NFTs have existed for many years; their origin can be traced back to 2014 when the digital artist Kevin McCoy minted the first-known NFT.
It took seven years before entering public consciousness and starting its meteoric rise. In 2021, the term "NFT" was named word of the year by Collins Dictionary. 2021 also saw NFTs marketplace value exceed 41 billion, with the number set to increase in 2022. The price of NFTs varies; they can be "sold" for free to millions of dollars, with expensive NFTs generating much hype and interest. Here are the top 5 selling NFTs of all time (to date).
1. The Merge ($91.8 Million)
Work of art by the digital creator Pak, it isn't easy to know if it's a single NFT or a collection. The NFT Marketplace, Nifty Gateway, in December 2021, sold the NFT. The artwork was broken down into 266,434 units (called mass) and sold to individuals. People who already owned Pak NFTs were offered a "mass" at $299 pre-sale; the figure rose to $400 in the public sale where anyone could purchase. People could buy as many "mass" as they wanted, and the sale concluded within 48 hours.
Merge is one of the most significant sales by a living creator in the digital and physical art world. The drop raised $91.8, the largest ever sale of an NFT. Merge did not involve people buying Ethereum NFTs; they purchased "mass" tokens combined to form the NFT following the sale. There is confusion on whether this is a project or an NFT since there are over 266k units involved. But one single individual, in theory, could buy all pieces on the secondary market to put together a single NFT.
Everydays: The First 5000 Days ($69.3 Million)
This NFT by the artist Mike Winkelmann (known as Beeple) sold for $69.3 million in March 2021. Selling at Christie's, a mainstream auction house that never sold digital art before, its involvement contributed to NFT culture becoming mainstream.
In May 2007, Winkelmann started to post an image online and continued daily for the next 5000 days. In 2021, Beeple took the photos to create a collage and formed an NFT. He teamed with Christie's to create an auction lasting two weeks. Initially starting the bidding at $100, the price increased as crypto enthusiasts became involved, fetching a record price for an NFT at the time.
"Clock" NFT ($52.7 Million)
In February 2022, AssangeDAO, which aims to seek justice for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, won the Assange and Pak's Clock NFT. The NFT under the Censored collection shows a timer displaying the number of imprisoned days.
Assange, facing extradition to the US to receive a 175-year sentence, partnered with the digital artist Pak to raise the legal defense fund.
AssangeDAO consists of more than 10,000 Assange supporters who pooled money to raise capital to buy the NFT. While Assange is a controversial figure, it demonstrates the community benefit of NFTs. NFTs allow individuals to come together for a common cause, bypassing corporate organizations that monopolize the Web 2.0 space.
Human One ($28.9 Million)
Following the success with "Everydays: The First 5000 Days", Beeple made the headlines in December 2021 when "Human One" sold for close to $29 million.
The Human One features four video screens on a rotating rectangular box that depicts a life-sized human astronaut walking through many dystopian climates. Beeple said it's "the first portrait of a human born in the metaverse" the artwork is a physical piece accompanied by a "dynamic" NFT, a series of video clips stored on the Ethereum blockchain as the display for the screen. Beeple plans to add new designs to the blockchain, enabling art to change with time.
The owner may see changes to the artwork over time, and it's a new concept with the introduction of "dynamism" to the art world.
CryptoPunk #5822 ($23.7 Million)
The CryptoPunk project was a significant contributor to NFTs taking off in 2021. They are a collection of 10,000 pixel-based art images of unique characters, each with personality and distinctive features.
As with all collections, some NFTs are worth more than others, with the rarity feature playing an important part. The fewer duplicate features in an NFT than others in the collection, the greater its value. The CryptoPunk project has nine aliens also categorized as rare. CryptoPunk #5822 has an alien avatar type and is valued highly.
CryptoPunk #5822 sold for over $23 million in February 2022. Deepak Thapliyal, the CEO of the blockchain infrastructure company Chain, bought the NFT from the Larva Labs' online marketplace. It's the fifth most expensive NFT ever sold.
"Clock" NFT and CryptoPunk #5822 are recent additions to the top five. With blue-chip NFT prices on the rise, other NFTs will occupy these positions in the future.