What are the most expensive NFTs ever created?
The most expensive NFTs ever created have sold for incredible sums of money, fetching more than $2 billion during the first quarter of 2021.
The sale of these non-fungible tokens has helped to catapult digital art assets into the sights of top investors, thanks to the involvement of high-profile figures such as Eminem, Banksy, and billionaire Mark Cuban.
By storing data relating to photos, videos, and other digital file types on a blockchain digital ledger, NFTs give the owner a certificate of authenticity and public proof of ownership.
We’ve broken down the 10 most expensive NFTs ever sold, from a selection of popular CryptoPunk avatars to celebrated works from digital artist Mike Winkelmann, otherwise known as Beeple.
The Most Expensive NFTs Ever Created
Our ranked lists are created by researching and rounding up information from the most reputable web sources.
Here’s our list of the 10 most expensive NFTs ever created:
10. Stay Free – $5.27 Million
Our first entry on this list of jaw-droppingly expensive NFTs is Stay Free, which sold for an impressive $5.27 million.
Created by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowdon, the NFT depicts Snowdon based on a photograph by Platon.
Stay Free’s image is composed of pages from the court ruling in which the NSA’s mass surveillance program was shown to have violated the law.
Snowdon, a former analyst for the NSA, gained international recognition in 2013 after copying top-secret information from the intelligence agency and handing it to journalist Glen Greenwald, which was then published in the Guardian and Washington Post.
Fittingly, Snowdon dedicated the proceeds from the sale of the NFT to the Freedom of the Press Foundation charity, a non-profit organization on which he serves as president.
Snowdon issued a statement through the foundation before the auction was launched, saying:
“This auction will drive the development of valuable and privacy-protecting uses of encryption to safeguard press freedom and serve the public.”
The NFT was sold through Foundation.app, established in February 2021 by Elpizo Choi and Kayvon Tehranian.
9. CryptoPunk #7252 – $5.3 Million
CryptoPunk NFTs have been rising exponentially in value in recent months, passing the $1 billion sales mark in August 2021.
Developed by American studio Larva Labs, these non-fungible tokens are the brainchild of Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson.
Self-described “creative technologists,” the duo have worked on everything from 8-bit roleplaying games to the development of the AppChat Android app, with a client list including Google and Microsoft.
CryptoPunk #7252 is one of Larva Labs’ zombie punks, featuring red hair and eyes, an earring, and a chinstrap.
These attributes are quite commonplace in the world of CryptoPunks, with 282 punks also wearing a chinstrap, 2459 punks with earrings, and 414 punks sporting crazy hair.
It was sold for $5.3 million on August 24th, 2021, to a user with a collection of 8 punks with a total value of over $12 million, cementing its place among the most expensive NFTs ever created.
Given that CryptoPunk #7252’s initial bid way back in June 2017 was only $14 (or 0.05 Etherium), that’s a staggering increase in value.
With 88 zombie punks available in total, potential completists are going to require extensive funds.
8. World Wide Web source code – $5.43 Million
June 30th, 2021, marked the sale of the original source code for the World Wide Web, albeit in its non-fungible token form.
World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold this NFT through Sotheby’s auction house for $5.43 million, following a flurry of bids in the last 14 minutes, which saw it rise from $3.5 million.
The anonymous buyer received four different items as part of the NFT, which included time-stamped files of the source code, representing approximately 9,555 lines of code written between 1990 and 1991.
A 30-minute animated video, which visualizes the code being written, was also included, along with a digital poster of the code and a letter from Tim Berners-Lee.
The Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) representation of the full code, which measures 841mm wide by 1189mm high, was created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee from the original files using Python.
The letter opens with the line, “As people seemed to appreciate autographed versions of books, now we have NFT technology, I thought it could be fun to make an autographed copy of the original code of the first web browser.”
Mr. Berners-Lee first created the World Wide Web in 1989 using hyperlinks, and the core codes and protocols remain royalty-free.
He clarified in an interview with the Guardian: “I’m selling a picture that I made, with a Python program that I wrote myself, of what the source code would look like if it was stuck on the wall and signed by me.”
The sale through Sotheby’s auction house marked an ongoing shift towards accepting digital artworks in the traditional art collecting community.
7. CryptoPunk #5217 – $5.45 Million
The second entry from Larva Labs in this list is CryptoPunk #5217.
The first sale of this NFT came in June 2017 and went for just $2929, selling for the impressive sum of $5.45 million just four years later.
One of 24 ape punks available from Larva Labs, CryptoPunk #5217, depicts an ape wearing a knitted cap and a gold chain around its neck.
This places the all-time average price for this non-fungible token at 1126.25 Etherium, which looks set to continue to climb.
The unnamed owner of CryptoPunk #5217 currently owns 12 NFT assets, although none of these come in at quite the same heavyweight price.
If you were thinking of making a bid for CryptoPunk #5217, you’d be out of luck since this NFT isn’t for sale.
There are 10,000 CryptoPunks available, split between 6,039 male and 3,840 female, each of which was algorithmically generated through computer code.
The rarity of these non-fungible tokens has made owning them a point of pride in the cryptocurrency community, and they are credited as being pivotal to the explosion of NFTs in 2021.
6. Ocean Front – $6 Million
Graphic designer Mike Winkelmann – also known as Beeple – sold his non-fungible token artwork Ocean Front for $6 million in March 2021.
Winklemann is noted for producing digital art, which often depicts comical references to popular culture, emphasizing political and social commentary.
Winkelmann, who is based in South Carolina, has worked as a freelancer producing concert visuals for stars including Deadmau5 and Katy Perry and has a strong following on Instagram posting pop culture mashups.
While Winkelmann’s exact net worth isn’t known, he is one of the most successful artists working in the digital art world.
His work Ocean Front shows shipping containers and caravans stacked one on top of another in a structure that resembles the accommodation depicted in the Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One.
The NFT was purchased by Justin Sun, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Tron Foundation, which runs one of the largest blockchain operating systems in the world.
Sun won the auction after outbidding 3FMusic, a Dubai-based music production house owned by Farzin Fardin Fard.
Ocean Front is one of several artworks from Beeple’s “Everydays” series, which revolves around the caption, “together we can solve this.”
One of eight NFTs on sale, the creation of Ocean Front was carbon net-neutral to avoid contributing to climate change.
According to the artist, the work represents the current climate challenge, and funds from the sale have been dedicated to the Open Earth Foundation.
5. CROSSROAD – $6.66 Million
The next most expensive NFT ever created is another piece of art from Beeple, this time selling for $6.66 million.
Titled Crossroad, the animated artwork depicts former President Donald Trump lying on his front to the side of a pathway, with a series of insults and slogans scrawled over his body.
While perhaps not the most original depiction of the former president, it initially sold to Pablofraile on Twitter (also known as The Museum of Crypto Art) before being picked up by an anonymous source for $6.6 million.
Beeple designed the art to change based on the outcome of the 2020 Presidential elections.
Had Joe Biden lost, the Trump figure would have been shown wearing a crown and sporting a ripped chest while marching through celebratory flames.
The sale of Crossroad was brokered by Nifty Gateway’s art buying services, which is a popular method for purchasing NFTs anonymously.
At the time of the sale, this represented the most expensive digital artwork ever auctioned, securing Beeple’s position as one of the leading artists working in the field.
Crossroad was the first NFT sold by Nifty Gateway, founded by Duncan and Griffin Cock Foster in 2018, and has since been acquired by the Winklevoss twins.
The digital art online auction platform has also sold NFTs by artists, including Grimes and LOGIK, with total sales between May 2020 and November 2021 amounting to over $400 million.
4. CryptoPunk #7804: $7.56 Million
Returning once again to a non-fungible token from Larva Labs with CryptoPunk #7804, one of the most laid-back punks in the collection.
CryptoPunk #7804 is one of only nine alien punks the outfit has created and is one of 5401 punks that boasts three attributes.
Along with 254 other punks, CryptoPunk #7804 wears a forward-facing cap, and like 378 punks, he’s also wearing a pair of small shades.
Finally, CryptoPunk #7804 sports a charming pipe, which another 317 punks in the collection also have.
The alien variety is the most sought-after type of CryptoPunk, and before the sale of CryptoPunk #7804, two of these NFTs fetched more than $7 million.
At the time of writing, the anonymous owner of CryptoPunk #7804 has another five punks in their collection, with the total amount spent on purchasing punks sitting at a cool $23.52 million (or 5.65k Ether).
3. CryptoPunk #3100: $7.58 Million
Continuing the high-priced non-fungible tokens from Larva Labs with CryptoPunk #3100, featuring one of the more minimalist designs they’ve created.
CryptoPunk #3100 is another alien punk in Larva Labs’ collection of non-fungible tokens and is one of 333 punks with only a single attribute.
This straight-faced alien sports a blue and white headband, which is shared with 406 other punks in the Larva Labs collection.
This NFT sold for $7.58 million – or 4.2k Ether – back in March 2021 to an anonymous user with the address 0x7b8961, having been initially sold for just $2127 in July 2017.
The current owner has CryptoPunk #3100 currently up for sale for anyone willing to put up the 35,000 Ethereum asking price (which, in fiat currency terms, will set you back $142.4 million).
It’s a significant increase from the previously-announced asking price; the owner made the news in August 2021 when they put CryptoPunk #3100 on the market for $91 million.
2. CryptoPunk #7523 – $11.8 Million
To date, the most expensive CryptoPunk non-fungible token is CryptoPunk #7523, which sold for $11.8 million at Sotheby’s.
The sale was part of the auction house’s Natively Digital NFT auction in June 2021, and at the time, set a new world record for a single CryptoPunk artwork.
One of the most expensive NFTs ever sold, CryptoPunk #7523, depicts an alien – the rarest cryptopunks – wearing a knitted cap and medical mask, with an earring in its right ear.
The artwork earned the nickname “COVID Alien,” with data showing its original purchase for just 9 Ether in a public sale in 2017.
The previous owner, collector “Sillytuna,” purchased the COVID Alien punk in an over-the-counter deal and announced his pleasure on Twitter shortly after the record-setting sale:
“So happy to own the first ever NFT, Quantum, from @mccoyspace; A piece of history. Let’s see how we can continue its story.”
Sotheby’s curated Natively Digital auction pulled in a total of $17.1 million NFT sales across the combined works of 27 digital artists.
It signaled the prestigious auction house was embracing the concept of non-fungible token digital artwork as worthwhile investments for traditional collectors and crypto enthusiasts.
1. Everydays: The First 5000 Days – $69.3 million
Standing head and shoulders above the competition, and by far the most expensive NFT ever created, is Everydays: The First 5000 Days.
Its sale for a staggering $69.3 million catapulted the concept of digital art into the public consciousness and was the first example of its kind to be sold through a major auction house.
Christie’s opened the bidding on 25th February 2021, closing the auction on March 11th after the final astronomical bid wrapped up proceedings.
Another creation from Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, Everydays: The First 5000 Days, is a collage of all the images its creator has posted online since 2007.
When he began the Everdays project in 2007, he said he had no intention of selling the work and told CNN how surprised he was when the auction came up.
“It’s a bit surreal because (digital imagery) wasn’t really something that I pictured, in my lifetime, being able to sell. So it (has) come out of nowhere. But at the same time, I also really feel like this is going to be the next chapter of art history.”
The sale through Christie’s auction house further legitimized digital art and non-fungible tokens, with Christie’s responsible for auctioning such works as the last-discovered painting by Leonardo da Vinci and a fragment of a bust of Tutankhamun.
Everydays: The First 5000 Days was purchased by Indian-born entrepreneur and angel investor Vignesh Sundarasan, who is heavily invested in blockchain technology.
Based in Singapore, Sundarasan is CEO of software technology firm Portkey Technologies and the founder of Lendroid, a blockchain startup.
Buying and selling digital artworks through non-fungible tokens might be highly speculative – as is all investment in art – but as this list demonstrates, it can also fetch huge sums of money.
With the adoption of NFTs from well-established auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, it’s clear the market has room to develop and flourish, proving to be more than just a fad.
The proliferation of NFT marketplaces such as Bored Ape Yacht Club points to the potential longevity of decentralized blockchain art sales, while the impressive range of available assets means investment isn’t exclusive to those with a few million to spare.
As the digital ecosystem grows in strength, we expect the most expensive NFT to surpass those featured on this list.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 most expensive NFTs ever created:
- Everydays: The First 5000 Days – $69.3 million
- CryptoPunk #7523 – $11.8 Million
- CryptoPunk #3100: $7.58 Million
- CryptoPunk #7804: $7.56 Million
- CROSSROAD – $6.66 Million
- Ocean Front – $6 Million
- CryptoPunk #5217 – $5.45 Million
- World Wide Web source code – $5.43 Million
- CryptoPunk #7252 – $5.3 Million
- Stay Free – $5.27 Million