An 18-year-old who’s netted over $1 million selling Bored Apes toys just made a replica of ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin ahead of the ‘merge’

  • Ricky da Luz, 18, started making free Bored Ape toys for NFT holders last year, and has generated $1 million in sales. 
  • He just presented Vitalik Buterin with a replica of the ethereum cofounder ahead of the key merge event expected in September.
  • Da Luz says his company, IsmToys, offers a bridge between everyday people and Web3 using physical items. 

Over the last year and through much of the crypto winter, 18-year-old Ricky da Luz has built a business on creating physical replicas of popular non-fungible token collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

And ahead of the highly anticipated ethereum “merge,” he made a replica of the blockchain’s cofounder, Vitalik Buterin. At 18 inches tall, it is the biggest model da Luz has made so far.

He presented the custom toy to Buterin at a recent meeting and thanked him for creating a blockchain that has brought financial success to different people around the world. 

That blockchain is about to get a makeover when ethereum switches next month from a proof-of-work network to the more energy efficient proof-of-stake protocol.

Da Luz’s company, IsmToys, sees the merge as an opportunity to double down on its role as a bridge between traditional internet users and Web3.

“The merge makes it a lot easier to start focusing on the Web2 market and have them adopt physical-digitals because it’ll be cheaper to use ethereum and transact on the blockchain,” he told Insider. 

The merge has also generated excitement in the broader crypto industry, and ether has rallied upwards of 82% over the past month alone.

On Thursday, the Ethereum Foundation said that “time to finalization,” a key checkpoint toward the merge, just ran another successful test and confirmed the the changeover will take place sometime next month.

A bridge between physical and digital

A passionate toy designer, da Luz first began cold-messaging Bored Ape NFT holders online and offering to make free toys for them as a way to break into the digital asset space using physical items. 

Bored Ape NFTs toys NFT NYC

Ricky da Luz, 18, founder of IsmToys, at NFT.NYC.

Phil Rosen/Insider

After a series of one-off commissions, he launched IsmToys with his father and a team of six. Since getting his first commission in January, they have raked in over $1 million in revenue.

According to da Luz, 99% of their transactions are paid in ether. Insider reviewed receipts via Etherscan. 

“Because of Vitalik, a kid from Toronto got a chance to do something really fun and cool, and we’ve been able to help the average person get into the digital space and understand it easier through physical items,” da Luz said.