Although they have been around for several years now, non-fungible tokens have been the talk of the town since the start of 2021, when historic sales were recorded on this market, and made headlines in the media.
This craze is mainly focused on the art market, thanks to the unprecedented contribution of NFT technology: each non-fungible token issued on a blockchain can be linked to a digital work of art, providing secure, unfalsifiable proof of the work’s one and only owner. All the more reason to unleash the passions of art collectors and investors..
NFT sales reached $2.5 billion in the first half of 2021, and exceeded the historic threshold of $40 billion for the full year, representing growth of 21,350%! These record-breaking sales have attracted increasing interest from investors, and we’ll be taking a closer look at them in this article.
Find out which 10 NFTs have sold for the most money to date, and learn more about this booming new market and its key players.
#1 The Merge, $91.8 million
Sold on December 4, 2021 for almost $92 million, The Merge by the anonymous artist Pak became the most expensive NFT work ever sold, making him the most expensive living artist in history!
It’s an atypical work, since it’s broken down into 266,445 different units which, once reunited, form the final work. No fewer than 28,983 different buyers acquired the pieces, auctioned on the Nifty Gateway platform. The Merge was not bought by a single buyer, which raises the question of the legitimacy of its record..
#2 Everydays: The First 5000 Days, $69.3 million
Arguably the work that most caught the attention of collectors and investors on the NFT market! Sold in March 2021 for almost $70 million, Everydays: The First 5000 Days is a digital collage of 5,000 works by artist Michael Winkelmann, better known under the pseudonym Beeple.
When Christie’s auctioned it to Vignesh Sundaresan, it immediately became the most expensive NFT work ever sold, before being dethroned a few months later by… Pak’s The Merge!
#3 Clock, $52.7 million
A digital work created by artist Pak in collaboration with whistleblower Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, Clock is a clock counting the days Assange has been imprisoned for his revelations, since his arrest.
The work was created to raise funds for Julian Assange’s legal defense, and was acquired for almost $53 million by AssangeDAO, a collective of over 10,000 people fighting for his release. While the work itself is a simple clock counting down the days, its record-breaking sale has clearly put the spotlight back on the case.
#4 Human One, $29 million
We return to artist Beeple with a new digital work whose purchase price has again reached new heights, as it sold for almost $29 million at Christie’s auction house, a few months after Everydays: The First 5000 Days.
Human One has the particularity of being an evolving work, on the model of the ever-changing NFT market: it is a 3D sculpture representing (for the moment) a life-size silver cosmonaut, but it will evolve according to the inspiration of Beeple, who retains creative control of his work from a distance, and this, forever! The suspense surrounding its evolution is total..
#5 CryptoPunk 7523, $11.8 million
You probably already know them: the CryptoPunks represent one of the most expensive NFT collections in the world today. Created by Маtt Наll еt Јоhn Wаtkіnѕоn of the ѕtudіо dе јеu аmérісаіn Lаrvа Lаbѕ, these pixelated faces were originally offered for free, but collectors’ reflexes having taken over, some are now worth fortunes.
This is particularly true of CryptoPunk 7523, part of the Alien collection (which comprises just 9 pieces) and the only one to feature a face mask, highly symbolic of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. The latter sold at auction for almost $12 million!
#6 CryptoPunk 3100, $7.7 million
Proof, if proof were needed, that the CryptoPunks collection is one of the most highly-valued on the NFT market today: we find a new pixelated character at the top of our ranking!
In sixth place is CryptoPunk 3100, distinguished by the white and blue headband he wears around his skull – a unique feature of the famous collection. This piece was sold for almost $8 million to a collector in March 2021. This punk from the Alien collection is also the seventh rarest in the entire collection.
#7 CryptoPunk 7804, $7.6 million
As they say: never two without three! In seventh place is yet another CryptoPunk from the Alien collection. This is CryptoPunk 7804, characterized by its somewhat retro look, featuring a gray cap, dark glasses and a wooden pipe. Features that make it so rare, and so valuable to collectors.
Dylan Field, CEO of design software company Figma, acquired the piece for a cool $7.56 million in March 2021.
#8 Right-click and Save As Guy, $7.1 million
Created by artist Xcopy, the digital work Right-click and save as guy (literally “Right-click and save as guy”) was designed to thumb its nose at the namesake movement (called “Right click, save as”), which appeared in 2021. This movement consisted in copying and distributing free of charge NFTs sold at a premium on the market.
In the end, it did more to boost the value of certain works than to denounce their prices, since this one sold for over 7 million dollars in December 2021!
#9 Crossroad, $6.6 million
Once again, a work by artist Beeple is among the most expensive NFTs on the market today! Crossroad is once again a particularly original and progressive digital work: it depicts a caricature of Donald Trump, lying naked on the ground, bearing numerous anti-Trump messages on his body.
The work was to evolve according to the outcome of the 2020 US presidential elections: in the event of a victory for former President Trump, it was to depict him crowned and passing through flames. In any case, it sold for over $6 million to an anonymous buyer.
#10 Ocean Front, $6 million
And in tenth place in our ranking is… A work by Beeple (decidedly the most popular Crypto Art artist on the market)! Ocean Front (“Front de Mer” in French) was acquired for $6 million by Justin Sun, founder of the TRON cryptocurrency platform.
The work evokes the ecological challenges facing humanity, in particular the consequences of rising sea levels due to global warming. It was not acquired for profit, however, as all the funds used for its purchase were donated to the Open Earth Foundation, which is taking action against global warming as part of the 2015 Paris agreements.
So now you know which are the 10 most expensive NFTs in history – at least so far! There’s no doubt that in a volatile and booming market like that of non-fungible tokens, new sales records will be set very soon. In any case, you now have a better idea of the industry’s star digital works, as well as the most highly-rated artists to keep an eye on.