The Most Expensive NFTs in History

Blockchain Technology Has Transformed How We Value and Collect Art

Article by KAF | Edited by Kornekt | Cover by KAF


NFTs have revolutionized the art world.

When computer graphics came into existence in the second part of the 20th century, the first works of digital art emerged. While not closely considered in the beginning, concerns have arisen regarding ownership of a form of art that is completely digital. Thanks to blockchain technology, NFTs have become the means by which the issue of ownership is being addressed. The most prestigious galleries and artists in the world have concentrated their efforts on this new technology, which is altering the way we collect and value art.

Let’s investigate the most expensive sales in the history of NFTs.

EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS

Artist: Beeple
Collector: Metakovan
Date Sold: Mar 11, 2021
Price: 69,346,250.00 USD
Gallery: Christie’s

‘Everydays  —  The First 5000 days’ is a unique piece in the history of digital art. It includes a mosaic of each image Beeple has uploaded online every day since 2007. Pop culture icons including Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, Pikachu, Shrek, and more are included in the 5,000-image collage. Additionally, a number of the images display numerous homophobic, sexist, and racist elements.

The work was purchased by Vignesh Sundaresan, known as Metakovan, a Singapore-based programmer and owner of Metapurse.

CLOCK

Artist: Pak
Collector: AssangeDAO
Date Sold: Feb 9, 2022
Price: 16,593 ETH
Gallery: Manifold

‘Clock’ is a single NFT timer that keeps track of how many days WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has been imprisoned. Assange was arrested in London in 2019 and faces possible extradition to the United States. The money raised from the sale of the NFT will be used to pay Assange’s legal expenses.

AssangeDAO, a collective of cypherpunks formed in an attempt to free Assange, won the bid.

HUMAN ONE

Artist(s): Beeple
Collector: Ryan Zurrer
Date Sold: Nov 10, 2021
Price: 28,985,000.00 USD
Gallery: Christie’s

This video sculpture is a hybrid of digital and physical technology, accompanied by an NFT. It shows a man walking around with what appears to be a space helmet on his head while wearing a silver outfit. It is “the first portrait of a human born in the metaverse,” according to Beeple.

New York auction house Christie’s sold HUMAN ONE for 28.9 million USD to Ryan Zurrer, a collector from Switzerland.

RIGHT-CLICK AND SAVE AS GUY

Artist(s): XCOPY
Collector: Cozomo de´Medici
Sale date: Dec 9, 2021
Price: 1,600 ETH
Gallery: SuperRare

Long before our current NFT environment existed, XCOPY’s ‘Right Click Save As Boy’ was legendary. On December 6, 2018, it was sold for the first time. After Beeple’s historic Everydays auction, the iconic piece was aired on BBC World News, which helped to change how the public viewed NFTs.

Because this well-known NFT artwork had only ever been sold twice before  —  first for 1 ETH, then for 99 ETH  —  the ‘Medici acquisition represented a 3,500% rise in the piece’s worth, selling at 1,600 ETH.

CROSSROAD

Artist(s): Beeple
Collector: Baby Beluga NFT
Date Sold: Oct 29, 2020
Price: 5,517.00 ETH
Gallery: Nifty Gateway

Crossroad became a meme in the context of the 2020 presidential election in the US; this was before NFTs garnered any truly noteworthy mainstream press coverage. According to Beeple, one of two versions would be represented by the NFT, depending on who won the presidency. It was created as a representation of the political tension in the United States.

The NFT was sold through Nifty Gateway, a popular digital collectibles marketplace.

ALL TIME HIGH IN THE CITY

Artist(s): XCOPY
Collector: rarecollector3000
Date Sold: Jan 2, 2022
Price: 1,630 ETH
Gallery: SuperRare

London-based XCOPY, known for its ominous, abstract, and dystopian graphics, sometimes incorporates motion, flicker, or glitch elements into their works. Numerous artists and projects have imitated their animated works, making their aesthetic a mainstay of the NFT ecosystem.

The animated artwork, minted in 2018, shows Charon, the ferryman of the Underworld, escorting a man across the River Styx.

Just a few months after first selling for 1,000 ETH, XCOPY’s All Time High in the City was sold to rarecollector3000 in January 2022 for 1,630 ETH.

FREE ROSS

Artist(s): Ross Ulbricht 
Collector: FreeRossDAO
Date Sold: Dec 9, 2021
Price: 1,446 ETH
Gallery: SuperRare

The Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection NFT is a singular collection of ten works of art and writings by Ross Ulbricht, spanning his early years, adolescence, and time spent in prison. Ross Ulbricht created the dark web marketplace Silk Road. 

When Free Ross was made available as a part of the collection, the money raised from the sale was used to establish a donor-advised fund called Art4Giving as well as fund efforts to free Ross Ulbricht from prison. The goal of the fund is to reduce the suffering of inmates and their loved ones.

Free Ross, Ross Ulbricht’s first NFT, was put up for auction for six days in early December 2021 and brought in a staggering 6.12 million USD.

A COIN FOR THE FERRYMAN

Artist(s): XCOPY
Collector: jpeggy
Date Sold: Nov 4, 2021
Price: 1,330 ETH
Gallery: SuperRare

A Coin for the Ferryman, like XCOPY’s other priceless works, pays homage to the mysterious artist’s early days as a crypto artist. In November 2021, just days before the price of ether reached an all-time high, the piece changed wallets for the first time since it was originally sold for $139 in 2018.

On November 4, 2021, XCOPY’s A Coin for the Ferryman sold for 6.02 million USD. User jpeggy of SuperRare, who also owns XCOPY’s EVADER, made the transaction.

OCEAN FRONT

Artist(s): Beeple
Collector: Justin Sun
Date Sold: Mar 19, 2021
Price: 5,015.464 ETH
Gallery: Nifty Gateway

Ocean Front NFT was introduced as a part of The Carbon Drop collection, which Nifty Gateway and the Open Earth Foundation jointly launched. The collection includes eight distinct ‘carbon negative’ NFTs in an effort to balance the emissions underlying the minting, which was motivated by the discussion regarding how NFTs affect the environment.

Beeple’s Ocean Front NFT was sold for 6 million USD in March 2021 to Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur and founder of the TRON blockchain, Justin Sun.

REPLICATOR

Artist(s): Mad Dog Jones
Collector: Anonymous
Date Sold: Apr 23, 2021
Price: 3,464.014 ETH
Gallery: Phillips

This artwork by Mad Dog Jones deftly combines cyberpunk with dystopian themes that examine topics of beauty, nature, and technology.

Seven distinct generations of artworks make up the NFT experience Replicator. A photocopier in an office setting is the first Genesis illustration of the Generation 1. This first-generation NFT generates six NFTs at a pace of one per month, each generation being distinct from the previous and succeeding generations.

The auction soared to 2.4 million USD on the first day, reaching a final price of 4,140,000 USD. Sold to an anonymous collector, the work had participants from all over the world.

Special Mentions

The Merge

The most expensive NFT ever is a group of NFTs created by Pak.

https://twitter.com/muratpak/status/1511472710232256516?s=20

Pak raised nearly 92 million USD from collectors and investors, who rallied in support of his NFT artwork ‘The Merge’. The artwork was fragmented into thousands of parts, which were put up for sale as shares through the Nifty Gateway platform.

Ultimately, The Merge has made Pak the most valuable living artist in history, surpassing Jeff Koon’s 1986 painting Rabbit, which sold for 91 million USD.

Learn more about Pak’s artworks in this article.

CryptoPunks Collections

CryptoPunks is undoubtedly one of the most famous collections in the NFT space. One of the key factors that increase the popularity of CryptoPunks is that this crypto asset is considered one of the first projects on the Ethereum network.

The project served as the model for numerous other related artistic works, including Bored Ape Yacht Club, Pudgy Penguins, and many others.

The most expensive CryptoPunks are:

Ringers Collection

The Ringers series is made up of 1,000 NFTs of generative art. Every one of these works is distinct. Within 20 minutes of the 1,000 Ringers series debuting on Art Blocks, all 0.1 ETH copies had been sold out. Since then, an enormous secondary market has sprung up around these NFTs.

The collection was created by artist Dmitri Cherniak and has retained its historical value thanks to critical acclaim and historic sales. For many collectors, Ringers was the first project to open their eyes to the power of generative art. Owning a single NFT Ringers is seen as a status symbol. The two most expensive Ringers are:

Final Thoughts

Given the enormous amount of money that has been spent, there is no denying that collectors of NFT art take it very seriously. Some of these pieces commemorate developments in digital art that are already history.

Many of the NFT movement’s detractors argue that prices are too volatile. However, this notion is a reality across all art sales. Have you ever heard of a Picasso floor price? Do you also know the offers that collectors get following high-priced auctions? Surely not, because that kind of information is private.

Blockchain technology provides us with such transparency, and it has sparked fresh discussions in the field of art. NFTs have altered how we interact with art as well as how we collect it. NFTs aren’t just here to stay; they are here to redefine art. 


A version of this article initially appeared in BanklessDAO’s Decentralized Arts newsletter on November 29, 2022.


Author and Designer Bio

KAF is a consultant and writer helping people get closer to NFTs, DAOs, DeFi, and the metaverse.

Editor Bio

Kornekt is a writer and editor with strong conviction in the world web3 creates.


BanklessDAO is an education and media engine dedicated to helping individuals achieve financial independence.


This post does not contain financial advice, only educational information. By reading this article, you agree and affirm the above, as well as that you are not being solicited to make a financial decision, and that you in no way are receiving any fiduciary projection, promise, or tacit inference of your ability to achieve financial gains.


Bankless Publishing is always accepting submissions for publication. We’d love to read your work, so please submit your article here!


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