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The top 15 most expensive NFTs
Discover the most expensive non-fungible tokens that have ever been sold, who bought them and what makes them special.
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Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have taken the world by storm in recent months, facilitating an avalanche of digital art pieces, some of which have fetched tens of millions each. The NFT space may be a mere sub-sector in crypto, but it has attracted some of the largest non-crypto communities, including celebrities, gamers and collectors. NFTs have largely contributed to placing crypto into the limelight and speeding up its adoption.
We also have blockchain networks and NFT platforms to thank for providing artists with the tools to revolutionise how everyone can interact with art. However, not everyone is convinced that NFTs aren't a mere fad or a rich man's playground. After all, some of the prices they've sold at are ridiculously high.
What are NFTs?
NFTs refer to blockchain-based digital tokens that are unique and primarily designed to function as representations of either real-world or digital-native assets. An NFT cannot be duplicated since each token has identifying information that is completely unique.
NFTs were initially mostly utilised for the tokenisation of artwork and digital collectibles, but they are now growing in other use cases, such as in-game assets, music files and domain names among others.
Furthermore, NFTs are indivisible, unlike regular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether, which means they cannot be bought in smaller units. However, there are new projects that have either launched or are about to launch that deal with the fractionalisation of NFTs.
There are several NFT exchanges in the space, including OpenSea, Binance NFT Marketplace, Nifty Gateway and Rarible, that enable users to buy and sell these digital assets.
Top 15 most expensive NFTs
As NFTs continue to become more widespread, let's explore some of the most expensive NFTs that have ever sold.
1. The First 5,000 Days – $69 million
The First 5,000 Days is a digital artwork collage made by a veteran digital artist and graphic designer named Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple. Winkelmann started working on the collage in May 2007, posting art pieces continuously every single day for 13 years.
The artwork was exclusively offered in Christie's, an NFT auction house, which was bought for $69,346,250 by crypto billionaire MetaKovan as he saw Beeple as the "artist of the digital-native generation". The sale also marked the first purely digital-work auction on NFTs where a cryptocurrency (ETH) was used as payment.
Following the sale, Beeple also amassed a huge number of followers, gaining 1.8 million on Instagram and bagging collaborations with brands such as Nike and Louis Vuitton as well as music artists like Childish Gambino and Katy Perry.
2. CryptoPunk #3100 – $7.58 million
CryptoPunks are collectibles composed of 8-bit images of humanoid characters known as Punks; each having unique traits. The CryptoPunks series is one of the earliest collectible series to ever hit the Ethereum blockchain and even inspired the development of the ERC-721 standard that is widely used by most NFTs today.
Punk #3100 is an extremely rare piece since it is one of the "Alien" types, which comprise merely 9 out of 10,000 CryptoPunks. Another addition to the character's rarity is its headband as only 405 other Punks wear this accessory.
3. CryptoPunk #7804 – $7.57 million
Punk #7804 is another NFT from the CryptoPunk series that was sold almost at the same time as #3100 last March 2021. It is another Alien Punk, which is extremely rare. Furthermore, it wears 3 accessories including a pipe, cap and sunglasses. Note that only 378 Punks use pipes, only 254 wear caps and only 317 wear small shades.
The collectible fetched around 4,200 ETH, which was worth $7,566,173.88 at the time.
4. Crossroad – $6.6 million
Crossroad is another digital artwork created by Beeple, which was resold for $6.6 million on Nifty Gateway, an NFT marketplace owned by the popular cryptocurrency exchange Gemini. The work shows a depiction of former US President Donald Trump lying down with several marks on his skin after losing the 2020 US presidential elections.
According to Beeple, the design of the artwork is meant to change based on what the outcome of the election would be, which is why he also created a different version of the artwork in case Trump won.
5. Ocean Front – $6 million
Ocean Front is another one of Beeple's new age masterpieces from the "Everydays" series that portrays the dangers of climate change. Beeple arranged for the Open Earth Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to promote open-source platforms "that help increase planetary resilience" to be the beneficiary of the NFT sale proceeds.
The starting bid was $2.77 million with Tron Founder Justin Sun, Middle Eastern music studio 3F Music and NFT whale BabyBeluga trying to outbid each other. Justin ultimately drew the winning bid at $6 million.
6. World Wide Web Source Code (Sir Tim Berners Lee) – $5.4 million
The creator of the World Wide Web collected a staggering 5.7 million dollars when he auctioned off an NFT of his creation's source code on 30 June 2021. The money will be given to charity.
The single NFT included 4 different pieces, which were time-stamped source code files, a video animation of the code's creation, a letter by the creator and Sir Tim's self-designed digital poster of his code.
7. Stay Free (Edward Snowden) – $5.4 million
Edward Snowden was a computer intelligence contractor who blew the whistle on the existence of mass surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013. Last April, he sold his very first NFT, an image of his face overlapping the pages of court documents that ruled that the NSA's wide-ranging surveillance programs violated US law.
All the proceeds of the NFT sale went to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to fund and promote free speech and freedom of the press.
8. Replicator – $4.1 million
Replicator is the first "multi-generational NFT" to ever hit the space. It is the brainchild of Canadian multidisciplinary artist Michah Dowbak, popularly known by the moniker Mad Dog Jones, that illustrates a photocopy machine in a small dimly lit room. Interestingly, Replicator is designed to print new NFTs every 28 days, enabling its holder to own 180 to 220 new NFTs over time.
The auction was organised by Phillips with 16 bidders competing for the artwork. The winning bid came from a buyer who is new to the auction platform. Not much else is known about the buyer.
9. The First Tweet – $2.9 Million
Jack Dorsey, the CEO and founder of Twitter and Square, auctioned off his first tweet as an NFT, which sold for around $2.9 million on Valuables, an NFT marketplace operated by Cent. The tweet was posted on 21 March 2006, stating "just setting up my twitter".
It was bought by Sina Estavi, the CEO of Bridge Oracle. After the sale, Dorsey converted all the proceeds into Bitcoin and donated all of it to a charity in Africa via GiveDirectly.
The tweet remains on the Twitter platform but is owned by the bidder. Estavi received the metadata of the tweet, including a digitally signed and verified certificate from Dorsey as well as all relevant information such as its content, posting details etc.
It wasn't an easy win, however, as Estavi had to compete with other buyers like Justin Sun, CEO of BitTorrent and founder of TRON. Apart from Dorsey's first tweet, Estavi is also known to have made a bid on a tweet from Elon Musk about an NFT for $1.1 million.
10. CryptoPunk #6965 – $1.5 million
As you can tell, CryptoPunks are common in this list as they are currently one of the highest valued digital collectibles, and Punk #6965 is no different. The collectible displays an Ape with a "meh" expression and is sporting a fedora.
It sold for a total of 800 ETH, which was around $1,540,063.96 at the time. Note that there are only 24 Apes and 186 fedora-wearing CryptoPunks in the series, which makes Punk #6965 quite rare.
11. Quantum – $ 1.4 million
Quantum is the first-ever NFT. It was created by New York artist Kevin McCoy in 2014 and sold last June 2021 for $1.4 million. The artwork illustrates a geometric figure made up of code that constantly changes form on its own. McCoy minted the token in the Namecoin blockchain long before the concept of NFTs was conceived.
The token was bought by NFT enthusiast and collector Sillytuna at Sotheby's auction, Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale.
12. Auction Winner Picks Name – $1.33 Million
Auction Winner Picks Name is an NFT that features a music video and a dance track that was unnamed during its launch. It was jointly produced by techno artist 3LAU and digital collage artist Slimesunday. The concept for the NFT was to award the winning bidder the privilege to pick a name for the song.
Auction Winner Picks Name sold for a total of $1.33 million on the Nifty Gateway.
13. DΞSTINATION HΞXAGONIA – $1.26 million
DΞSTINATION HΞXAGONIA is an NFT that features a "full-length audiovisual experience", consisting of an hour-long music video depicting spacecraft, astronauts, drones and other sci-fi elements. It was created by Dutch artist Don Diablo and sold last April 2021 to an undisclosed buyer.
The buyer is also entitled to a handmade box containing a hard drive that stores the only high-quality copy of the film.
14. Not Forgotten, But Gone – $1 million
"Not Forgotten, But Gone" is an NFT piece that consists of a video render of a gummy bear skeleton inside a box, which belongs to a series of NFTs that portray gummy bears in different artistic renditions made by one of New York's contemporary artists, WhIsBe.
Before getting into NFTs, WhIsBe was known for his gummy bear murals across various places in Brooklyn. "Not Forgotten, But Gone" is his most expensive NFT creation to date.
15. Hairy – $888,888
DJ and record producer Steve Aoki collaborated with 3D illustrator Antoni Tudisco to mint Hairy, an NFT that consists of a video clip of Aoki's track coupled with a hairy blue humanoid figure jiving with it. It was sold on Nifty Gateway for a total of $888,888.
Honourable Mention: The Complete MF Collection – $777,777
The Complete MF Collection is another one of Beeple's NFT works, which displays a slideshow of 20 artworks inspired by video games, technology, nature and Star Wars. The NFT also includes a physical token that consists of a titanium backplate signed by Beeple, a sample of his real hair and much more.
The Complete MF Collection sold for a total of $777,777 on Nifty Gateway, with the winning bid being made a second before the auction was closed.
Why are NFTs currently booming?
There are several reasons behind the success of NFT technology and why it is one of the two fastest-growing subsectors of the crypto space. One of its most remarkable aspects is that it attracts individuals outside of crypto, especially celebrities and artists, who have a lot of followers. One NFT drop from a popular artist could spread the word about NFTs to millions of fans globally.
Moreover, NFTs and gaming are a match made in heaven as proven by the rise of successful games like Axie Infinity, Gods Unchained and Alien Worlds. This has allowed the industry to increasingly tap into the gaming community and vice versa. This also extends to metaverses or virtual worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox, which contain countless NFT assets.
Considering their massive potential and the proof of concept shown, it's no surprise that numerous individuals, companies and organisations are enthused about NFT assets.
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