NFTs are non-fungible tokens used to represent digital collectibles such as artworks, photographs, and music. While some NFTs cost hundreds or thousands in USD, a few have sold for tens of millions.
This article will delve into the world of NFTs and review the eight most expensive NFTs and what makes them valuable. Each NFT in this article sold for at least $10 million at their recent auction.
What is an NFT?
NFT is an acronym for non-fungible tokens. It is a token stored on a blockchain to represent a unique digital asset. This asset can be a document, music, artwork, photographs, or real estate. What makes an asset an NFT is non-fungibility.
So even if two NFTs are closely priced with similar features/prices or creators and are issued on the same blockchain, they are not interchangeable. It is these features that make them unique from cryptocurrencies.
If you have one bitcoin and exchange it for another, you have the same thing. Suppose you have one NFT and exchange it for another NFT. In that case, you have a different asset in your possession with its unique identifier.
This reality is what makes NFTs so valuable. Since no two NFTs are the same, they can prove ownership and authenticity.
The Most Expensive NFT Projects
The NFTs listed are not only the most expensive; they are the only ones to cross the $10 million mark. Let’s delve into them. Later on, we will discuss why these NFTs are so expensive. If you are looking for exciting NFT projects, check out our article on tracking new NFT projects.
1. The Merge: $91.8 million
The Merge, a unique NFT (or NFTs?), is a collection of fragmented art (or masses) from a digital creator only known as “Pak.” Pak merged these fragmented art pieces into a single NFT – The Merge.
The Merge was on sale between December 2nd and 4th, 2021. At the beginning of the sale, each mass sold for $575, but the price increased by $25 every six hours.
The sale ended with 266,445 purchased masses. The total sum for these purchased masses was $91.8 million on NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway.
2. Everyday: The First 5000 Days – $69.3 million
It’s not every day that an NFT sells for more than a million. Well, this NFT by renowned graphic designer, Mike Winkelmann, sold for $69.3 million in February 2021. Like “The Merge,” this NFT – Everyday: The First 5000 Days – is a collage of the artist’s 5,000 earlier artworks.
The artist, also known as Beeple, had been uploading daily pictures on his Instagram account. Most of his art pieces had post-apocalyptic themes and seemed to be the artist’s response to current news or pop culture.
For thirteen years (2007 to 2020), Beeple uploaded the pictures that serve as the source materials for the “Everyday: The First 5000 Days” NFT. The NFT represents Beeple’s growth as an artist and his perspective on human existence.
But that is what we think. We certainly don’t know what Metakovan (Vignesh Sundaresan) thought of when he paid $69.3 million for the NFT.
It was auctioned at Christie’s and is the first purely digital NFT to feature in an auction run by a major auction house.
3. The Clock – $52.7 million
NFTs are not only artist expressions; they are also tools for activism. The Clock is an NFT by Pak (creator of “The Merge”) and Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
The Clock is a dynamic NFT that shows the number of days Julian Assange has spent in prison. The purpose of the NFT was to raise funds for Assange’s legal defense and draw attention to his controversial arrest.
The NFT is currently held by AssangeDAO – a decentralized organization that raised millions of dollars to crowdfund the NFT sale.
4. HUMAN ONE – $28.9 million
Beeple – creator of Everyday: The First 5000 Days NFT – makes our list of most expensive NTFs again with the “HUMAN ONE.” This NFT is a 3D moving sculpture that shows an astronaut’s endless journey through different places at different times of the day.
HUMAN ONE is a physical and digital work. Physically, it is a futuristic human-like 3D moving sculpture. 4 digital screens of 16k resolution show the 3D movement. The sculpture is seven feet tall and depicts the astronaut’s endless journey.
According to Christie’s auction house, the sculpture has a mahogany wood frame with a dynamic NFT. The exciting thing is that as long as Beeple is alive, he will be able to make changes to it.
How much did HUMAN ONE cost? Ryan Zurrer, a Swiss entrepreneur and century capitalist, paid $28.9 million for it at Christie’s in November 2021.
5. CryptoPunk #5822 – $23.7 million
CryptoPunk is a collection of 10,000 tokens that represent the Alien series collection. The creators and collectors call these tokens punks. They have similar features, but no two punks are the same. Each punk has a unique identifying number.
CryptoPunk #5822 stands out from its peers in this case due to its high price value. It sold for roughly $23.7 million in February 2022.
The CryptoPunk #5822 NFT is valuable because it is one of the nine rare alien editions in the entire CryptoPunk collection. Plus, it is one of the 333 NFTs in the collection to have a bandana.
Who pays that much for a bunch of pixels on a screen? All indications point to Deepak Thapliyal, the CEO of blockchain infrastructure company Chain.
6. CryptoPunk #7523 – $11.75 million
The CryptoPunk continues to dominate the list of the most expensive NFT ever sold, with CryptoPunk #7523 coming in at the fifth position. It was the most expensive CryptoPunk sold until the CryptoPunk #5822 auction.
CryptoPunk #7523 sold for $11.75 million at Sotheby, a major auction house, during the COVID pandemic in June 2021.
As you may expect, it is also one of the nine rare alien editions in the CryptoPunk collection. It is also the only punk wearing a medical mask.
Wondering who pays millions for an NFT? Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Mckenzie is the answer.
7. TPunk #3442 – $10.5 million
Due to the popularity of CryptoPunk, you would naturally expect others to come up with their versions. A collection of similar pixelated faces launched on the Tron blockchain called TPunks.
Justin Sun, CEO of Tron, bought TPunk #3442, one of the rare NFTs in the collection, for $10.5 million in August 2021. Interestingly, he donated it right after the sale to APENFT
8. CryptoPunk #4156 – $10.26 million
We end our list of the most expensive NFT with another NFT from the CryptoPunk collection. CryptoPunk #4156 first sold for $1.25 million in February 2021 to someone with a matching pseudonym “Punk 4156.”
Punk 4156 later flipped CryptoPunk #4156 for $10.26 million in December of the same year.
What Makes These NFTs so Valuable?
Like other assets, the value of an NFT depends on the opposing forces of supply and demand. The demand for NFTs is synonymous with the market for physical art. Most artworks sell for a meager amount. They only make the news when a painting sells for an unusually high amount.
Just as rare artworks from famous artists command huge figures at auctions, NFTs from popular projects and creators can also be expensive. However, it is the few NFTs that go on record sale that get the most publicity, while the majority of NFTs never make the news.
However, other factors such as its rarity and use case can influence the price of an NFT.
For instance, “The Clock” was able to command millions because the people buying it did so to support a cause. In the same way, people who love to collect rare cards would happily spend millions on rare NFTs such as the CryptoPunk collection.
A lot of people generally buy assets for speculative reasons. Some people do the same with NFTs. They buy them because they suspect someone in the future would be willing to purchase them at a higher price.
This trend mainly applies to NFTs with massive publicity support and exciting origins. But it is a bet many are willing to take.
Lastly, many people invest in NFTs to interact with the metaverse. The digital lands traded in the virtual reality world are also NFTs. If you want to invest in NFT, you should DYOR NFT research to ensure you have something valuable. Similarly, if you believe you have the talent to create your own digital collection, you can easily mint your NFTs online and list them for sale on different marketplaces.