Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) became one of the hottest and most expensive trends of 2021. These blockchain-based files are transforming digital assets through smart contracts. Artists, musicians, and others are looking for ways to capitalize on the rush, but are they a good investment?
One way to determine this is to track the most expensive NFTs ever sold. We researched six NFTs that sold for more than $1 million to determine how they were priced so high and whether they were resold for a profit.
This is the good, bad, and ugly of smart contract-based immersive art. Of course, the real value is always in the eyes of the beholder and buyer.
1. Beeple, Multiples $6 Million – $69 Million
Artist Mike Winkelman (aka Beeple) gained mainstream recognition after a string of successful multi-million-dollar NFT art auctions in 2021. In February, he earned $6.6 million for “Crossroads”, which was originally purchased for $66,666.66 during his first drop in October 2020.
Originally a mystery based on the outcome of the U.S. election, it was revealed as an artwork showing a defeated and graffiti-covered Donald Trump. This allowed the seller to flip it for a 100x profit soon afterwards, meaning Beeple himself earned more name recognition than money from the second sale.
The next month, the artist auctioned “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” at Christie’s for $69 million. Weeks later, NFT collector and underbidder Justin Sun spent $6 million on Beeple’s “Ocean Front” through Nifty.
It set a high bar for any NFT artist to follow and proved the staying power of the blockchain-based smart contracts. This technology is being used for more than just art though – it’s also used to raise awareness to social issues.
2. 3LAU, Ultraviolet $11.7 Million
Justin David Blau (aka 3LAU) is an American DJ and EDM producer who released his debut album Ultraviolet in February 2018. That summer, he launched the first blockchain-powered music festival, which occurred in October 2018 in San Francisco, California.
In March 2021, 3LAU minted the album as a collection of NFTs that raised a total of $11.7 million, including a record (at the time) $3.7 million for one track. It was all accomplished through a custom website built by Origin Protocol.
The winning bidder received a custom song by 3LAU, along with exclusive access to unreleased music, a physical vinyl, and more. These benefits helped propel the album to become the most expensive ever sold by a musician.
Previously, the Wu-Tang Clan’s single-copy Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was the most expensive vinyl record ever sold. While this is technically considered an NFT sale, the inclusion of a vinyl record does make 3LAU an understated part of music business history.
3. Platon x Edward Snowden, Stay Free $5.4 Million
Edward Snowden is a world-renowned whistleblower who leaked documentation showing mass surveillance of citizens by the U.S. government. In doing so, he was exiled to Russia and deemed a traitor for betraying the National Security Agency for which he worked.
He teamed up with photographer Platon Antoniou for an NFT launch in April 2021 based on the duo’s previous work together.
The artwork features Snowden’s portrait by Platon overlaid on the text of the court ruling that vindicates Snowden’s point. Still, the man wasn’t pardoned by either Trump nor Obama, and it’s unlikely President Joe Biden will have any different of an outlook.
But Snowden won a small victory when his NFT sold for $5.4 million through Foundation. The proceeds were donated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization and platform supported by Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and other prominent whistleblowers, journalists, and activists.
4. Mad Dog Jones, Replicator $4.1 Million
Michah Dowbak (aka Mad Dog Jones) created a unique NFT of an old-school photocopier that generates new NFTs every 28 days. Aptly named the “Replicator,” it’s a virtual space complete with urban traffic sounds and seven generations of artwork.
In total, the NFT could produce anywhere from 75 to 300 unique NFTs, although the average from one million simulations was approximately 220. Each would have its own selling price and also includes the possibility of “jamming.”
This level of interactivity makes it easy to see how Jones stuck out in a crowded marketplace to snag such a high selling price. Its $4.1 million April 2021 sale marked the first NFT auction from Philips auction house.
5. Jack Dorsey, First Twitter Tweet $2.9 Million
Jack Dorsey is the founder, CEO, and first user of Twitter, a company worth over $50 billion. His first tweet of “just setting up my twttr” was sent March 21, 2006. And on the 15th anniversary of that tweet, a minted NFT was sold for $2.9 million on the “Valuables” platforms run by Cent.
Once again, Justin Sun was a prominent bidder who ultimately lost out on the tweet NFT purchase. Not only did this tweet set off the rest of Twitter, but it also sparked a rush to sell blockchain-based NFT tweets. Elon Musk received a bid of $1 million for his first tweet before reneging.
Dorsey donated the proceeds to GiveDirectly, a bitcoin-based charity giving cash to people living in poverty. His donation was specifically earmarked for Africa’s Covid-19 response.
6. Paris Hilton x Black Kathryn, Iconic Crypto Queen $1.11 Million
Not one to be late to any party, socialite Paris Hilton teamed with artist Black Kathryn for an April 2021 NFT launch. One particular piece, “Iconic Crypto Queen,” sold for $1.11 million. It was the rarest of her series, the rest of which earned Hilton about $220,000.
The launch was done through Nifty Gateway, and Hilton proved herself as crypto savvy throughout 2021. She could regularly be seen in Clubhouse cryptocurrency rooms in the months leading up to her drop, showing her sustainable presence in the mainstream.
But the real value of these NFTs is always determined by the next buyer, so stay tuned to see how the price changes over time.
The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Financhill has a disclosure policy. This post may contain affiliate links or links from our sponsors.