice. People like people with money who are spending it on them. I have to hold myself back to pay taxes or plan for my daughters’ schooling which is challenging because I’m human and I like to be liked. It’s very easy for me to notice when I have to stop spending as much. My Twitter engagement went way down, and honestly, I haven’t talked to a lot of photographers since. Who knows maybe that is a coincidence. Life probably caught up to them too and they also couldn’t constantly engage. That is life and I’m not complaining and everything doesn’t revolve around me, so I expect that. The highs of buying can be intoxicating, and some of the lows of not being able to participate are hard. Compared to people without food or in a war zone, I have ZERO to complain about.
I’m thankful for the people who are still in the community, as well as the art and photos I have collected. They are worth everything to me.