The realm of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) stands out as one of the most rapidly expanding sectors within the broader blockchain industry. The NFT market's astonishing volume exceeded $40 billion in 2021, showcasing its remarkable growth trajectory and hinting at its potential to surpass previous records. This surge in interest has also translated into increased investment for NFT companies. A striking example is OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces, which secured approximately $300 million in funding during a recent funding round earlier in the year. As a result of this influx of capital, OpenSea's valuation soared to an impressive $13 billion.
The surging popularity of the NFT space has given rise to unprecedented price levels for certain NFTs, with some observers even using the term "hyper-inflated" to describe these valuations. In light of this phenomenon, it's worth delving into a selection of the ten most expensive NFTs currently in existence.
Disclaimer: We want to emphasize that this is not financial advice. Cryptocurrencies operate in a volatile market, where values can drastically fluctuate in a blink of an eye. It is imperative to conduct thorough research and seek guidance from a qualified financial advisor before investing.
What Are Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)?
Certainly, let's review the fundamental concept of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) before delving into the list of the most expensive NFTs. NFTs are distinct cryptographic assets existing on a blockchain, each possessing a unique identification code and accompanying metadata that sets them apart from one another. This distinctiveness prevents NFTs from being freely exchanged or traded at an equal value, a contrast to cryptocurrencies. Unlike fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are interchangeable with one another and can be used in conventional transactions, NFTs maintain their individuality and uniqueness.
Top 10 Most Expensive NFTs in the World
Number 10: A Coin for the Ferryman ($6 million)
A Coin for the Ferryman is an NFT created by an artist who is known online as XCopy. The artwork was created in 2018 and sold for around $6 million worth of Ethereum in November 2021. The NFT is presently in the ownership of a social media user known as jPeggyGiffenheim. Previously, the artwork had been in the possession of 0xclipse who had bought it for just around $139 in 2018. Another NFT made by XCopy recently sold for close to $4 million.
Number 9: Crossroads ($6.6 million)
Crossroads is an NFT created by American digital artist Mike Winkelmann, known professionally as Beeple. The NFT was sold for around $6.6 million in February 2021 on the online cryptocurrency marketplace Nifty Gateway. Beeple is one of the most renowned digital artists across the globe. Crossroads depicts a reaction to the 2020 US Presidential election and is in the form of a video. It is just 10 seconds in length.
Number 8: CryptoPunk #7804 ($7.6 million)
CryptoPunk #7804 is an NFT owned by a social media user known as peruggia-v.eth. The NFT was previously owned by Dylan Field, the CEO of Figma, a software firm. The NFT was sold for 4,200 Ethereum. Field has likened the artwork to the Mona Lisa on several occasions, even terming it as the “digital” version of the iconic masterpiece. CryptoPunk #7804 features a picture of a blue alien wearing a hat and puffing on a pipe.
Number 7: CryptoPunk #3100 ($7.67 million)
CryptoPunk #3100 is another “blue alien” NFT owned by a social media user simply known as 7B8961. It is part of 10,000 uniquely generated characters, none of which are similar to others. Each of these characters can be owned by a single person on the blockchain. CryptoPunk #3100 sold just one day after the sale of CryptoPunk #7804. The former features a blue alien sporting a colored headband.
Number 6: CryptoPunk #7523 (11.75 million)
CryptoPunk #7523 is the third-rarest character in the CryptoPunk series and was sold for just under $12 million in June 2021. The CryptoPunk series was created by Larva Labs in 2017. CryptoPunk #7523 was sold by the famous auction house Sotheby's. It was sold during a special online auction that featured work from 27 artists across the globe and fetched a record $171 million in proceeds.
Number 5: CryptoPunk #5822 ($23 million)
CryptoPunk #5822 is the most expensive CryptoPunk character sold so far. It was bought by Deepak Thapliyal, the CEO of Chain, for around 8000 Ethereum in February 2022. The trading volume around the CryptoPunk has been more than $9 billion since they were first launched, making them the most expensive NFT series.
CryptoPunk #5822 features a blue alien sporting a bandana. The original owner of the artwork had paid less than 1 Ethereum for the piece. Reports suggest that Thapliyal had used his Compound Finance for the purchase.
Number 4: HUMAN ONE ($28.9 million)
HUMAN ONE is another artwork sold by Beeple for a record price. It fetched a price tag of close to $30 million in November 2021. The artwork was sold during the 21st Century Evening Sale of auction house Christie’s. The auction house described the piece as a “generative work of art which the artist intends to seamlessly add and evolve creatively over the course of his lifetime”.
Number 3: Clock ($52.7 million)
Clock is an NFT created by Pak and Julian Assange. The NFT counts down the days since Assange, of Wikileaks fame, has been imprisoned. Pak created the NFT to fund the legal defense of Assange. The NFT was purchased by AssangeDAO, a group of people who pooled their money together to buy the NFT and fund the legal expenses of Assange.
Clock was sold in February 2022 and is the second-most-expensive NFT with multiple owners. AssangeDao used the Juicebox platform to raise proceeds for the Justice token that ultimately raked in over 16,000 Ethereum for the purchase of the NFT.
Number 2: The First 5000 Days ($69.3 million)
The First 5000 Days is another Beeple NFT. It is the most expensive NFT that has just one owner. The NFT is a collage of the pieces of art that Beeple has worked on since 2007. Back in that year, Beeple had pledged to work on one piece of art every day. The NFT combined his efforts worth around 5,000 days.
The First 5000 Days was sold in March 2021. Back then, Beeple had not made waves through his art. The NFT changed that and made him the third most valuable living artist across the globe. Auction house Christie’s facilitated the sale.
Number 1: The Merge ($91.8 million)
The Merge is an NFT created by digital artist Pak. Beeple calls Pak his mentor to the NFT marketplace. The Merge is the most expensive NFT with multiple owners. Nearly 30,000 collectors pooled their money to buy the NFT in December 2021. The NFT was sold on the Nifty Gateway platform.
The Merge has the ability to expand over time. The Merge is also described as “Code on art”, a reference to the complex programming behind the NFT that has given it unique capabilities that collectors seem to appreciate.
When looking at the 10 most expensive NFTs in the world, it is clear that the digital artist is known as Beeple, and the CryptoPunk collection, are the most well-known names in the high-priced NFT market.
Who is Beeple?
Mike Winkelmann, also known by his professional alias Beeple, is a digital artist aged 40. His creative portfolio spans a variety of mediums including short films, VJ loops, and a unique practice called "everydays," in which he crafts a new artwork daily—an endeavor he has consistently maintained for almost 15 years. A compilation of his prolific output, titled "Everydays: The First 5000 Days," was auctioned off as an NFT (non-fungible token) in 2021 and fetched a remarkable $69 million, standing as one of the highest-priced NFTs ever sold and marking the third-highest sum paid for the work of any living artist. Beeple resides in Charleston, South Carolina, along with his wife and children.
What Are CryptoPunks?
CryptoPunks holds a prominent place in the NFT landscape, being among the earliest projects developed on the Ethereum blockchain. Larva Labs, a software firm based in New York, is the creative force behind CryptoPunks, which emerged in 2017. This collection encompasses 10,000 algorithmically generated 24x24 pixelated art images in an 8-bit style. Each individual CryptoPunk NFT is crafted through a process of random generation involving various attributes, resulting in a state of uniqueness where no two CryptoPunks are identical.
Within the CryptoPunk collection, a diverse array of designs is featured, ranging from representations of humans and zombies to aliens and apes. The rarity of a given CryptoPunk NFT is determined by the distinct combination of its features, with more unique configurations being associated with greater rarity.
Types of CryptoPunks
Within the CryptoPunk collection, there is a range of distinct variations. The collection comprises a total of 10,000 Punks, each possessing its own unique set of features. Notable among these are the nine aliens, 24 apes, 88 zombies, 3,840 females, and 6,039 male Punks. These attributes encompass a diverse range of distinctive traits, such as mutton chops, 3D glasses, rosy cheeks, pigtails, buck teeth, lipstick, beanies, and many others.
The initial 1,000 CryptoPunks were reserved for the project's developers and are referred to as the Dev Punks. Among the collection, there are also approximately eight Punks that lack distinct features, commonly referred to as the Genesis Punks. Interestingly, one particular CryptoPunk, numbered as #8348, possesses all seven basic attributes, making it a highly sought-after piece of art within the CryptoPunk collection.
The NFT market boomed in 2021 and is on track to continue its momentum in 2022. NFT companies have also attracted a lot of capital from investors - adding to the capital injection already seen in the NFT industry. The prices of NFTs have also surged as a result of the industry’s popularity, leaving many investors and speculators to believe that NFT prices are hyper-inflated. This may be true when looking at the price of the most expensive NFT, The Merge, which sold for $91.8 million. Nonetheless, NFTs are re-igniting the believed-to-be-dead Art industry.