The cryptocurrency collective built around a copy of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune script bible will no longer be a collective and is trying to sell its Dune bible.
Spice DAO (short for decentralized autonomous organization) recently began “Redemption Phase One,” a fundamental shift in its direction. After a series of setbacks in an ambitious plan for a crypto-powered media studio, the group is letting people who hold its $SPICE token cash out by withdrawing their money from the group’s treasury. It will change its name to “Spice Club,” a “members only group” instead of a body with a formal voting structure. And it will cut its upkeep expenses to the bare minimum, a process that includes handing off the fragile and valuable book that inspired its creation.
Members who hold $SPICE might earn returns from the Spice Club’s remaining initiatives. The group hopes to make money from the sale of the book and a non-fungible token (NFT) collaboration with comics artist Frank Miller. But that plan is complicated by the dismal state of the cryptocurrency market and legal questions around DAOs and tokens like $SPICE as well as doubts about whether the book could be auctioned for anything remotely approaching its purchase price of roughly $3 million.
The group’s current plan includes selling the Dune bible in the fourth quarter of 2023, coinciding with the release of the film Dune: Part Two. The group previously partnered with comics publisher Frank Miller Presents on an NFT series, which it’s still planning to help release. Any remaining $SPICE holders could get a share of its treasury after these projects go live, although the legal language is somewhat cagey. In the Spice Club Discord, project lead Kortelin noted that the team was being careful in anticipation of possible crypto regulation. Alternatively, they can “burn” their $SPICE and withdraw 0.3 ETH, or around $450, per million tokens. The group’s treasury currently indicates its net worth is around $1 million.
Spice Club was one of many crypto DAOs, but it was unusually ambitious. Begun as a crowdfunding project to buy a copy of Jodorowsky’s Dune bible, it ended up with a multimillion-dollar treasury after winning a November 2021 auction. The DAO hoped to maintain the physical condition of the Dune book, find a way to scan and distribute its contents publicly, and produce media similar to Jodorowksy’s never-made adaptation of Dune. So far, Spice Club managed the first of these tasks, paying for upkeep with treasury funds. It also funded a contest to find stories that could be turned into a TV miniseries and paid for a script from Love, Death and Robots writer Philip Gelatt. These projects as well as the Frank Miller NFTs were put forward by a small core team and then passed by a vote of people who had purchased $SPICE tokens.
But, in the months after the auction, the group ran into a variety of problems — some predictable, some less so. It had trouble finding a way to make the Dune bible available to members without violating copyright laws. The group also bought the bible right before a downturn in crypto prices that has since become a full-fledged crash, decimating its treasury, which was largely held in Ethereum. Earlier this year, one of the founding members stepped down after being linked to a deliberately hateful online art project persona, leading the project’s original figurehead Soban “Soby” Saqib to distance himself from the operation.
As part of the recent transition to “Spice Club,” Saqib is stepping back from the project even more, relinquishing his access to the treasury.
Meanwhile, Kortelin indicated on Discord that the book had “no willing buyers” at the moment, although that could change before the planned sale next year. Either way, the book is unlikely to reach its original sale price — which was unusually high for an edition of the Dune bible, possibly thanks to hype around the crowdfunding campaign.
“Really wish this worked out better, DAO delusion was at its peak when the community went into this journey together,” Saqib posted on Discord after the liquidation operation began. “At least the DAO is making people whole and not letting hubris get in the way.”