Americana Makes Its ‘Phygital’ Vault Service Available to the Public

Vaulting platform Americana is opening its doors more widely—but still securely.

The company, which launched last year as a community-specific project, has evolved into a one-stop shop designed to provide the convenience of an online marketplace, the security of a physical vault, and owner authentication via the blockchain.

Americana is backed by OpenSea and 776, the venture capital firm headed up by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. It is led by CEO Jake Frey, whose Frey Labs digital design studio has previously worked with Apple, Snapchat, Shopify and Twitter.

While banks and art storage facilities and the like have been vaulting precious items since the nineteenth century, such items are generally not immediately accessible for exhibition or acquisition. Americana aims to change that.

“We are a team of collectors ourselves so we’re solving our own problems, talking to our community to find the pain points and build solutions,” Frey told Decrypt. 

Americana backer Alexis Ohanian deposited a brooch created by Gucci and depicting “Blue,” a character from Otherside by Yuga Labs. Image: Americana

Americana allows securely vaulted physical assets to be digitally exhibited, shared and traded. Listed items are guaranteed by an on-chain digital certificate, so they can be transacted via their tokenized counterparts without (necessarily) leaving the physical facility. 

The platform has the capacity to vault a wide range of collectibles including vintage cars, limited edition sneakers and fine art. According to Frey, “items can be as large and heavy as a vehicle but also as small and as light as a stamp.”

The process begins with a consultation whereby the team develops a custom-created intake plan in partnership with transportation experts. Upon receipt, assets are authenticated, digitized, and documented before being securely vaulted.

Authentication mechanisms vary depending on the item, with some pre-authenticated by third parties or directly via their creators. 

When it comes to artworks, Americana uses a micron indenter—a type of digital fingerprinting technology. “It reads the level of molecules on a specific area of a work like the signature,” he said. “We take a series of those readings and mark them against each other.”

Following verification, Frey explained, pieces are digitized via a giant 3D photogrammetry machine with eight cameras that take very high-resolution, 360-degree imagery. When viewed on the platform interface, “it’s as close to being there with the piece as technology allows,” he said.

The web interface to Americana’s “concierge vaulting” service, including customer profiles page showcasing their physical and digital assets. Image: Americana

“You can click and drag and zoom in on the online product pages of the items and spin them in every which direction,” Frey added.

Finally, the item’s digital title is minted as a non-fungible token (NFT) secured on the Ethereum blockchain. In addition to serving as a certification of authenticity,  providing provenance and digital scans, the title also comprises an insurance policy. 

When it comes to artists vaulting directly, secondary market creator royalties are also written into the smart contracts.

Frey said the company works with established storage experts, including Crozier Fine Arts, whose storage facilities feature strict climate and temperature controls.

The concept of non-custodial ownership has grown in popularity over the last year with platforms including StockX and Ebay offering token backed storage in climate-controlled vaults for physical collectibles including sneakers and trading cards.

Americana is currently vaulting artworks from the oeuvres of creators like Dustin Yellan and Tom Sachs alongside Rolex watches and jewelry—including a Gucci and Yuga Labs collaboration on cufflinks worn by lead investor Ohanian at this year’s MET Gala. It also holds rare unopened Pokemon cards and even a Moto Guzzi motorcycle. 

“It’s time to use blockchain with things that make sense to normal people,” Frey concluded.

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