From the Nyan Cat Meme to the World’s First Tweet: 10 NFTs That Sold for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Also, WTF are NFTs?

non-fungible token

(SPOT.ph) We now live in a world where moments can be owned, tweets can be bought, virtual houses and lots can be traded, and digital artwork can be displayed on your television. It seems like something from a Black Mirror episode, but it’s true. All these are made possible by the complex concept of the crypto-economy, where your money’s value depends on how much you think it’s valued, your property and purchases are speculative assets, and proof of ownership is kept in stacks of servers humming with their fellow stacks of servers in a cold warehouse somewhere. A huge part of this are NFTs or non-fungible tokens—and before you say it, we’re saying it for you: WTF are NFTs? We get it, it’s pretty complicated.

What Are Non-Fungible Tokens?

First, let’s talk about what it’s not: fungible. In economics, a fungible asset can be exchanged with another asset of the same value. For example, you have a 50-peso bill in your wallet, but you want to exchange it for some coins. So you ask your friend for five 10-peso coins. This makes money and currency fungible assets because they can be converted to another tangible object that's of the same value. 

Non-fungible tokens are also not cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ether (ETH) have inherent values, which is determined by market fluctuations. One Bitcoin, for example, is equal to U.S.$ 48,230 as of April 23, 6 p.m. (GMT+8). (Putting a timestamp is important because Bitcoin's value quickly changes over time.) This value is determined by supply and demand: when demand for bitcoin increases, price increases.

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In a sense, cryptocurrencies are like the currencies of the world. One BitCoin has a corresponding value in U.S. dollars, but one BitCoin is not equal to one Dogecoin. Then if you sell your one BitCoin, it has another value (even in BitCoin) that’s different from when you first bought it. Another difference is that the value of U.S. dollars, Philippine pesos, and Yuan are determined by a central financial institution. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, for example, determines that P1 is P1; and that the blue-colored bill with writings saying P1,000 is valued at P1,000.

A non-fungible token is a unit of data stored in a digital ledger (a.k.a. a blockchain) that certifies a digital asset to be one-of-a-kind. It became big just this year and is now being used to commodify a variety of things like digital artwork, a video clip, a digital photograph, a soundbyte, a tweet, a virtual character, and anything and everything that exists as a digital file. Technically, a piece of art is not an NFT—but that piece of art is represented by an NFT. Think of it as a receipt (proof of transaction) that you get when you buy your favorite sneakers, except you didn’t pay for it in pesos, you don’t keep your own receipt, and you don’t have anything to wear on your feet. It can also be likened to an autograph, which proves that the massive piece of digital art that you bought is legit. So with NFTs, you buy an autograph or a certification that the piece is yours.

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How Do We Buy NFTs?

You pay through cryptocurrencies. This NFT is stored as a block in a blockchain—think of this as a nice folder where you keep your important receipts (if you’re a Virgo).  

Why Can’t We Just Buy Normal Things Like Normal People?

The draw of NFTs is that creators can be paid for their creation no matter how small or unknown. For example, a physical painting of BenCab probably won't be as expensive as a digital sticker—but not with NFTs. Values are often determined by how unique a digital asset is or how far it would go in an online action, so that digital sticker may cost millions of dollars. Plus, every time the ownership is transferred (a.k.a. the NFT goes into the whole buy-and-sell process), a percentage goes to the artist. There’s a lot of debate on whether creators actually get what they deserve when streaming their music or videos online. Plus, digital artwork can be easily replicated, distributed, and used without so much a centavo going to the artist. NFT solves all that by certifying a legit copy of the digital file. But then again, that doesn’t stop you from saving a jpeg file of a piece of digital art on your computer.

Like most things, it’s easier to explain this abstract concept through examples. So here are 10 digital works sold as non-fungible tokens for hundreds of thousands of dollars:

"First Rick and Morty Crypto Art" by Justin Roiland

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Price: U.S. $150,000 (in ETH)

Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland sold an NFT art piece called "The First Ever Edition Of Rick And Morty Cryptoart" for U.S. $150,000 on January 20. Like most NFTs, the exchange was done through Ethereum’s ETH (Ether), which is the second largest cryptocurrency after the more familiar Bitcoin. The silent auction was facilitated by digital art platform Nifty Gateway, which sold 18 works from his collection "The Best I Could Do" for over a million dollars. Now, the bidder didn't really get a physical sketch nor a printout of the adult series' characters, but rather a file of the crypto art with a unique record (a.k.a. a block in the blockchain) to prove that it's really his.

CryptoKitties #896775

non-fungible tokens
PHOTO BY website/cryptokitties

Price: 600 ETH (roughly U.S. $172,000)

You may be familiar with Tamagotchi or Neopets, where you have a virtual pet to feed, put to sleep, or buy toys for. This is also translated to the world of NFTs through blockchain game CryptoKitties. Developed by Canadian studio Dapper Labs, it allows you to buy, collect, breed, and sell virtual cats. Each cat, called a CryptoKitty, is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you—unless, of course, you plan to sell it for the same price or more (through the cryptocurrency ETH). 

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The most expensive CryptoKitty is Dragon, which is owned by CryptoKitties user rabono. Some of Dragon's "cattributes" are a cotton-candy base color, chestnut eye color, and a sphynx-style tail. This ninth-generation CryptoKitty is currently for sale at 600 ETH; and if you intend to buy, ownership will be transferred to you. You can then breed it with other CryptoKitties and create 10th-generation virtual cats or sell it again. The average price of CryptoKitties is U.S. $60, and the most expensive ones are of generation zero (obviously). That's what makes Dragon’s value so strange.

Legendary Lebron James Moment

Price: U.S. $208,000

NBA jerseys and trading cards are nothing new, but the basketball league has added a new breed of collectibles to their repertoire: video highlights. Called NBA Top Shot, this blockchain-based platform is in the business of selling basketball “moments” such as a legendary dunk or a jaw-dropping play.

In February, a LeBron James moment sold for U.S. $208,000, which is the largest single sale so far on Top Shot. The clip shows the basketball star's iconic dunk against Nemanja Bjelica in the early part of 2020’s championship season for the Lakers. You can watch the video again and again online, but online user @YoDough got ownership (and bragging) rights for the digital collectible.

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"Death of the Old" by Grimes

Price: U.S. $389,000

Canadian musician Claire “Grimes” Boucher, who also happens to be the wife of Elon Musk, got into NFTs after dropping the WarNymph Collection Vol. 1 on Nifty Gateway. The 10-piece series includes videos with her original songs; some of the works are one of a kind but others have thousands of copies. The 50-second video "Death of the Old" was the most expensive of the lot and sold to the winning bidder for U.S. $389,000. Almost 700 copies of her other videos were sold for a total of U.S. $5.18 million. You can also check out the collection through the Instagram account @warnymph.

Nyan Cat GIF by Chris Torres

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Price: 300 ETH (roughly U.S. $561,000)

Back in 2011, a three-minute-plus video introduced the whole world to the Nyan Cat—a pixelated gray cat with a Pop Tart for a body. It seems to fly in a starry sky with a stream of rainbow colors trailing behind and a techno soundtrack to match. It has since spawned many memes, rip-offs, and clips. In celebration of the GIF's 10th anniversary in April, Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres remastered the original animation and sold it as an NFT through the crypto art platform Foundation. The auction ran for 24 hours on February 18 with bidding starting at 3 ETH (roughly U.S. $5,000) and ending at 300 Ethereum (roughly U.S. $561,000). 

In an ArtNet article, Foundation’s head of community Lindsay Howard said: "The sale is significant because it’s the first famous meme to sell as an NFT and it signals a new era where digital artists can be directly compensated for the work they create and share online." Torres seconded this and said that the NFT world is "a way for artists to directly monetize off their hard work."

"Mars House" by Krista Kim

Price: 288 ETH (roughly U.S. $512,000)

The NFT world also lets you buy a house—a virtual one that is. Mars House, which was created by Krista Kim Studio Inc., is the first NFT digital house in the world. The digital file is accompanied with music by Jeff Schroeder of The Smashing Pumpkins to produce the effect of a "Zen, healing atmosphere." It was purchased for 288 ETH by @artoninternet, who now has 3D files of the Mars House. Copyright is still owned by Krista Kim Studio Inc., and all reproductions are restricted.

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Hashmasks

Price: 420 ETH (roughly U.S. $650,000)

Hashmasks is a "living digital art collectible" which has over 16,000 rare and unique digital portraits created by over 70 artists all over the world. Paying and owning one means you have "unlimited, worldwide, exclusive, license to use, copy, and display the purchased art for commercial use," and record and proof of your purchase lives forever on the Ethereum Blockchain. To date, the most expensive Hashmask ever sold costs 420 ETH or U.S. $650,000.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s First Tweet

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Price: U.S. $2.9 million

Almost 15 years after Twitter was founded, CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first-ever tweet (which also makes it the world's first tweet) as an NFT for U.S. $2,915,835.47. This was facilitated through the platform Valuables, which buys and sells tweets that are autographed by their original creators (and by signed, we mean autographed in concept). For that purchase, the billionaire got almost three-million dollars (95%). And for every resell, the original creator of the tweet still gets a percentage. Obviously, the tweet is still on Twitter, where it has been since 2006.

CryptoPunk #3100

non-fungible tokens
PHOTO BY website/cryptopunks

Price: 4,200 ETH (roughly U.S. $7.6 million)

CryptoPunks, which was released in 2017, is one of the early versions of the NFT. It has 10,000 unique 24x24 pixel-art images, ranging from punky-looking guys to odd aliens. All CryptoPunks have already been claimed, but you can still bid for or buy from owners who are selling. As of writing, the most expensive CryptoPunk sold was CryptoPunk #3100, which cost 4,200 ETH (U.S. $7,584,485.82) on March 11. A day before this, CryptoPunk #7804 was also sold for 4,200 ETH, at the time "only" valued at U.S. $7,566,173.88.

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"Everydays - The First 5000 Days" by Beeple

Price: U.S. $69 million

The purchase of Mike Winkelmann's (a.k.a. Beeple) collage, "Everydays: The First 5000 Days" through an online auction by Christie's signaled the entry of NFTs into mainstream art collecting. The two-week auction culminated in a final bid of U.S. $69,346,250. Prior to this, the artist had already sold his first series of NFTs for U.S. $66,666.66 each in October 2020 and it was resold for $6.6 million in February, but "Everydays" was his first to be auctioned off by a well-known art house.

The piece is a product of a Winkelmann's project called "Everydays," the result of the artist spending 14 years creating and publishing a digital artwork every day. "Everydays: The First 5000 Days" is a collage of 5,000 works (obviously). Its new owner gets a digital file, which he or she can display on a television, as a desktop wallpaper, or a projection on the wall.

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