The new owners of the long-mythologized Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan’s single-copy album that sold to Martin Shkreli in 2015, have finally been revealed, Rolling Stone reports. The one-of-a-kind physical album was purchased in July for $4 million by a decentralized autonomous organization called PleasrDAO, a 74-member group of crypto-heads, best known for acquiring high-profile digital goods, including a multi-million dollar purchase of the “Doge” meme NFT (non-fungible token) last month.
Though the Wu-Tang album is only available in one physical copy, shrouded in an ornate silver box, all of PleasrDAO’s members will share collective ownership of the good.
A DAO is a community of members who make collective decisions without hierarchies or centralization. Commonly, these communities convene on private Discord channels and their access is gated to those who hold a certain crypto token or NFT to be inducted.
This sale marks PleasrDAO’s first foray into acquiring a physical good. Although it may seem antithetical for a DAO to want to purchase an item outside of the Web3 cannon, Jamis Johnson, PleasrDAO’s Chief Pleasing Officer — yes, you read that correctly — and longtime Wu-Tang fan, sees Once Upon a Time in Shaolin as one of NFT’s physical predecessors.
Prior to the minting of the first NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain in 2017, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin proved the merits of creating an intentionally scarce good, driven by hype and public anticipation. NFTs, Johnson believes, are just the blockchain-powered extension of such an ethos.
Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’s initial $2 million dollar sale to Shkreli, who was then best known for jacking up the prices of life-saving pharmaceuticals like insulin by as much as 5,000%, provoked outrage among fans. But by 2018, the mysterious WuTang work was forfeited to the federal government in an attempt to satisfy the $7.4 million that Shkreli was ordered to pay as part of his sentencing on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud, placing Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’s future uncertain.
PleasrDAO purchased the album in July, effectively doubling the price of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’s initial sale to Shkreli. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, announced its sale soon after but refused to provide details about its new owner or selling point at that time.
By Sept. 10, PleasrDAO took possession of the one-of-a-kind album and relocated it to an undisclosed location in New York City, according to the New York Times. Protected in a vault, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is closely guarded under its new ownership. Along with taking physical possession, the DAO also minted Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’s ownership deed as an NFT, enshrouding its sale on the blockchain with the help of crypto-savvy attorney Peter Scoolidge.
Though Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’s creators set strict rules for the album’s use, like forbidding any consumption or distribution of the album to the public for 88 years, Johnson and the other members of the DAO say they hope to find a way to exhibit their new rarity to the world, as long as they get the blessing of WuTang leader RZA and producer Cilvaringz.