2021 could easily be termed the year of the NFTs, as the term took over social media and the art world. As NFTs trended, their prices soared to new heights. We’re talking about art sold in triple digit crores by prestigious auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the latter of which has crossed $100 million in NFT sales. Later this month, on February 23, Sotheby’s is set to auction a single lot of 104 CryptoPunk NFTs for an estimate of US $20 million–$30 million. Designed by Larva Labs, the estimate is the highest ever for an NFT or digital art ever offered at auction, under the title Punk It!
First developed in 2017, CryptoPunks are considered one of the forerunners in the non-fungible token space. They are a collection of 10,000 (3,840 female and 6,039 male versions) punks, all with different attributes. Algorithmically generated, these are known as profile pictures (PFPs), and are 24×24, 8-bit pixelated. They were initially meant to be used as avatars for social media accounts, though have since become some of the most popular NFTs. No two ‘punks’ are the same, which makes each CryptoPunk an exclusive collectible. As this collection of avatars is set to go under the hammer, we’re looking at other non-fungible tokens that have shaken up the art space with their eye-watering prices.
10. Right-click and Save As guy –₹ 53 crore
Created by XCOPY is the pseudonym of a London-based crypto artist who has sold over 1,900 artworks. This piece was auctioned on the decentralized marketplace Superrare, in December 2021 and sold for 1,600 ETH (US$7.09 million) to Comozo de Medici. There is speculation that the buyer is none other than the rapper Snoop Dogg. The NFT’s ironic title is meant as joke directed towards those who think NFTs are not as valuable as they can be right-clicked and downloaded.
9. CryptoPunk #7804 – ₹ 57 crore
The Larva-Labs created PFP series craze continues with this alien punk #7804 that sold for US$7.57 million. A forward-facing cap, small shades and a Sherlock Holmes style pipe makes this avatar recognisable. It was sold on March 10, and was bought by Figma CEO Dylan Field, who dubbed it his “digital Mona Lisa.”
8. CryptoPunk #3100 – ₹ 57 crore
Entering the hall of CryptoPunk fame is this Alien avatar by Larva Labs. It is one out of 406 punks with a headband, one that’s striped in blue and white. It was sold on the same day as Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days and at the time of its sale, #3100 was the most expensive punk, beating the record set by #7804 a day before by a slim margin. This punk is currently for sale by its owner for US$99.86 million, and if sold it would become the most expensive NFT ever.
7. CryptoPunk #5577 – ₹ 57 crore
In February of 2022, another CryptoPunk sold for a record-breaking US$77.7 million. Showing an ape in a cowboy hat, the NFT is rare as it is one of 24 ape punks. It was purchased by the founder of Compound DeFi protocol, Robert Leshner. After the purchase, Leshner tweeted “Yeehaw,” in honour of the ape’s cowboy hat, an attribute which only 142 punks have.
6. CryptoPunk #4156 – ₹ 77 crore
Formerly owned by influencer and investor known as Punk4156, CryptoPunk #4156 sold for 2,500 ETH (US$10.26 million) in December 2021. The influencer sold his trademark bandana ape CryptoPunk after purchasing it for 650 ETH (US$1.25M) on February 18, 2021.
5. CryptoPunk #7523 – ₹ 88 crore
Armed with an earring, knitted cap and a medical mask, this CryptoPunk was sold by London-based auction house Sotheby’s in June 2021. Dubbed “Covid Alien,” it sold for US$11.75 million and is one of nine alien punks. Sotheby’s said that the NFT was purchased by Israeli billionaire Shalom Meckenzie, the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings with a net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.
4. CryptoPunk #5822 – ₹ 179 crore
According to reports, on February 13, a CryptoPunks NFT sold for a record-breaking 8,000 ETH (US$23.7 million), breaking the record of the previous most expensive CryptoPunk by $10 million. The NFT was purchased by Deepak Thapliyal, the CEO of Chain, a blockchain firm. This punk is part of the Alien series collection and has bluish-green skin with a discernible blue bandana.
3. The Human One — ₹ 219 crore
The third-most expensive NFT has also been created by the one and only Beeple. It is a hybrid digital and physical artwork, a kinetic video sculpture of an astronaut walking, and comes with a corresponding dynamic NFT. Christie’s sold it for US$29 million during its 21st Century Evening Sale. The artwork will keep changing, as Beeple has promised to update the Human One during his lifetime. Crypto billionaire Ryan Zurrer quoted the winning price for this artwork in December 2021.
2. Everydays: The First 5000 Days — ₹ 523 crore
Beeple aka Michael Winkelmann, holds the honour of creating the most expensive NFT ever sold. Auctioned at Christie’s, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, is a digital collage of 5,000 futuristic images made by the artist every day for 13-and-a-half years starting on May 1, 2007, to January 7, 2021. The US$69 million-art was bought by MetaKovan, the founder of Metapurse, an NFT investment fund.
1. The Merge —₹ 693 crore
The Merge, an NFT sold by anonymous digital artist Pak sold for US$91.8 million on marketplace Nifty Gateway in December of last year. However, the NFT cannot definitively be called the most expensive as it represents fractionalized pieces to the tune of 312,686 distributed amongst 28,983 buyers. The Merge was a single artwork composed of a collection of “masses” that users could buy. Collectors were allowed to buy any number of tokens starting with a unit price of US$575, which increased by US$25 every six hours. At the end of the three-day sale, a total of US$91.8 million was spent on these pieces. These individual pieces could then be merged to make a bigger mass to sell on the secondary market.