While the NFT craze of 2021 saw a massive boom of the blockchain concept and the introduction of many NFT projects and use cases, NFTs have been in the market since 2015, with much earlier projects like Cryptokitties. The NFT market experienced an explosive surge in growth, resulting in the formation of numerous tight-knit communities that thrive on the hype generated through social media, the influx of substantial capital, as well as both common and rare non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
From individual digital artwork to items from projects, these NFTs have commanded extraordinary sums, with transactions reaching the realm of thousands and even millions of dollars. As a result, a select group of NFTs has secured their place in history as the most expensive NFTs ever sold in the crypto market. Let’s take a dive into the artwork, history, community and transactions that make these NFTs so valuable and set them apart from the bunch.
Ranked at the bottom of the list of the most expensive NFTs ever sold is an item from the CryptoPunk collection, which as you will find out is a consistent mention on this list. The CryptoPunk project is a collection of 10,000 unique characters stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Initially, CryptoPunks were free, and users only needed to pay for the gas fee to acquire one. Each CryptoPunk has unique traits like skin, hats, cigarettes, necklaces, earrings, and eyepatches, with some traits being rarer than others.
CryptoPunk #3100 was specifically sold for $7.67 million, an equivalent of 4200 ETH back in March, 2021. The NFT features a combination of rare traits like the alien skin and a headband, which contributes to its very high value. It is also interesting to note that this momentous sale holds an intriguing distinction: it stands as the only transaction executed on the NFT since its initial minting.
Coming in at the 9th ranked most expensive NFT ever sold is CryptoPunk #5577, another NFT from the CryptoPunk collection that was sold for $7.70 million, an equivalent of 2501 ETH at the time. CryptoPunk #5577 is one of only 24 Ape Punks, which is almost as rare as the alien skin and possesses an extra rare attribute of a cowboy hat, adding to its value.
Unlike the previous Punk, this NFT has recorded multiple trades prior to this record sale and many more after. CryptoPunk #5577 is currently on sale by the current owner for 2900 ETH, approximately $5.57 million.
The number 8 spot is also taken by Larva Lab’s CryptoPunk Collection, CryptoPunk #4156 to be precise. CryptoPunk #4156 was sold in December 2021 to an investor known as Punk4156 for $10.26 million, an equivalent of 2500 ETH at the time. This was a long way up from its initial sale of 0.01 ETH over 5 years ago, after it was minted.
CryptoPunk #4156 also features a rare ape skin and a bandana, giving it a sought after outlook and rare attributes to justify its value. The NFT was however sold last in July for $3.31 million, which was worth about 2690 ETH.
Diverging from the world of CryptoPunks, let us turn our attention to TPunk, which is short for “Tron Punk”—a collection of 10,000 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that was introduced in 2021, heralded as “the first NFT on the Tron Blockchain.” An item from the collection, TPunk 3442 achieved a staggering price of $10.5 million in a momentous sale that took place in December of the same year it was launched.
This particular gem, affectionately known as the “Joker” TPunk, was sold to none other than Justin Sun, the esteemed founder of the Tron Blockchain for 120 million TRX.
Securing the coveted sixth position on our list is yet another rarity from the CryptoPunks collection, which sold for $11.75 million in a highly-anticipated auction hosted by Sotheby’s in June 2021. The center of attention during this landmark sale was CryptoPunk #7523—an item that belongs to the exclusive category of nine Alien Punks, and further distinguished by a Medical Mask. The exorbitant price tag attached to this digital asset becomes comprehensible when considering the context of the preceding year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
This one-of-a-kind NFT, fondly referred to as “Covid Alien,” seamlessly transitioned to the ownership of Shalom Meckenzie, renowned as the largest shareholder of DraftKings, following the successful completion of the auction.
In case you’re wondering what the most expensive CryptoPunk is, let me introduce you to CryptoPunk #5822, a profile pic (PFP) NFT from the CryptoPunk collection that was sold for the hefty sum of $23.7 million in February 2022. To put it into context, that’s more than twice the price of the previous CryptoPunk on this list. CryptoPunk #5822 sits at the top 2% with just one attribute, featuring the rarest Alien skin and also a rare bandana.
Due to its rarity, CryptoPunk #5822 has seen a lot of bidding and listing activity over its lifecycle but has yet to be resold after this mammoth sale. The owner, 0xDeepak recently transferred the NFT to an unidentified wallet named 7DDFFB and hasn’t listed it since.
Ranked at number 4 on our list is ‘HUMAN ONE,’ a dynamic piece created by renowned digital artist, Mike Winkleman, otherwise known simply as “Beeple” that was sold for $28.9 million during Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale in November 2021.
Unlike previous mentions that are part of collections, this NFT is a one-of-a-kind piece, accentuating its intrinsic value. HUMAN ONE is an ever-evolving artwork of dual nature—a fusion of physical and digital elements that encapsulates a captivating scene of an astronaut traversing diverse backgrounds that undergo continuous transformations over time. The NFT dynamically evolves under Beeple’s artistic direction, providing an ongoing narrative that will persist throughout the artist’s lifetime.
Coming in hot at number 3 is one of the most intriguing and philanthropic NFTs to grace the market— the unique “Clock” creation. This extraordinary timepiece by an anonymous artist known only as “Pak” serves a dual purpose: tracking the duration of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s imprisonment and raising funds for his legal defense.
In a groundbreaking sale that took place in November 2021, the Clock NFT was sold for $52.7m to AssangeDAO—an entity formed by a collective effort to raise the necessary funds for this remarkable acquisition. Assange was controversially imprisoned in May 2019 and is currently detained on charges of espionage against the United States government.
One of the most expensive NFT art sold is the renowned “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by award-winning Beeple. This digital masterpiece represents a culmination of the artist’s renowned “Everydays” series, featuring 5,000 distinct images expertly woven together in a mesmerizing collage. The record sale of $69.3 million, an equivalent of 42.329 ETH at the time, was made at the prestigious Christie’s auction house in 2021.
At the receiving end of the transaction was Vignesh Sundaresan or otherwise known by his online pseudonym MetaKovan, a Singapore-based programmer and crypto investor. The NFT is showcased in an online gallery within the metaverse and can be accessed virtually.
Finally, at the top of our list and the most expensive NFT sold is the artwork known as “The Merge” by the artist Pak which shattered records as it fetched an astonishing $91.8 million on the Nifty Gateway platform in December 2021. The Merge attracted a staggering 28,893 collectors who acquired a combined total of 312,686 units of mass. With tokens initially priced at $575 and increasing in value by $25 every six hours during the sale, the high demand and competitive bidding contributed to its unprecedented selling price.
Characterized by three distinct white masses against a captivating black background, “The Merge” offers an intriguing visual experience. The size of each mass grows as collectors accumulate more tokens, creating a sense of progression and exclusivity. Furthermore, the NFT incorporates a scarcity mechanism and includes a leaderboard, fostering a sense of competition among owners.
There is a lot of debate in the crypto and NFT community over whether “The Merge” can be considered a single piece or the most expensive NFT ever sold, since technically, multiple units of mass were sold to multiple collectors. Some still consider Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” to be the most expensive single NFT art ever sold because it was completed in one transaction to a single recipient.
Regardless of the verdict in this intriguing debate, the significance of these record-breaking NFT sales cannot be overstated. They have propelled the potential of digital assets to unprecedented heights, captivating the imagination of collectors, investors, and enthusiasts alike. The sheer magnitude of the prices achieved reflects the growing recognition of NFTs as a legitimate form of art and investment, commanding attention within the traditional art world and pushing the boundaries of what is considered valuable.
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