• The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection consists of artwork Ulbricht has done behind bars and throughout his childhood
  • The collection will be minted on Ethereum

Ross Ulbricht, a renowned bitcoin proponent who was sentenced to life in prison after founding e-commerce platform Silk Road, is creating and auctioning off non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection consists of artwork Ulbricht has done behind bars and throughout his childhood, which he described as a depiction of “his [life] story” in a blog post. 

“Suddenly, sitting in prison, I had time for drawing again. I reconnected with my artistic side, producing illustrations that told the story I was going through,” Ulbricht said. “I was able to connect to those of you in the free world through my art. The isolation I felt was tempered by it.” 

The collection of 10 NFTs will be minted on Ethereum and sold on SupeRare’s platform until next Wednesday. The highest bid for the auction (which started today) is currently at over $1 million worth of ether. 

Silk Road holds a momentous position in the history of cryptocurrency, making Ulbricht a bitcoin hero to some and controversial to many.  

Starting in 2011 and until his arrest in 2013, Silk Road allowed anonymous shoppers to buy anything, as long as it didn’t harm a third party, using bitcoin. Goods offered ranged from drugs, Fake IDs, art and more. 

Ulbricht, whose story became the subject of American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, was eventually arrested in a San Francisco public library and later convicted of seven charges including conspiracy to traffic narcotics, conspiracy to computer hacking and money laundering by means of the internet.

Ross, a first-time offender, is serving a double life sentence plus 40 years, without the possibility of parole. This inordinately long sentence has galvanized supporters to find ways to help him and others like him who find themselves behind bars.

“In America, you’re not supposed to give a death in prison sentence in a situation where no one’s been prosecuted for inflicting any bodily harm,” his mother, Lyn Ulbricht, said in a Twitter space on Wednesday. 

Art by Ross Ulbricht
Source: Ross Ulbricht

According to Ulbricht’s mother, proceeds from the NFT auction will be donated to charity, specifically for “helping the incarcerated.”

“Ross wants to use his art to help people. And we’re starting out with helping the incarcerated [and their families with] the suffering they go through,” Lyn said, adding that funds could go toward helping family members visit those who are in prison.

In response to the Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection, a group of crypto investors have banded together to form a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) called FreeRossDAO.

The DAO, which was announced on Wednesday, will use part of its funds to collectively bid on Ulbricht’s NFT collection. The organization has over $1.5 million worth of ether in its treasury balance, according to its website. (PleasrDAO seeded the FreeRossDAO multisig with 240 ETH.)

Multisigners for FreeRossDAO include Trippy, Trippy Labs/Chief Freeing Officer; Nadya Tolokno, of Pussy Riot fame and PleasrDAO; Jamis also from PleasrDAO; Cobie from UpOnly; Path, Superhero; René, a lifelong friend of Ross; Elliot, another friend of Ross and program director for Musicambia, an organization building music schools in prisons across the US.

“We really want to get this bootstrapped, started and get the community together to essentially fight for the freedom of Ross but also to fight for fixing this broken prison system,” a member of the DAO, who goes by “Jamis” online, said in the same Twitter space on Wednesday.

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  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]