A lot has changed since the first NFT, Quantum, was minted in 2014. Projects like CryptoKitties, Rare Pepes and CryptoPunk have revolutionised the industry both creatively and financially. The minting and selling of NFTs is growing at a rapid rate, with some of the famous ones getting sold for millions of dollars each. But when it comes to expensive NFTs, how high can the numbers get?
It’s really difficult to say how the prices may swing, as things in the NFT ecosystem are constantly growing and evolving at a rapid rate. With time, many new artists will take the plunge and rake in millions of dollars as more and more millionaires and billionaires spend crazy fortunes to acquire these NFTs. While we can’t say how high the prices may climb, we can certainly talk about some of the highest-selling NFTs so far.
Note: In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the most expensive NFT art pieces ever sold. While there have been collections and multi-NFT auctions that have brought in millions upon millions (like Pak’s ‘The Merge’ edition which sold for US$91.8 million), here I will only be looking at the biggest single NFT sales to have ever happened.
So, without any further ado, let’s dive into it and take a look at the ten most expensive NFTs of all time.
15. All Time High in the City: US$6,200,000 (1630 ETH)
14. Beeple – Crossroad: US$6,600,000 (4,400 ETH)
13. CryptoPunk #8857: US$6,630,000 (2000 ETH)
12. Right-click and Save As Guy: US$7,088,229 (1600 ETH)
11. Ringers by Dmitri Cherniak #109: US$7,117,908 (2100 ETH)
10 most expensive NFTs – Ranked
10. CryptoPunk #7804
Price: US$7,560,000 (4200 ETH)
This is a digital artwork which is a low resolution, algorithmically generated picture of a blue alien wearing a hat and puffing on a pipe and is named “CryptoPunk #7804”. Its owner, Dylan Field, described it as a digital Mona Lisa to his friends and colleagues for years before finally his proclamation looked a bit less hysterical.
With the rise and evolution of cryptocurrencies, CryptoPunks have gained huge admiration as an early player in the NFT space, helping pioneer the kind of digital, scarce assets that buyers all over the world are clamouring for. In March 2021, Field sold the pipe-smoking alien for 4200 ETH or equivalent to US$7.5 million at the time; the 4200 ETH price tag would then go on to amount to nearly US$17 million at 2021 year-end.
9. CryptoPunk #3100
Price: US$7,570,000 (4200 ETH)
Originally released by Larva Labs, this blue alien wearing a blue-and-white headband was named “CryptoPunk #3100”, which also happens to be the last on-chain alien Punk sale of 2021. Moreover, it was the second of the two major Punk sales to happen on March 11, 2021, and one day after another 4200 ETH sale.
It is just one of nine aliens in existence, making it obviously one of the influential CryptoPunks. However, similar to #8857 (mentioned below), no one came forward to give this high-profile NFT a personality via social media.
8. CryptoPunk #5577
Price: US$7,704,000 (2501 ETH)
This cowboy-hat-wearing Punk is one of the 24 Ape Punks and one of 142 with cowboy hats. It was sold for 2500 ETH (or US$7.7 million) in February 2022, making it the second-highest sale in the CryptoPunk collection.
Although there is no direct confirmation from the man himself, it is believed that the NFT was purchased by the founder of Compound DeFi Protocol, Robert Leshner. Interestingly, after the purchase happened, Leshner Tweeted: “Yeehaw”, implying the act of riding a horse. Scores of Twitter users congratulated him, while some also showed their own collections on the platform.
7. CryptoPunk #4156
Price: US$10,279,800 (2500 ETH)
While CryptoPunk #4156 wasn’t the highest-selling NFT from the CryptoPunk family, it was undoubtedly one of the most talked-about NFT trades for a Punk in 2021. After purchasing the CryptoPunk #4156 for 625 ETH (US$1.25 million), the beloved anonymous user gave up his iconic visual part for 2500 ETH, making it one of the highest CryptoPunk sales to date.
As for the reason behind this landmark sale, it seems the move was far less about potential gains and much more about the underlying issues #4156 takes with Larva Labs’ copyright policies. As a prominent builder in the space, #4156 has been a vocal proponent of licensing NFTs under creative commons (CCO) for all to enjoy, while the CryptoPunks collection lies under a restrictive NFT Licence created by Dapper Labs.
6. Tpunk #3443
Price: US$10,500,000 (120 million TRX)
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, isn’t it? You might have guessed by now who inspired the Tpunk NFT collections – CryptoPunks. The Tpunk collection consists of 10,000 avatars on the Tron blockchain.
The rare “Joker” Tpunk was purchased by TRON founder Justin Sun in August 2021. Justin Sun is well-versed in the NFT space as he forked out 120 million TRX or equivalent to US$10.5 million at the time. He was also an active bidder on Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” but was outbid by US$250,000 at the last minute.
5. CryptoPunk #7523
Price: US$11,754,000 (4700 ETH)
CryptoPunk #7523 was the highest-selling Punk of 2021. It is one of nine alien varieties with blue-green skin and is known to many as the “COVID alien” due to its prominent medical facemask trait. It was bought by Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Meckenzie, who is the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings (DNKG.O).
Moreover, it is important to note that the blockchain does not reflect this sale, as it occurred as part of Sotheby’s Natively Digital Auction in June 2021. The original minter, Straybits, and the second-ever collector Sillytuna who supplied it for auction, are both prominent figures in the NFT space. Thus, it was considered as a big win and a major boost towards widespread adoption.
4. CryptoPunk #5822
Price: US$23,700,000 (8000 ETH)
Verified by CryptoPunks Bot Twitter, the sale of CryptoPunk #5822 has become the biggest CryptoPunk NFT purchase in history. Deepak Thapliyal, CEO of Chain, who goes by the name of Deepak.eth on the Ethereum blockchain, purchased the NFT. Its NFT was sold for a record-breaking 8000 ETH, which was equivalent to US$23.7 million at the time.
The owner took to social media to tease and announce his record-breaking purchase. It came close to becoming the highest-selling NFT at the time but just missed by a few million dollars.
3. Beeple – Human One
Price: US$28,985,000 (4700 ETH)
A hybrid digital and physical artwork by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, the “Human One” is an NFT like no other. As the first-ever physical piece from the acclaimed artist, both the NFT and the electronic sculpture went up to auction as a single lot as part of Christie’s Century Evening Sale on November 9, 2021.
The new sculpture is a generative work of art, a dynamically changing hybrid physical and digital piece which the artist intends to seamlessly add and evolve creatively over the course of his lifetime. Considering the massive sale of Beeple’s Everydays, it is truly remarkable that Beeple’s Human One was only second to another Beeple in 2021.
Price: US$52,700,000 (16,953 ETH)
In February 2022, Julian Assange and Pak’s Clock NFT became the second-most expensive single NFT ever sold. AssangeDAO, an organisation whose primary mission is to fight for the freedom of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, won the bid for Pak and Assange’s Clock NFT, with the piece getting sold for 16,953 ETH (or US$52.7 million at the time), making it one of the most expensive artworks to ever exist.
The NFT depicts a timer that counts the number of days Assange has spent in jail. It was curated as part of Assange and Pak’s Censored collection, which also featured a dynamic open edition. They took to Twitter shortly after the auction closed, labelling the endeavour “a drop with no creator, developer, platform, middlemen share,” and that is “from people, for the people”.
1. Beeple – Everydays: The First 5000 Days
Price: US$69,346,250 (38,525 ETH)
Until October 2020, the most Mike Winkelmann a.k.a Beeple had ever sold a print for was US$100. However, in March 2021, an NFT of his work sold for US$69 million at Christie’s, with the sale positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists according to the auction house.
Not only did it become the most expensive NFT sale ever, but the event created a snowball effect throughout mainstream media, bringing the term “NFT” into most households around the globe. Before Christie’s decided to take a chance on NFTs via its online auction, the act of minting, trading and collecting NFTs was seen as a pastime at best. But after Beeple secured the biggest sale in the history of NFTs, it was clear that the time of NFTs had arrived.