While non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, have been around since about 2017, they caught mainstream attention only in 2021. NFTs have gained popularity across all industries since last year. NFTs can sell for millions of dollars, with some of the most expensive selling for over $ The highest sold NFT alone fetched over $90 million.
In fact, according to a report, total NFT sales hit $17.6 billion in 2021–over 21,000% growth compared to 2020. Given the popularity and utility of some of the most important NFTs, this is not surprising. NFTs are still gaining prominence, despite a recent slump in sales.
The Top 10 Most Expensive NFTs Ever Sold
As more and more artists, celebrities, and brands drop their NFTs, let’s take a look at some of the most expensive NFTs ever sold.
1. The Merge by Pak – The most expensive NFT in history
Acclaimed anonymous NFT artist, Pak’s ‘The Merge’ takes the crown as the highest sold NFT. On December 2, 2021, Pak created history by selling his artwork for a whopping $91.8 million. The Merge, unlike other highest-sold NFTs, is not owned by one collector. As a matter of fact, 28,893 collectors bought 312,686 masses (or units) of the Merge artwork. And each unit cost $575.
Dropped on the NFT marketplace, Nifty Gateway, The Merge is a “single artwork distributed across many tokens, not a collection of artworks”. It is an open-edition artwork that users can buy tokens (masses, m tokens). This is where the fun begins. Each token is a unit for mass. Any two tokens in the wallet will merge to make one.
Therefore, the total number of NFTs can change based on the number of collectors. The Merge could theoretically become a 1/1 NFT.
2. Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple
Digital artist Michael Winkelmann, aka Beeple, had long held the record for the most expensive NFT. His artwork, Everydays: The First 5000 Days was auctioned at Christie’s for $69 million in March 2021. Interestingly, the initial bid was just $100. Due to Beeple’s popularity within the crypto and art spaces, the initial bid was only $.
The artwork is a collage of Beeple’s 5,000 artworks that he created every day, starting in 2007. Thus, it comes as no surprise that an artwork that took 13 years to make, fetched such a hefty sum. A year since the auction, Everyday’s continues to be the most expensive NFT sold to a single collector.
3. Clock – Another highest sold NFT by Pak x Julian Assange
Clock was created by Pak in collaboration with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. A timer counts the days Assange has been in prison. The timer keeps track of Assange’s imprisonment time and updates every day. Eventually, in February 2022, AssangeDAO, consisting of over 10,000 Assange supporters, bought the NFT for $52.7 million.
The duo created the NFT to raise funds for the WikiLeaks founder’s legal defence. Assange was imprisoned by the US government in May 2019 on charges of espionage. Assange is currently being held at London’s Belmarsh Prison while awaiting extradition to the US. Furthermore, AssangeDAO will donate all funds to the Wau Holland Foundation, a nonprofit that is taking donations for Assange’s legal defence.
4. Human One – The second most expensive NFT by Beeple
It sure seems like Beeple and Pak are battling for top spots on the list of highest sold NFTs! Human One is fourth on the list, a spectacular kinetic video sculpture that uses both digital and physical technology. In his own words, Beeple called the piece, “the first portrait of a human born in the metaverse.”
The over 7-foot-high sculpture features a person clad in silver garb and what looks like a space helmet. Its background is a dystopian landscape of changing landscapes projected on four walls. Christie’s auctioned the NFT for nearly $29 million in November 2021.
5. CryptoPunk #5822
As one of the first-ever NFT projects in existence, several CryptoPunks have sold for jaw-dropping prices. Of this, CryptoPunk #5822 takes the top spot. This is the first time that an Alien Punk has ever been seen with a blue-skinned Alien. Deepak.eth, the CEO of blockchain-based technology company Chain, bought this rare NFT for around $23 million in February this year.
Founded by software company, Larva Labs, CryptoPunks are a collection of 10,000 uniquely generated avatars. These were launched in 2017 on the Ethereum blockchain and were free for anyone with an ETH wallet to claim. They are still one of the most sought-after NFTs in the market today.
6. CryptoPunk #7523
Another alien CryptoPunk is the sixth most expensive NFT ever sold. Auction house Sotheby’s auctioned CryptoPunk #7523 in June 2021 as part of its iconic digital auction, Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale. It fetched $11. 75 million–the highest for any CryptoPunk at the time.
As the only Alien Punk with a medical mask, it is one of the rarest CryptoPunks in existence. The rare knit cap and earring are also included.
7. CryptoPunk #4156
Well, the CryptoPunks have done it again! CryptoPunk #4156 is the seventh-highest sold NFT. Unlike the CryptoPunks above, #4156 is an Ape type–that too, one of the only 24. Because of its rarity, this CryptoPunk has been sold several times, fetching $10. 26 million in its last sale in December. Actually, just 10 months before that, it sold for $1. 25 million!
Additionally, the Punk spots a Bandana, an attribute only 5% of the collection has. It also has one rare attribute that only 2% of the collection can boast. The punk is not currently for sale.
8. CryptoPunk #3100
The title of the fourth most expensive CryptoPunk NFT goes to CryptoPunk #3100. It was sold for $7 by another Alien Punk. 67 million about a year ago. Actually, that was the first time this particular Punk was listed for sale since it was minted in 2017. It was a rare Alien Punk and sold quickly for a large sum.
Currently, its owner has listed it for sale for $106. 43 million. Although it might seem a little far-fetched to expect the Punk to sell for more than 100 million dollars, this is possible. To its credit, it also features a rare headband (only 406 Punks have this) and a single attribute.
9. CryptoPunk #7804 – The fifth most expensive CryptoPunk NFT
CryptoPunk #7804 is again a rare Alien Punk, sold for $7.6 million. Actually, it sold just a day before #3100 and was the most expensive Punk at the time. However, unlike the other Alien Punks on this list, #7804 spots a number of attributes.
Firstly, it is the only Alien Punk with a Pipe. A Pipe in itself is a rare attribute, as only 317 Punks have it. Similarly, CryptoPunk #7804 features a Cap Forward, which only 254 punks have. It also features a Small Shade. As another rare trait, only 378 punks have this. Thus, with all these features, #7804 is an incredibly valuable NFT to hold.
10. Crossroad – Another highest sold NFT by Beeple
When Beeple’s Crossroad sold for $6.6 million on Nifty Gateway in February 2021, it was the highest any NFT had sold for at the time. Because NFTs were not yet mainstream, these high-end sales were rare. Beeple was already a well-known figure in the art world. He had sold a number of NFTs just two months prior for $3.5million. This was only the beginning of much more.
Created in response to the 2020 US presidential election, Crossroads is a 10-second video with two outcomes. It would depict Donald Trump as victorious if he won. If he loses, however–which he did–the artwork will portray a disillusioned Trump.
Thus, the final piece shows a fallen, naked person (symbolic of Trump) lying on the streets as others pass by. Insults can also be written on the body. The NFT was actually sold before the election.
While this list talks about only ten of the most expensive NFTs ever sold, several others have sold for millions of dollars. These include CryptoPunks’ artworks and Beeples’s. Others are Ringers #109, Edward Snowden’s Stay Free, and Bored Ape #8817, to name a few. We can expect even more NFTs breaking records in the next months.
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