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Here are the 13 most expensive NFTs ever sold

In the first quarter of 2021, we saw many NFTs selling for millions of dollars, with digital artists like Beeple making headlines for record sales.

By LLM Reporters  |  October 31, 2021
Abstract shiny nft chip on gray background. Non-fungible token and hardware concept.

The NFT (non-fungible token) market has seen exponential growth in recent months, and 2021 is definitely shaping up to be their year. In the first quarter alone, we saw many NFTs selling for millions of dollars, with digital artists like Beeple making headlines for record sales.

Traditional auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s also entered the crypto market and began auctioning NFTs this year, including CryptoPunks – with some of these also selling for eye-watering amounts. A masked alien punk sold for $11.8 million at the first NFT sale curated by Sotheby’s in June this year – a sign that the upward trajectory was set to continue.

There’s no denying that NFT trading – and investing – is a lucrative business, particularly in 2021 and beyond. But what exactly is an NFT, anyway?

In simple terms, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that hold a certain value based on the uniqueness of the ‘object’ they pertain to. This object can be a digital painting, digital drawing, video, GIF, an audio snippet, a video game collectible item, a music video or any other digital file that can be tokenised.

Considering that these tokens contain unique metadata which is stored on blockchain technology, they cannot be exchanged for another token of the same kind, as is possible with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Trade a Bitcoin for a Bitcoin, and you have swapped like for like – but with NFTs, no two are the same.

At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain – Ethereum being another up-and-coming cryptocurrency we’ve seen make some substantial strides in 2021. Ranking NFT sales is a difficult task due to the fact that the value of the Ethereum cryptocurrency is constantly fluctuating, and the list is based on the conversion value of Ether (ETH) at the same time each NFT was sold.

Which NFT is the most expensive?

The record for the most expensive NFT ever sold so far is the digital artwork, ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’. The artwork, created by digital artist Mike Winkelmann – who is better known online as Beeple – was sold for a cool $69.3 million at traditional auction house Christie’s in March of this year.

This was the first auction of digital art organised by the 255-year old auction house, and the unique work in question consists of a huge collage made up of 5,000 digital images created daily by Beeple from May 2007 to January 2021. The unique piece made Beeple the third most expensive living artist in the world, in terms of sales prices, with only Jeff Koons and David Hockney surpassing him.

NFT concept
The NFT (non-fungible token) market has seen exponential growth in recent months, and 2021 is definitely shaping up to be their year

Who bought the most expensive NFT art?

The most expensive NFT was bought by Metakovan (Vignesh Sundaresan), who initially remained anonymous but later chose to reveal his identity. The second-highest bid on the ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ artwork was from Tron CEO and founder Justin Sun, who bid $60.2 million before being eliminated at the last minute by Metakovan and Vignesh Sundaresan.

Most expensive NFTs ever sold

This is the list of the most expensive NFTs ever sold, with each pertaining to a unique and exclusive artwork edition that has sold for over $1 million.

13. Forever Rose, Kevin Abosch (US $1 Million)

Kevin Abosch became one of the first art creators to sell crypto art, even before the NFT hype. Known for his abstract artwork, he has managed to secure several million-dollar deals for his pieces, even selling a picture of a potato for $1,000,000.

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Abosch sold one of his artworks as an NFT, for $1 million. The piece was a rose, created with the standards of the Ethereum blockchain smart contracts, and Forever Rose was ranked by many news sites at the time as the most expensive piece of digital art in the world.

12. Axie Infinity Virtual Game “Genesis” Estate ($1.5 million)

Axie Infinity is an NFT game, powered by the Ethereum network, that involves creating, buying, and selling creatures called Axies and was inspired by the legendary Pokémon game. In February, a virtual landowner ended up selling his share of the virtual world for $1.5 million. At the time of writing, this NFT is ranked as the largest digital land ever sold, and was purchased by Flying Falcon.

11. Death Dip, XCOPY ($1.58 million)

XCOPY is an artist who has minted several of his works on the NFT SuperRare marketplace since the platform initially launched. His artwork, Death Drip, was the 14th NFT offered on the platform and is now one of the most expensive. XCOPY, in collaboration with the NFT SuperRare platform, held an NFT auction at Bonham’s International Auction House, with the  partnership touted as the first collaboration between a digital art platform and a traditional auction house.

10. The First Twitter Tweet, Jack Dorsey (US $2.9 million)

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet from the microblog platform as an NFT in 2006 for an impressive $2.9 million. The first ever tweet on the platform as a whole after its launch, the phrase read “just setting up my twttr” and the sale was conducted through the Valuables platform – an online auction site that allows tweets to be bought and sold as NFT.

The Twitter founder donated a share of this amount to the non-profit organisation, GiveDirectly, which in turn directed the financial resources to its programs in Africa.

NFT concept
In simple terms, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that hold a certain value based on the uniqueness of the ‘object’ they pertain to

9. Replicator, Mad Dog Jones ($4.1 million)

Mad Dog Jones is one of the most expensive digital artists who has sold NFTs to date. His most notable artwork, Replicator, is the only NFT that generates new NFTs every 28 days, working like a traditional photocopier. The buyer can own between 180 and 220 unique and exclusive NFTs, with each NFT holding a certain value or resale price.

8. Edward Snowden, Stay Free (US $5.4 million)

Stay Free is an NFT artwork by Edward Snowden, a former US government official, who submitted the documents of a US appeals court ruling which disallowed the mass collection and surveillance of US citizens’ phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA). Snowden turned the documents into an NFT digital artwork and sold them for $5.4 million USD on the NFT marketplace, Foundation. The proceeds were donated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded in 2012 that encourages, supports, funds, and defends free speech, public journalism, and freedom of press.

7. Source code for the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee ($5.43 million)

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, auctioned off the 30-year-old source code of the Web itself as an NFT for $5.4 million at auction house Sotheby’s.

But in fact, it was not the real source code of the World Wide Web (www) – it is open-source, in other words, any software developer or programmer can use it, as long as they give the relevant credit. Berners-Lee’s NFT, entitled ‘This Changes Everything’, is just an artistic representation of the web’s source code – a package of NFT artwork.

6. Ocean Front, Beeple (US $6 million)

Ocean Front is one of the artworks in the ‘Everydays’ series, with NFT collector Justin Sun, creator of the TRX cryptocurrency, snapping it up for $6 million. Sun finally got hold of a Beeple NFT after losing out on the last-minute artwork ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’- Ocean Front is a digital artwork depicting the dangers of climate change, and the artist has promised to donate the proceeds to the Open Earth Foundation.

5. Crossroads, Beeple ($6.6 million)

Crossroads is another Beeple work, but is not a part of the ‘Everydays’ series. The curious thing about this one is that there were actually two versions of NFT created by the artist, but the final one depended on the results of the 2020 US presidential election – One if Donald Trump won, and one if Trump lost, which is what eventually occurred when current president Joe Biden was elected.

After the election results, the artist auctioned the NFT on Nifty Gateway, a popular online marketplace for digital collectibles, where it was bought for $66,666.60 by a Twitter user named Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile. Rodriguez-Fraile sold it four months later for about ten times the original price, raking in somewhere in the region of $6.6 million.

NFT auction
Traditional auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s entered the crypto market and began auctioning NFTs this year

4. CryptoPunk #7804 ($7.57 million)

One of the most expensive CryptoPunks on our list is Punk #7804, which sold for $7.5 million in early 2021. This particular CryptoPunk comes with two accessories – a pair of small curtains, and a smoking pipe with a few clouds of smoke – but the high price paid for this digital collectible is due to the fact that alien punks are rare and unique.

Creator of the Cryptopunks project and CEO of Larva Labs, Dylan Field, had the idea to create an algorithm that would generate 10,000 digital collectibles with the smart contracts of the Ethereum blockchain. Cryptopunks were also one of the very first NFTs created in 2017, and were initially distributed for free to people who had Ethereum wallets. Now that all the punks have now been allocated, the only way to own one is to snap one up via an NFT marketplace like OpenSea and Rarible.

3. CryptoPunk #3100 – ($7.58 million)

Of the 10,000 CryptoPunks, only nine of them are aliens, and CryptoPunk 3100 is one of them. This Punk has greenish-blue skin and comes with one accessory, a headband – an accessory that only 406 Cryptopunks have. This is also one of the few punks that has only one accessory. The object’s uniqueness has made it one of the most valued punks of all, and it has sold for a mind-blowing value of $7.58 million.

2. CryptoPunk # 7523: $11.8 million

Number 7523 is the only character among the 10,000 Punks to wear a surgical mask, making him a particularly prized collectible item and one of the most expensive NFTs ever sold. Punk 7523 is now the second most expensive NFT of all time and was auctioned at Sotheby’s , where it was won by businessman and DraftKings shareholder, Shalom McKenzie – who is known to hold a fortune of many millions thanks to his large stake in the popular sports betting company.

1. Everydays – The First 5000 Days ($69.3 million)

As we’ve covered previously, ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ remains the most expensive NFT ever sold to date, and was auctioned at Christie’s for $69.3 million.

The bottom line

With most of the highest-priced NFTs ever sold minted and stored on the Ethereum blockchain, each has been associated with a certificate of authenticity that differentiates it from the others. A non-fungible token is a term that means it is a digital asset that is unique in ownership and value – so it’s easy to see why these unusual assets are such an excellent investment for the future.

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