Melania Trump NFT sold to either herself or creator of the digital token

Melania Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump
Melania Trump wearing the hat which has been sold as a non-fungible token. Photo credit: Getty Images

An NFT from Melania Trump sold for around NZ$256,000 at the end of January - to either Trump herself or the person who created the NFT on her behalf, according to blockchain records.

The former First Lady of the US auctioned off a digital version of a watercolour showing her in a hat she wore during French President Emmanuel Macron's first state visit to the US in 2018.

The original signed hat and the watercolour were also included as part of the package.

However, research by Vice's Motherboard and an independent analyst shows the winning bid of 1800 solano tokens was made by an account connected to the person who put the NFT up for sale.

Because transactions on the blockchain are transparent, the website was able to trace where the funds came from.

In this case, following the trail of money showed the creator of the NFT sent money to a second account, which converted it to solano tokens and then sent it to the auction winner to make their bid.

After the money was received by the creator, they then sent the money back to the second account.

As Motherboard put it, "the winner of Melania Trump's NFT got the money from none other than the creator of the NFT itself, and an address linked to the NFT creator got the money back".

Trump's office acknowledged that the blockchain records were an accurate representation of what happened, but said the "transaction was facilitated on behalf of a third-party buyer".

But no further elaboration was given, according to Motherboard, particularly around why the creator of the NFT sent the money that was ultimately used to purchase it.

Trump's NFT website says a "portion of the proceeds derived from this auction will provide foster care children with access to computer science and technology education", and it's not clear whether that's been impacted by the way the token was funded and sold.

Assuming the third-party buyer story is true, Motherboard said the only realistic conclusion was the buyer does not use cryptocurrency and sent real dollars to Trump for the transaction.

This was described by zachxbt - the independent blockchain analyst the website used to analyse the date - as "not impossible, but a weird request".

Trump first announced her arrival on the NFT bandwagon in December with a "limited edition" digital watercolour of her eyes.

Entitled 'Melania's Vision', all purchases got a voice message from the ex-model too, saying "look forward with inspiration, strength and courage".

Each token sold for one sol, the equivalent of around $268 at the time. Blockchain records show 2832 are in circulation, meaning a gross income of just over $750,000 was raised from her first sale, not taking into account any transaction charges for transferring the cryptocurrency.

According to Motherboard, Trump's office did not respond to more follow-up questions about the identity of the mystery buyer and whether the original funds were supplied in US dollars.