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2021: A Year of NFTs in Review

By Katy-Ann McDonald

Non-fungible tokens, more commonly known as NFTs, exploded last year when curiosity into the world of digital art pieces and collectible items took the mainstream by storm. Collins Dictionary made ‘NFT’ the word of the year, Post Malone, Stephen Curry, and Jimmy Falon all invested in popular collections, and average sale prices rose from less than $100 million to $23 billion. One digital artist, Beeple, has even been compared to the likes of Monet and Van Gogh after one of his NFTs became the highest selling artwork in 2021, selling for $69.3 million.

While some NFTs demonstrate innovation and uniqueness, others are less intricate. The most popular NFT collections, Cryptopunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, fit into the latter category. Both of these collections have 10,000 generated items with different visual attributes, accessories, and clothes. Unlike most traditional art, intricacy and artistry doesn’t correlate with the value of these collections. Instead, the value of these NFTs lies in the the status, sense of community, and real-life perks that come with owning one.

Here’s some of the most popular NFT collections and highest sold individual pieces:

Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10,000 unique Bored Ape NFTs created by Yuga Labs, and by now you’ve probably seen at least one pop up on your Twitter feed.

Once purchased, the bored, disinterested-looking ape is not only a symbol of high status - it also acts as a Yacht Club membership card and grants access to virtual and real-life members-only benefits.

This one was sold to Jimmy Fallon for $145,000.

The highest sold Bored Ape is #8817:

It sold for $3.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction on October 26th, 2021. Less than 1% of apes in the collection have gold fur, making this trait more valuable and sought after, hence its high sale price.

Another popular NFT collection is CryptoPunk, the OG NFT. Launched by Larvalabs in 2017, it was the first real NFT project on Ethereum. It is a collection of 10,000, 8-bit-style randomly generated items of men, women, apes, aliens, and zombies.

The highest sold Cryptopunk NFT is ‘Covid’ Alien #7523, which sold for over $11.2 million. It’s the third rarest in the entire collection, as one of nine alien CryptoPunks and the only one with a mask. It also has an earring and a knitted cap, which are all rare traits.

Another high seller was CryptoPunk #4156, which sold for $10.2 million. It is one of only 24 ape CryptoPunks.

Most can agree that a unique, intricate, and innovative digital art piece is more worthy of a million dollar price tag than an 8-bit avatar. Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, is currently the world’s most famous digital artist. His piece Everydays: The First 5000 Days, is a collage of pictures he posted online every single day between May 1st 2007 and January 7th 2021. The collection was the first purely digital artwork ever sold at Christie’s - the famous art auction house described it as, “one of the most unique bodies of work to emerge in the history of digital art.”

Much like art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this is definitely the case which Everydays as it was sold for $69,356,250 in March of 2021.

Shortly following this success, Beeple sold his masterpiece called Human One for $28.9 million at another auction hosted by Christies.

The moving portrait is a depiction of the first human born in the metaverse. This 3D video sculpture is 7-feet high, featuring a person in a space helmet walking through different landscapes in a 4 x 4-foot box.

To top off our collection of some of the highest selling NFTs thus far, we have Pak’s Merge, perhaps one of the most intriguing and experimental NFT sales to date. Merge sold for $91,806,519 on Nifty Gateway, setting the record for the most money generated by a single artwork publicly sold by a living artist.

Its uniqueness was a product of the fact that, unlike other high selling NFTs, this one was fractionalized. 28,983 traders collectively spent $91 million to purchase 312,686 total units of mass, which have now been merged to create unique NFTs for each collector of mass.

There has been a lot of conversation surrounding NFTs over the past year. Is digital art on the blockchain here to stay, or is it just a fad? NFT art is so new that no one can really determine the answer. Whether you believe NFTs take away from the respected world of traditional art, or you think they’re a virtual phenomenon, it doesn’t deny that impact they have had and will continue to have in the coming years.

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