Congrats to some weirdo who got a great deal! Melania Trump has ended up auctioning her stupid hat, as well as an NFT of it, for 30% less than her initial asking price after she asked for payment in one of the many cryptocurrencies now crashing in price.
Other than her marriage to that guy, horrifying White House Christmas decor, and the time she wore a jacket saying “I really don’t care” to an immigration detention center, Trump’s most noteworthy project in the last few years was the “Be Best” initiative, which you’ve probably forgotten about. More lately, she’s been trying to make a name in cryptocurrency. Earlier this month, she put up for auction the “Head of State Collection 2022,” consisting of three items: an “iconic” wide-brimmed white hat she wore to meet French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018, a watercolor painting of her wearing said hat by Marc-Antoine Coulon, and a non-fungible token (NFT) of the watercolor of her wearing the hat. You see, this auction had layers. Hat layers. Presumably to drum up interest from the crypto crowd, Trump chose only to accept bids in the Solana (SOL) cryptocurrency.
The asking price? About $250,000 in SOL, as pegged to its value of roughly $170 a token on the day of listing. The auction didn’t go so hot. Solana’s developers as well as the auction’s payment processor, MoonPay, quickly distanced themselves from the name association, and the collection ended up receiving just five bids. Some technical glitch or other unknown factor also resulted in the auction closing a day earlier than advertised on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post, although the issue was fixed later in the day.
When the auction closed early Wednesday morning, SOL was worth roughly $95 a token. That placed the closing value of the collection at the time of transaction somewhere around $170,000, or $80,000 under the initial asking price. To add a bit of insult to injury, the first three bids were placed on Jan. 10, when the value of SOL was high, and no one else made offers until early Wednesday morning, meaning whoever bought it certainly knew just how much they were undercutting the asking price.
The Post noted that if the auction had started just one month earlier, in December, it might have gone better, as SOL was still surging. That month, Trump sold other NFTs featuring Coulon’s artwork for one SOL each or about $150.
According to the auction website, “A portion of the proceeds derived from this auction will provide foster care children with access to computer science and technology education.” Trump will presumably receive the rest herself and have to choose whether to transfer it to dollars immediately or risk the pie growing smaller.
“This is just evidence that none of the cryptocurrency assets provide a good, stable enough means of payment,” Cornell University law professor Dan Awrey told the Times. “It is just too volatile.”
Former first ladies cashing in on their careers and name value is not exactly new—just see ex- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s and Michelle Obama’s speaking fees—but the Post noted that Trump’s auction was quite unusual both for violating the usual norms of decorum and because first ladies usually donate their outfits to the Smithsonian Institution. In a reportedly $2.9 million settlement suit with the Daily Mail for insinuating she worked as an escort before marrying Donald Trump, the former first lady specified the damages in terms of costing her lucrative post-White House branding opportunities.
Myra Gutin, a scholar on first ladies and author of The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century, told the Post that many other modern first ladies “certainly have used their celebrity to do good works” after their spouses left office. As for Trump’s auction, she said, “I would classify it [the auction] as a personal pursuit, versus one that’s likely to benefit the country.”
“She seems to be reverting back to more of the life that she enjoyed when she was not first lady, when she was living in New York,” Gutin added of Trump, whom a source told People now spends much of her time trying to monetize her “fashionable interests.”
Gizmodo reached out to Melania Trump’s office for comment and did not receive a response, but we’ll update this post if we hear back.