Cover Jackson Aw, founder of Mighty Jaxx photographed at the Mighty Jaxx studio

Jackson Aw, the founder of design studio Mighty Jaxx, talks NFTs and how his company’s limited‑edition collectibles for some of the biggest brands in the world such as Formula One and Nickelodeon can further stoke the flames of fandom

It’s hard not to feel like a kid in a candy store when stepping into the Mighty Jaxx studio. With a traditional Chinese signboard, patterned floor tiles and wooden display cases, the entrance foyer to this acclaimed art collectible studio is designed to look like a Peranakan shophouse.

But instead of sweets, a treasure trove of Mighty Jaxx’s collectible toy figurines—many of which easily fetch anywhere between 10 and 30 times their retail value on the secondary market—line the shelves. For those who can tell their Alex Face from their Goin (Thai and French street artists, respectively), this space probably holds some of the most covetable figurines that any urban art aficionado would wish to add to their personal collection.

And founder Jackson Aw is determined to continue pushing the boundaries between toys and art, this time by boldly venturing into the digital arena. In April, hot on the heels of this year’s non-fungible tokens explosion, Mighty Jaxx launched two NFTs: The Beauty of Rebellion by Abell Octovan and The Huntress’ Gaze, alongside the physical collectibles.

“In the Mighty Jaxx context, our NFTs are digital collectibles, but in a different realm,” says Aw. “The owners of our NFTs have full control over their digital, authenticated assets and they can choose if they want to trade it or hold it, or if they want to utilise its ability to take this type of asset and go to another type of digital environment and interact with it. This adds an additional layer to the value of the item and their ownership of it as compared to only being able to interact with a physical collectible only in the physical world.”

Even though NFTs have just broken into the mainstream, Aw has actually been spearheading his company’s digital transformation over the past few years. Since 2019, Mighty Jaxx, which works with international brands including DC Comics, Hasbro and Nickelodeon, has been incorporating blockchain to authenticate the physical collectibles that it produces. So NFTs, says Aw, are the logical next step. “This is almost like the start of the internet, where we are starting to recognise digital assets as true assets with value and true ownership.”

Related: Could NFTs be the Latest Must-Haves in Museum Gift Stores?

While Aw readily admits that the “crypto kind of thing” is not second nature to him, he is putting his money where his mouth is. A long‑time toy collector, he too has begun to dabble in investing in NFTs, including purchasing pieces by Indonesian artist Bryan Lie, who creates digital art representations of cryptocurrency such as Dogecoin and Ethereum. “A lot of my peers and artist friends have been creating NFTs as a way to create longevity in their art so I’ve begun to collect a few to support them and to be a part of that movement.”

Aw has also been bulking up the company’s capability to create digital content that owners can unlock via the physical toys to increase the interactivity of the items. In the company’s team of some 80 employees, about 20 of them focus on “extended entertainment” where they create content such as videos, games and other perks for fans.

“The difference in building the entire ecosystem of physical collectibles and digital content is that we control the whole process so we know how the sale of the physical products would lend themselves to the kind of digital content to develop for the community. We are actually looking to create a lot more positive engagement and interaction with our content and that is going to be very attractive for our partners,” Aw observes.

In April, Mighty Jaxx announced a partnership with German football club Borussia Dortmund to develop limited-edition tech‑enabled collectibles and figurines of the club’s players, including forward Erling Haaland—the 2020 Golden Boy award winner for the best under-21 player in a European top division club—and captain Marco Reus.

“Besides immortalising the players in a physical format, we want to create a full 360-degree immersive experience for collectors with different products and digital content. This creates additional value to the collectors and the collectible is a vessel to kickstart the relationship,” explains Aw.

Related: Mighty Jaxx Joins Hands With Borussia Dortmund to Develop Footballer Collectibles

With excitement, he also reveals that Mighty Jaxx has just made history by signing a global exclusive partnership to create figurines of Formula One drivers such as Lewis Hamilton. Just like with the football club, fans will be able to access additional digital content such as race predictions or customising a virtual twin of their driver figure.

Related: 5 Minutes With… Lewis Hamilton

With multiple blockbuster projects in the pipeline, it is no wonder Mighty Jaxx has had a banner year. In 2020, it doubled its headcount from 40 to 80 as well as its revenue—and is projected to triple its takings this year.

This is despite the pandemic, which Aw posits has fuelled an even deeper passion for pop culture as many people have sought escape by binge watching popular shows or comics. For instance, Mighty Jaxx’s One Piece collectibles were “selling like crazy”, fuelled by the popularity of the manga series. Another bestseller is the My Little Pony Hidden Dissectibles range by US artist Jason Freeny, where half the pony is “dissected” to reveal its bones and anatomy.

“There are 10 million diehard male fans of My Little Pony called Bronies and they just went nuts, it’s a left field kind of thing,” says Aw.

As Mighty Jaxx fans eagerly await the latest drops of ever more exciting collaborations, Aw too is on his own quest for his next “holy grail”. He says, “New York artist Daniel Arsham created a Pikachu statue which he crystalised and eroded. I grew up with Pokemon and used to watch the cartoon every Saturday so this acquisition will have sentimental meaning for me too.”

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