The rise of NFTs, visualized
The rise of NFTs, visualized
Let’s see the rise of NFTs facts! They’ve captivated the worlds of art collection and cryptocurrency investment and baffled just about everyone else. An NFT—or a non-fungible token—can be thought of as a unique digital certificate linked to the blockchain, and thus not able to be copied like most digital files. If you were to buy a rare physical artwork or collectible, for example, it would most likely come with a certificate of authenticity—something to prove that Joe DiMaggio really swung the bat you bought. If you were to buy a digital artwork NFT, you’re acquiring a record that shows you to be the rightful owner of the picture, video, 3D model, or any number of other digital assets.
SOLDOUTNFTS put together a variety of graphs, charts, and significant milestones to help visualize and contextualize the meteoric rise of NFTs.
In an era of rampant disinformation and mistrust in digital platforms, in particular, the verifiability of NFTs has caused a boom in their creation, sales volume, and value overall. Celebrities from Jimmy Fallon to Snoop Dogg have come aboard as record-setting NFT sales continue, with the digital artist Beeple’s “Everydays” selling for nearly $70 million.
Keep reading to learn more about the rise of NFTs.
Rise of NFTs: Change in NFT volume over time
Though NFTs have been around since 2015, only in the past year has interest and investment into the technology begun to skyrocket. As this graph shows, trading volume peaked around September 2021, with August 2021 having nearly $400 million in sales. Many NFT marketplaces take a cut of each transaction as profit, and some projects even have built-in royalties, ensuring the artist gets a payout every time the work is traded.
Top Google searches related to NFTs
While trading volume peaked in September 2021, interest in NFTs and cryptocurrency has continued to grow. Most top Google queries show that plenty of people are still curious about what an NFT is and how to buy one. “Ape” and “Beeple” also show up in the top 25 queries, referencing the monster NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club and the digital artist known for selling two of the most valuable NFTs of all time.
5 of the top NFT collections, explained
OpenSea is the largest NFT marketplace. Its top five collections represent a total volume of 1.5 million Ethereum (the most common currency for NFTs), worth about $6 billion.
- CryptoPunks: CryptoPunks, created by the studio Larva Labs, are groundbreakers as well as record breakers. Commonly credited with starting the NFT craze of 2021, the 10,000 unique CryptoPunks—though far from the most complicated designs visually—are seen as status symbols and regularly sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
- Bored Ape Yacht Club: Similarly to CryptoPunks, Bored Apes are commonly used as status symbols in the NFT community, with owners setting them as their digital avatars on platforms such as Twitter. Part of the inspiration behind the primates is the phrase “aping in,” which refers to risking a significant sum on a cryptocurrency bet.
- Decentraland: In contrast to the first two entries on this list, Decentraland isn’t an art project. Rather, Decentraland is a virtual world in which users can buy plots of virtual space. A highly desirable plot of real estate can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Art Blocks Curated: Art Blocks is a generative digital art project, and Art Blocks Curated is a collection of collections from pxlq’s Dynamic Slices to Jen Stark’s Vortex. The catch? You don’t know what the art will look like when you buy it.
- Mutant Ape Yacht Club — An offshoot of the Bored Apes, anyone with one of the original works was “airdropped” a serum allowing them to generate a Mutant Ape. Though these Mutant Apes generally sell for less than their un-mutilated cousins, the project allowed interested buyers to claim a stake in the project if they missed the original launch.
Timeline of the most valuable NFTs
Records of different kinds are constantly being set in the NFT world, though sometimes it’s tough to compare one work of art to another. Rather than just being a canvas or a poster like traditional art, a single NFT can represent many images in a collection and can be bought by a collection of people in a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (or DAO) as well.
- Beeple’s “Crossroads”: In October 2020, the piece—rendering an animated section of a crosswalk featuring various computer-generated people walking in front of a graffitied corpse of former President Donald Trump—sold for $66,666.60. Just a few months later, in February 2021, it resold for $6.6 million.
- CryptoPunk #7804 and CryptoPunk #3100: Sold on two consecutive days for $7.6 million each, the sale of these two CryptoPunks showed the power of being early to the scene—and the value of each CryptoPunk has only continued to grow.
- Beeple’s “Everydays: the First 5000 Days”: Each of the images in Beeple’s “Everydays” can be found easily online since, as the title implies, he has generated a unique work of digital art every day for the past 14 years. However, this massive stitch of the first 5,000 works was valuable enough to be one of the top NFT sales of all time, selling for $69.3 million.
- Bored Ape #8817: The value of golden fur might be tough to map to the value of gold in the real world. However, Bored Ape #8817—with its golden fur and a rainbow hat—became the most valuable primate in the collection, selling in October 2021 for $3.4 million.
- “The Merge”: Rather than having a single buyer, this record-breaking NFT sale fetched $91.8 million from 28,983 individual collectors in December 2021, making the pseudonymous artist, Pak, the most valuable living artist—at least, according to some. Others debate whether “The Merge” qualifies as a single art piece or a collection.
Growth of OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace
OpenSea is the largest NFT marketplace and a unicorn startup as well—one that’s valued at over $1 billion. OpenSea was supported by the famed tech startup accelerators including Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz. OpenSea’s CEO, Devin Finzer, has also worked in software engineering at Google and Pinterest. The explosive growth of the marketplace, which now sees hundreds of millions of dollars in monthly transactions, hasn’t occurred without incident, though: OpenSea’s head of product was asked to resign after allegations of insider trading rocked the company in September 2021.