The world of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) has exploded in popularity and value recently, with some selling for millions of dollars. NFTs have shaken up the art world, music industry, sports collectibles and more. In this post, we‘ll explore some of the most expensive NFT sales to date.
What are NFTs?
Before diving into the priciest NFTs, let‘s quickly explain what NFTs are. An NFT is a unique digital asset that represents ownership of something on the blockchain. NFTs can represent digital files like art, audio, video, and more. They prove ownership and authenticity of one-of-a-kind items.
NFTs run on blockchain technology, like Ethereum. This allows digital art and collectibles to be tokenized and tracked. NFTs are minted, bought and sold like any other cryptocurrency but each one is unique and not interchangeable.
The market for NFTs has exploded recently as artists, musicians, influencers and more create unique digital items. NFT marketplaces like OpenSea have popped up to buy, sell and auction these digital assets.
Now let‘s look at some of the rarest and most coveted NFTs selling for millions.
Beeple – $69 Million
The current record holder for most expensive NFT is “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple. It sold at auction through Christie’s for a staggering $69,346,250.[Image]
This collage NFT is a compilation of 5000 digital drawings made one per day by Beeple over 13 years. It’s an artistic labor of love that demonstrates his evolution as an artist over time.
This historic NFT sale set several records and helped propel the NFT market into the mainstream. It marks the first NFT sold by a major auction house and proves that digital art is being taken seriously by collectors.
Pak – $91.8 Million
In April 2022, an NFT collection titled “Merge” by the mysterious digital artist Pak sold for $91.8 million through Nifty Gateway, breaking the record set by Beeple.
“Merge” consists of 26638 NFTs that can be collected and fused into more valuable NFTs. A group called ConstitutionDAO purchased the full set as an investment.
Pak is an anonymous artist who caught the NFT world by storm. This astronomical sale cements Pak as a premier NFT creator. It also shows the potential value in generative NFT collections.
Human One – $29.9 Million
In November 2021, Beeple struck again with an NFT sculpture called “Human One.” This hybrid digital/physical artwork sold for $28.9 million at Christie‘s, making it the most expensive NFT for a physical object.
Human One is a 7-foot tall kinetic video sculpture with constantly changing dystopian scenes on stacked screens. The footage displays an astronaut wearing sneakers walking through evolving landscapes.
This work came with an NFT component granting ownership and long-term rights. Human One pushes the boundaries of digital art merged with an augmented reality experience.
CryptoPunks – $24 Million
CryptoPunks are algorithmically generated pixel art characters, with only 10,000 in existence. They were one of the first NFT projects on Ethereum and have become highly coveted digital collectibles.
The most expensive CryptoPunk sold is #7523 for $11.8 million in June 2021. It’s one of just nine known “Alien” punks, considered the rarest variety.
Another rare CryptoPunk called “Covid Alien” #2890 sold for $11.8 million in March 2021, tying it for the top sale. CryptoPunks are seen as the blue-chip NFT collection with values skyrocketing.
Right-click and Save As Guy – $7.6 Million
This NFT titled “Right-click and Save As Guy” comes from XCOPY, selling for $7.58 million on SuperRare in December 2021.
It’s a pop art style portrait of a guy in a suit with a fedora. The description reads “if you right-click and save as this guy, it‘s over for you.” This commentary on stealing digital art propelled its high sale.
XCOPY is an anonymous crypto artist making bold statements through conceptual NFTs like this one. The mystery and message struck a chord in the NFT community.
Ringers 109 – $6.9 Million
Next on the list of pricey NFTs is Ringers #109 which sold for $6.9 million in February 2022. Ringers are algorithmically generated 3D sculptures by artist Dmitri Cherniak and issued on Art Blocks.
Ringers consists of colorful looped ribbons across poles, with intricate variations. The project combines art, math and computer science, creating 1000 unique NFTs.
Ringers represent an early Art Blocks project combining generative art and smart contracts for tokenized 3D sculptures. This technology-meets-art approach has created immense value.
Beeple – $6.6 Million
Beeple scores again with an NFT titled “CROSSROAD” that fetched $6.6 million in February 2021 on Nifty Gateway. It was purchased by an array of star-studded investors including Steve Aoki.
Crossroad depicts a suited man collapsed on the ground at a crossroad, with two TVs heads. It represents triumph and defeat following the contentious 2020 US election.
This powerful political statement resonated with the NFT community during a polarized time. The timing and creativity combined for Beeple’s enormous sale.
Edward Snowden – $5.5 Million
“Stay Free” is an NFT created by infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, selling for around $5.5 million in April 2021.
The NFT displays a legal decision ruling NSA mass surveillance illegal in the United States. Snowden calls it "the most important court decision in the history of privacy."
With Snowden’s fame and the privacy themes relevant today, this historic NFT achieved a big sale. Snowden said proceeds benefit freedom of the press nonprofit, the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
XCOPY – $6 Million
XCOPY is one of the most coveted crypto artists with multiple ultra-expensive NFT sales. One called “A Coin for the Ferryman” sold on SuperRare for $6 million in November 2021.
It’s a looping animation showing a hooded figure crossing the river Styx from ancient Greek mythology. XCOPY‘s conceptual artistry and mythical themes resonated to achieve this monumental sale.
Beeple – $6 Million
Beeple’s “Ocean Front” property NFT sold for exactly $6 million in March 2021. It’s part of his “Everyday” series showing an idyllic scene of beachfront homes.
Look closer though, and you’ll notice impending doom growing on the horizon. This imagery calls attention to rising climate change threats. Proceeds from the historic sale went to the Open Earth Foundation supporting climate change research.
Pak – $5.44 Million
Artist Pak keeps racking up mind-boggling NFT sales, including “The Switch” which sold for $5.44 million in April 2022. It was purchased by a group of 17 collectors led by Adam Bomb Squad.
“The Switch” is part of Pak’s “Arcades” collection of retro-futuristic arcade cabinets. It features a red button that says “Don’t Press.” Once pressed, the art transforms into something new.
This interactive experience where collectors control the art adds to the value. Pak’s creativity, provenance and hype keep driving record sales.
Mad Dog Jones – $4.1 Million
In June 2021, an NFT titled “REPLICATOR” by artist Michah Dowbak (aka Mad Dog Jones) sold at Phillips for $4.1 million.
Replicator displays a machine with the ability to generate its own offspring NFTs. The buyer of Replicator received additional Replicant NFTs created from the original.
This biologically-inspired form of AI art producing more art is innovative and highly coveted. Replicator represents a milestone of NFTs dynamically expanding in quantity and evolving in appearance.
Beeple – $3.5 Million
Beeple’s “Everyday: The First 5000 Days” NFT wasn’t his first sale for millions. One of his earliest was another piece from “Everyday” called “Crossroads” selling for $3.5 million in February 2021.
It depicts a war-torn scene with towering robots and machinery waging destruction. Beeple’s apocalyptic vision and highly detailed execution helped achieve this early monumental sale.
Fewocious – $2.8 Million
At just 18 years old, Victor Langlois (aka Fewocious) has already sold NFTs for huge value. His piece “Nice to Meet You, I’m Mr. Misunderstood” sold for $2.8 million in June 2021 at Christie’s.
It’s a traditional acrylic painting on canvas depicting a creature wearing a t-shirt that says “Misunderstood.” The NFT component granted exclusive ownership rights.
Fewocious attributes his youthful imagination and emotions to his avant-garde works resonating with collectors. He represents a new generation of digital artists thriving with NFTs.
Grimes – $6 Million
Pop singer Grimes sold around $6 million worth of her digital art NFT collection called “WarNymph” in March 2021.
Her animated flying cherub characters and mythological goddesses carried her signature ethereal style. Combined with her pop culture fame, this resonated with NFT fans.
Musicians including Grimes are cashing in on their artistic talents via NFTs. Her sales show the room in the space for female artists and expand NFTs beyond visual art.
Kings of Leon – $2 Million
Speaking of music NFTs, rock band Kings of Leon released their album “When You See Yourself” as an NFT in March 2021. The top sale from their collection was a “Golden Eye” vinyl for $150,000.
Fans could buy exclusive album packages as NFTs. This allowed Kings of Leon to connect with fans in a new way while tapping into NFT hype. Additional proceeds went to Live Nation‘s Crew Nation fund supporting touring staff.
Music NFTs offer artists a new revenue stream from direct sales to fans instead of streaming royalties. Kings of Leon pioneered band-led music NFTs, and more musicians quickly followed.
3LAU – $11 Million
DJ and producer 3LAU made history by becoming the first artist to sell a music NFT collection for over $11 million.
3LAU’s Ultraviolet collection featured never before heard productions. It also came with special experiences like studio sessions and custom lyrics.
This combination of new music and exclusive perks offered unique value to fans. It paved the way for musicians to directly monetize unreleased content via NFTs.
Steve Aoki & Antoine Trotter – $4.25 Million
Superstar DJ Steve Aoki collaborated with digital artist Antoine Trotter to create “Dream Catcher.” This musical NFT artwork sold for $4.25 million in April 2021.
Dream Catcher is a one-of-a-kind animation pulsing with Aoki‘s music. The buyer received ongoing access to Aoki’s recording sessions and parties.
Music and art collaborations like this attract buyers who want exclusive experiences from their celebrity idols. It’s another innovative way musicians are cashing in via NFTs.
Logan Paul – $3.5 Million
YouTuber Logan Paul raised $3.5 million for his Dink Doink animated NFT project in February 2022. He priced them at 3 ETH each, selling 10,000 cartoon avatars to his loyal fanbase.
Influencers with big audiences like Logan Paul have capitalized on NFTs. Fans are eager to own a unique digital piece of creators they love. Even meme-like art can rack up sales with the right hype.
NHL – $3.6 Million
Sports leagues and teams are getting in on the NFT craze. The NHL released their first NFT series “NHL Player Gaming Cards” in 2021, earning over $3.6 million in sales at the time.
There were over 200 NFT cards featuring talents like Wayne Gretzky that fans could collect and trade on the Flow blockchain. Topps also partnered with MLB for limited edition baseball NFT sets.
As sports cards go digital, expect leagues to keep looking toward NFTs to drive new revenue and fan engagement.
Luka Dončić – $4.6 Million
The NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Dončić entered the NFT scene by releasing his own set called the “Luka Garage Collection.” It earned $4.6 million in total sales in February 2022.
The animated NFT series included things like Luka’s signed rookie card digitized as an NFT. It also had a SLAM Magazine cover and moments capturing his basketball journey.
Individual athletes stand to win big by offering collectible NFT moments directly to their supporters. More stars across sports have started leveraging NFT technology and hype.
Ernie Barnes – $1.8 Million
In April 2022, a series of NFTs featuring artwork by late artist Ernie Barnes sold for $1.8 million. Barnes is famous for his paintings focused on sports, dance and African-American life.
His son worked with Era8 to create legacy NFTs bringing his father‘s iconic works into the digital realm. Owning the NFT comes with rights to the physical paintings too.
Ernie Barnes shows how NFTs open up new avenues to preserve and spread legendary work. Expect more estates entering Web3 to keep their creator‘s legacy alive.
Andy Warhol – $3.2 Million
Even iconic pop artist Andy Warhol has ventured into NFTs posthumously. A collection of his 1980s computer graphic prints called “Machine Made” auctioned for around $3.2 million in February 2022.
Christie’s auctioned off the Warhol NFTs, which contained digitized versions of his drawings on a Commodore Amiga computer. This marked Warhol‘s first dive into early computer art.
Warhol predicted a lot of the mass commercialization we see today. The NFT space aligns with his creativity and boundary-pushing vision. Warhol helps legitimize NFT art among traditionalists.
The Future of NFTs
NFTs have shaken up industries like art, music, sports and fashion in just a couple short years. But many believe this is still just the beginning. OpenSea surpassed $1 billion in monthly sales, showing surging mainstream appetite for digital goods.
As creators fight for attention online, expect NFTs to offer new channels to engage fans. Supporters are hungry to own social clout, flex online identity and get access to exclusive content.
For artists, NFTs represent a way to monetize work in a fan-centric model vs. centralized systems. And for collectors, it‘s a store of culture and value that can appreciate over time.
While critics remain skeptical, NFT adoption is still growing rapidly. These record sales show some see profound value in blockchain authentication and digital ownership.
Love them or hate them, NFTs don‘t appear to just be a passing trend. So pay attention as NFTs keep maturing into the next evolution of art, music and collectibles.