Non-fungible tokens are booming, with NFT artwork regularly selling for millions of dollars at auction. Here are the biggest sales to date.
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are changing the way we think about art—and investors are starting to take notice.
In the last year, NFTs have shot to the forefront of the crypto space. The cryptographically-unique tokens make it possible to create real-world scarcity for digital objects, and artists have seized on the opportunity presented by the technology.
The NFT market exploded in 2021, generating some $25 billion worth of trading volume, and the momentum hasn’t slowed so far this year. This list collects the 15 priciest single-NFT sales to date (in U.S. dollars), ranging from Beeple’s single-edition pieces to an array of CryptoPunks avatars—all of which have happened over the last year, as of this writing.
Check back often, as we’ll be updating this list with new entries as even more jaw-dropping NFT sales make headlines.
1.Everydays: The First 5000 Days: $69.3 Million
The record for the most expensive NFT ever sold (and one of the most expensive artworks ever sold) goes to EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS. The artwork, created by famed digital artist Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s—the first time that the venerable auction house has ever sold a purely digital artwork.
The NFT represents a collage of 5,000 of Beeple’s earlier artworks, demonstrating his development as an artist over the course of his career.
It was purchased by Vignesh “Metakovan” Sundaresan, who initially remained pseudonymous, but later revealed his identity. “The point was to show Indians and people of color that they, too, could be patrons, that crypto was an equalizing power between the West and the Rest, and that the global south was rising,” Metakovan explained.
The second-highest bidder on the piece was none other than Tron CEO and founder Justin Sun, who bid a whopping $60.2 million before getting sniped at the last second by Sundaresan.
2.Clock: $52.7 Million
Here’s a collision of a few hot industry topics: NFTs, decentralized autonomous organizations (or DAOs), and crypto-fueled fundraising. Clock is an NFT created by artist Pak, who is known for using novel token models and gamification to fuel his popular NFT projects.
The dynamic NFT shows the total number of days since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was imprisoned. AssangeDAO, which was formed to raise funds for his legal defense, ultimately raised and bid just over 16,593 ETH ($52.7 million) to purchase the NFT. Pak then donated the funds to the Wau Holland Stiftung Moral Courage Project to aid in Assange’s defense.
Pak also made a big splash in December 2021 with the launch of Merge, an NFT project that generated $91.8 million during its sale period—although it’s not a single NFT.
Nearly 29,000 buyers each got a dynamic NFT based on the number of “mass units” they purchased, and those can be combined by acquiring other NFTs from the project.
3.HUMAN ONE: $28.9 Million
Beeple holds the top spot on this list, but he’s no one-hit wonder in the NFT world. In late 2021, he unveiled his latest major creation, HUMAN ONE, a sculpture with digital screens on all sides that depicts a person in a spacesuit walking through an ever-changing environment.
It’s a physical/digital hybrid piece that reflects Beeple’s growing artistic ambitions beyond the purely digital canvas—but it also comes with an NFT deed of ownership included. HUMAN ONE secured a hammer price of $25 million at Christie’s auction in November 2021, but landed at $28.9 million once all fees were added. Ryan Zurrer, formerly venture partner at Polychain Capital, had the winning bid.
4.CryptoPunk #5822: $23.7 Million
Get used to seeing these pixelated faces: CryptoPunks make up a large number of the entries on this list. The 10,000 Ethereum-based avatars were minted 2017 and given away for free by Larva Labs, a pair of developers from Canada.
Since that inauspicious start, they’ve become the O.G. of NFT profile picture projects, inspiring an entire industry of followers—including the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Along the way, they’ve generated over $2 billion worth of trading volume, and yielded dozens of sales over the million-dollar mark—most notably, this one.
CryptoPunk #5822 sold for $23.7 million worth of ETH in February 2022. The alien avatar type is the rarest of the bunch, with only nine of them in the entire collection, and this one sold to Deepak Thapliyal, CEO of cloud blockchain infrastructure firm Chain.
5.CryptoPunk #7523: $11.8 Million
This CryptoPunks NFT was higher up on our list until recently, with the above Punk sale doubling the previous project record. Like that one, CryptoPunk #7523 is also a rare alien. Its medical mask attribute also gives it a unique topicality in these COVID-influenced times, one reason why it was snapped up in Sotheby’s “Natively Digital” auction for a whopping $11.8 million by DraftKings’ largest shareholder, Shalom Meckenzie.
“I really wanted this particular CryptoPunk,” Meckenzie told Decrypt. “It is part of the alien collection, which is the rarest of the punks, and the only alien that has a mask. I thought it was symbolic of Covid and the popularization of NFTs.”
6.TPunk #3442: $10.5 Million
The success of CryptoPunks has fueled an array of knock-offs, and just about every blockchain platform that has NFTs has a version of Punks—from Solana to Stacks, Algorand, and beyond.
Even Tron has its own CryptoPunks copycat, and while TPunks NFTs typically don’t sell for much—the cheapest-available is just $130 as of this writing—this one in particular netted an enormous sale. TPunk #3442 sold for 120 million TRX, or $10.5 million worth, in August, and it went to Tron co-founder Justin Sun.
Did he really need to pay $10.5 million for this TPunk? Given the price of the others, probably not. But the man is swimming in TRX and it appears that he wanted to make a statement amid the surging NFT market at the time. And that he did. Sun said that he donated the NFT to APENFT, a Tron-based project that is tokenizing artwork on the blockchain.
7.CryptoPunk #4156: $10.26 Million
Beyond the eye-popping sale price for CryptoPunk #4156, which changed hands in December 2021, there’s an even more interesting angle: it was sold by someone who became famous in the crypto world via his pseudonym, but then rejected his NFT namesake.
Punk 4156 first became notable in the burgeoning NFT industry for buying the NFT for a then-record-breaking $1.25 million worth of ETH in February 2021—Beeple even used the image in a piece of his art. But then 4156 gained popularity by becoming a thought leader in the space, and eventually launching Nouns, an NFT project that is building open-source IP.
Over the course of the year, 4156 became disillusioned with CryptoPunks due to the creators’ handling of commercialization rights and attempts to snuff out derivative projects. Ultimately, 4156 moved on, selling the NFT for about 8x the USD value in less than a year.
8.CryptoPunk #5577: $7.7 Million
The second-highest CryptoPunks ape sale came in February 2022 with the sale of CryptoPunk #5577 for 2,501 ETH, worth $7.7 million at the time. This ape has a cowboy hat and is believed to have been purchased by Robert Leshner, CEO of Compound Finance.
9.CryptoPunk #7804: $7.56 Million
Dylan Field, the CEO of design software company Figma, is behind the sale of the fifth-most expensive NFT in history—CryptoPunk #7804. The NFT sold for a cool 4,200 ETH in March 2021, at the time worth just over $7.5 million.
Another one of just nine alien CryptoPunks, it also sports three accessories: a forward cap, shades, and a pipe. Indeed, it’s the only alien CryptoPunk to have a pipe or a forward cap.
10.CryptoPunk #3100: $7.51 Million
We weren’t kidding when we said there are a lot of CryptoPunks in this list. Yet another alien Punk, CryptoPunk #3100 sports a headband and sold for 4,200 ETH ($7.51 million) in March 2021.
11.Ringers #109: $7.12 Million
Ethereum generative art project Art Blocks had a white hot moment of speculative frenzy in the late summer and early fall of 2021, with several pieces selling for millions of dollars each as people saw fine art potential in the collection.
Ringers, by artist Dmitri Cherniak, has been one of the most valuable projects of the bunch, along with Tyler Hobbs’ Fidenza line. The largest Art Blocks sale to date went to Ringers #109, which was purchased for 2,100 ETH or $7.12 million in early October 2021.
It was picked up by Starry Night Capital, a $100 million NFT investment fund co-founded by Three Arrows Capital and pseudonymous collector Vincent Van Dough.
12.Right-Click and Save As Guy: $7.09 Million
XCOPY’s work “explores death, dystopia, and apathy through distorted visual loops,” per his SuperRare profile, but it also sometimes reflects the NFT scene itself—and the artist’s 1:1 animated pieces have become holy grails for serious collectors.
Right-Click and Save As Guy references a common critique of NFT artwork—that anyone can easily save a copy of an image—with a throbbing, glitchy avatar that you can just imagine is someone complaining about NFTs on social media. It sold for nearly $7.1 million in December 2021, up from the previous sale price of $174,000 in February of the same year.
Interesting twist: the NFT was purchased by Cozomo de’ Medici, which rapper Snoop Dogg has claimed is his pseudonymous, NFT-collecting alter ego. Cozomo previously purchased another XCOPY piece for $3.9 million in September 2021.
13.CROSSROAD: $6.66 Million
CROSSROAD is an NFT created by acclaimed digital artist Beeple. It features anti-Trump messaging, and an enlarged Donald Trump-like figure laying in a defeated heap with profanities written across his naked body.
It didn’t always look like that, though; the artwork was designed to change based on the outcome of the 2020 election. Had Trump won, it would’ve depicted him wearing a crown and striding through flames.
Nifty Gateway, a popular marketplace for digital collectibles, brokered the $6.66 million sale of the NFT between its original owner (Twitter user Pablorfraile) and an anonymous buyer.
The NFT was sold just four months after it was initially purchased, at roughly 10x its original price.
14.CryptoPunk #8857: $6.63 Million
Here’s yet another CryptoPunks NFT that just barely made the cut at a sale price of about $6.63 million (or 2,000 ETH) in September 2021. CryptoPunk #8857 is a zombie avatar with 3D red-and-blue glasses, and this NFT was previously sold for just $1,717 in May 2018.
15.All Time High in the City: $6.2 Million
Here’s another pricey XCOPY that has a title that feels right at home in the crypto world. This pulsing, animated image sold for nearly $6.2 million (1,630 ETH) in January 2022, just a few months after its previous sale at $2.9 million (then 1,000 ETH).
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