As if taking the world by storm, the popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has become a frenzy, and their demand continues to grow. In January 2022 alone, the NFT marketplace recorded an all-time high of $3.5 billion in trading volume.
The surge in demand for these uncommon and distinctive tokenized commodities, such digital art and collectibles, has dramatically increased and helped to establish a new cryptocurrency economy. As it garnered attention from multiple media outlets and social media, it skyrocketed in value and was in high demand.
Cryptopunks is one of the earliest NFT collections. Owning one (or several) has become a status symbol, as it carries a valuable piece of history and has indeed become a coveted asset. This drove the price to incredible levels, even reaching millions of dollars. Everyone wanted a Punk, thereby inducing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) amongst collectors and traders worldwide.
Larva Labs’ Cryptopunk became a cultural icon for people who belong to the cryptocurrency community. As the first non-fungible token project on the Ethereum network, CryptoPunks holds a special place in the history of blockchain technology. These “Punks” became the benchmark and inspiration for the ERC-721 standard, on which most digital art and collectibles today are based.
It is attributed to one of the projects that inspired and propelled the CryptoArt movement. Moreover, these 10,000 unique collectible characters with proof of ownership are fully verifiable.
But what are they? What made it so special, so much so that these NFTs sold for millions of dollars? What is its history, its essence?
Join us as we dissect the journey of CryptoPunks, flesh out its intricacies, and more. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about these prized Punks.
What are CryptoPunks?
CryptoPunks is one of the first non-fungible token (NFT) collections on the Ethereum blockchain. Launched by Larva Labs in June 2017 and acquired by Yuga Labs in 2022, CryptoPunks is a collection of 10,000 algorithmically generated 24×24, 8-bit style images that are collected and traded as digital assets. Each CryptoPunk NFT is randomly generated from several different attributes, effectively allowing them to be unique as no two CryptoPunks are precisely alike.
Since the digital images of the CryptoPunks characters were too large to store on the blockchain, the developers created a composite image of all 10,000 of them. They took a hash of this image, embedding it into the smart contract. Fully verifiable and transparent, enthusiasts and collectors in the space can verify whether or not a CryptoPunk is genuine by comparing its hash with that embedded in the smart contract.
Before CryptoPunks became popular, the company gave away the initial supply of Punks for free. Anyone with an Ethereum wallet launched in June 2017 could get a Punk for themselves by paying a small minting fee.
Each Cryptopunk NFT is linked to a profile that shows its attributes and ownership status. You can also see the price movement of its history—from its initial mint to how much it has been traded throughout the years (here’s an example).
The limited availability of CryptoPunks—capped at 10,000 distinct tokens and with no other pieces being added to the collection—certainly contributes to their rising value. We can be sure that only 10,000 will ever be in existence. And as there are no duplicates, only a single person could ever own a single Punk. The only means of acquiring one now is via secondary marketplaces like OpenSea, LooksRare, or X2Y2.
These Punks are depicted mostly humans (male and female), and the collection features a combination of algorithmically mixed traits, 87 unique attributes to be exact for each. These traits include hats, pipes, necklaces, earrings, eyepatches, and more. Some are considered more valuable because how there are so few in existence, namely–zombies (88), apes (24), and aliens (9).
The maximum number of traits that a single CryptoPunk can have is seven. Only one NFT exists with seven traits–Punk #8348. It has a cigarette, earring, mole, buck teeth, classic shades, a top hat, and a big beard.
As one of the first projects to utilize non-fungible tokens, this has set the way for other successful NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club, Doodles, Azuki, and others to follow suit.
The Dev Punks
When the company distributed 10,000 CryptoPunks to its blockchain developers, those developers claimed the first 1,000 of them. These were called the Dev Punks. The remaining 9,000 were distributed to random people. Every single CryptoPunk between number 1 and 1,000 is a Dev Punk; these are considered premium and are sold at high prices.
What are the different types of Punks?
There are five types of CryptoPunks: males, females, apes, zombies, and aliens. These tokens showcase a mix of accessories or attributes that can increase their value.
Every type of NFT has a different rarity. For example, there are 6039 male punks; these are somewhat considered common, and they are not rare items when compared to other types of Punks. On the other hand, there are only nine alien Punks, making them extremely rare.
There are only 24 ape punks and 88 zombie punks. Furthermore, there are 3840 female punks.
As mentioned, CryptoPunks are algorithmically generated and present many combinations that determine their rarity and overall aesthetic.
For instance, just 44 Punks have the Beanie characteristic, and only 9 of those have it listed for sale. Because of this and the characteristic’s general scarcity, the least expensive Punk for this trait is now listed at a pitiful 420.69 ETH ($730K).
You can find the complete breakdown of attributes here.
How many attributes does a CryptoPunk have?
The number of attributes determines the value of a CryptoPunk. As each Punk is unique, one can have up to seven (7) attributes in a specific type of Punk. However, a punk can also be without any attributes, and this character will also make it more valuable.
There is only one Punk with seven attributes, which is punk number 8348. It is highly regarded as one of the rarest punks among the CryptoPunks. In addition, there are only eight punks with no attribute at all. For example, punk number 6487 is a female punk with no attributes. This was sold for $1.05M.
It can be inferred that there is a correlation between the number of attributes and a Punk’s value.
How did CryptoPunk start?
Much like the Bored Ape Yacht Club, Cryptopunks come from humble and unassuming beginnings.
In 2017, CryptoPunks was released as the first non-fungible token by Canadians Matt Hall and John Watkinson, developers at US mobile software company Larva Labs. It was the first NFT that used the Ethereum blockchain to fuel the creation and infrastructure of the CryptoPunks.
The project was inspired by the London punk scene, Neuromancer by William Gibson, the cyberpunk movement, Daft Punk, and Blade Runner. The punks are similar to ERC-20 tokens but are based on ERC-721 as one of several ERC standards, this one being suited for NFT.
Initially, the creators of CryptoPunks were not concerned with how to make the characters an investment asset but wanted to experiment with creating avatars on the blockchain as a “weird but cool experiment in digital ownership.” Over time, this project blossomed into something else entirely.
For something as mundane as an experiment, it is still baffling why Cryptopunks has had a meteoric rise in popularity and become a behemoth in the cryptocurrency and NFT space. One thing is sure. However, it has made several millionaires and earned its investors life-changing profits.
Why are CryptoPunks so popular?
Demand for the CryptoPunks collection has spiked due to the involvement of several high-profile individuals, including Jay-Z, Serena Williams, Gary Vaynerchuk, and more. Those images have been used as profile pictures on social platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, further boosting their popularity within the crypto community. That went on to pervade mainstream media, such as appearances and features in Art|Basel, New York Times, Bloomberg, and Marketwatch, to name a few.
Secondary NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea recorded five-figure sales, leading to auctions at top auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
The rationale for the value of CryptoPunks lies in their scarcity. No more will be created beyond the 10,000 that already exist. That drives up the deal’s price as more investors look to buy one of these “limited-edition” Punks, similar to trading cards or anything rare. Due to the rising value of CryptoPunks, some have seen them as an investment, a symbol of wealth and influence.
Traders, venture capitalists (VCs), and investors alike were attracted by the popularity of these CryptoPunks–this drove much funding into the space, with traders speculating on the price fluctuation, appreciation, and movement of these NFTs. Eventually, this led to massive adoption and record highs being set. And with the accessibility of buying, selling, and trading these assets this further enticed people looking for profit and life-changing wealth.
As crypto-assets, holders can use them as their avatars, “flexing” these profile pictures for the whole space to see. It is comparable to wearing a Rolex in real life or high-value items and paraphernalia.
Holding a Punk was two-fold, as apart from being seen as a symbol of wealth, people also attributed it to seeing owners as builders and visionaries in the space; influential, perhaps.
Over time, CryptoPunk collectors have become visionaries who have the foresight to see the value in CryptoPunks. Early supporters of these Punks did not just chance upon the project–they had to be involved, fully immersed in cryptocurrency in its infancy, to have any involvement with the collection. As a result, they now have access to unique opportunities and privileges. People instinctively begin putting their trust and confidence in these owners. Owning a piece of the blockchain meant that you held a significant amount of history, contributed to its essence and development, and represented the entirety of Ethereum.
What are the highest sold CryptoPunks?
Cryptopunks have had their share of jaw-dropping sales to date. Here are some stats:
- Punk #3100 sold for 4.2K ETH (or $7.58M)
- Punk #5217 sold for 2.25K ETH (or $5.45M)
- Punk #2338 sold for 1.5K ETH (or $4.32M)
You can also check the latest transactions and historical sales to date.
One thing is for sure; whether retail investors or hedge funds, people are willing to spend thousands to millions of dollars to own this piece of Ethereum history.
Yuga Labs Acquisition
In March 2022, CryptoPunks and Meebits were acquired by Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. With this acquisition, Yuga Labs says they aim to foster a “community of builders” creating derivative works around the two projects. You can find more information about the acquisition here.
Yuga Labs will transfer all intellectual property, commercial, and exclusive licensing rights to the individual CryptoPunks and Meebits owners. This will allow them to create artwork and products based on their NFTs in the same way BAYC owners have, giving them complete control over their Punks.
In connection with the acquisition, Yuga Labs received 423 CryptoPunks and 1,711 Meebits.
The future of CryptoPunks
While many NFTs have come and gone in the last year, CryptoPunks will always be remembered as the earliest and first NFT. It is a legacy on its own. Even as the years pass and the NFT ecosystem grows, the Cryptopunks will remain relevant, as they are the genesis and are connected to the history of crypto, especially with Ethereum as a blockchain.
Under the new management, we can expect Cryptopunks to change as we progress in the NFT space. With that in mind, we are eager to discover how Larva Labs explores possibilities with Cryptopunks and its use cases.
As one of the leading NFT projects to date, Cryptopunks are leading the way in the crypto art movement. It went from virtually free to several million dollars at its peak. Through its spectacles, we are starting to see a new type of social commerce that is truly disruptive of the typical art markets–we see creators and artists joining the space and utilizing the Ethereum blockchain to feature their artwork and build alongside it.
CryptoPunks have revolutionized the NFT space. These blockchain-based collectible pieces that started as mere experiments have now become a standard, a measure of success, wealth, and influence in the space.
It created a movement within Ethereum’s blockchain that is completely off-tangent from the norm but was widely received as the years progressed, and more and more people became aware of its existence.
And although we are uncertain of what lies ahead of NFTs, we can be sure that these Cryptopunks are here to stay as pillars, a piece of history that will always be an industry standard amongst collectors, enthusiasts, and investors alike.
This article is written by Paolo Deyto. This article is not financial advice.