CryptoPunks: A Journey From Zero to Millions

If you have come across non-fungible tokens (NFTs), chances are that you’ve already heard about CryptoPunks. They’re one of the oldest NFTs built on the Ethereum blockchain, way before the ERC-721 became the standard for such assets. 

Over time, CryptoPunks has grown steadily, from being given out for free to costing millions of dollars at present. Sounds crazy, right? Indeed. So, in this article, let’s find out more about CryptoPunks.  

What are CryptoPunks?

Before telling you about the booming market scene, let’s first find out what exactly are CryptoPunks. They are a unique collection of 10,000 pixelated art images with 24×24, 8-bit resolution. Conceptualised as a quirky art project by two software developers, Matt Hall and John Watkinson, they were formally launched on June 23, 2017. 

Wondering where they got their name from? These non-conformist characters were inspired and influenced by the British punk movement of the 1970s, as well as by Blade Runner and Neuromancer. Created using a software program, each punk differs from the other by possessing distinctive and randomly generated attributes. This motley collection consists of men, women, apes, and aliens with diverse hairstyles, glasses, and hats. The rarest of them all, CryptoPunk #8348, has seven attributes, while other rare punks include green-skinned zombies, light blue aliens, and so on.

Each punk is an NFT, whose ownership and transactions are recorded immutably on the Ethereum blockchain. But what makes CryptoPunks valuable? Primarily, there are three aspects. 

  • Scarcity: there are only 10,000 punks in all, making them scarce. 
  • Historical significance: punks are considered proto-NFTs, developed far ahead of their time. 
  • Social Proof-of-Stake: serving as digital status symbols, punks give their owners credibility and substantial leverage for making profitable business deals. 

The CryptoPunks Market Scenario

Heads up! This section will be long, for there’s so much happening. But if you’re into NFTs, you won’t find it boring. 

CryptoPunks’ valuation didn’t reach million dollars overnight. In fact, you’ll be surprised to know that when it was first developed, they were given out for free. Yes, you read that correctly! Users with an active Ethereum wallet could claim their CryptoPunks by just paying a few cents as gas fees. This was back in 2017 when the blockchain wasn’t chock-a-block and gas was very cheap. 

After launching CryptoPunks, Hall, and Watkinson were apprehensive about the project’s success, to the extent of asking themselves, “…will anyone care?” For sure people did, soon after Mashable published a piece on the phenomenon that the punks were to be. At the time, only 100 punks had been claimed, but after the publication, it went up to 8,600 within 20 hours. Tasting success, Watkinson decided to sell off the 1000 punks from his personal collection, just to see if anyone was willing to buy. And bingo! He started with $1, moving up to $100, before finally getting 10 ETH for one punk ($3000 at that time). 

It has been a steady and consistent ride after that initial flurry of activities. In September 2020, the cheapest CryptoPunk cost 2.99 ETH ($1030.68), more than double the price from only a few days ago. This is also when the NFT craze started gaining momentum, before blowing through the roof in early 2021. 

In February 2021, a batch of 34 Punks was sold for 557.5 ETH, equivalent to almost $1 million. If that surprises you, then do note that this record was broken in March 2021. Dylan Field—known for his startup Figma, as well as Twitter, Slack, and Airbnb’s visual designs—sold his CryptoPunk #7804 for $7.5 million. Comparing the Punk to a digital Mona Lisa, the digital art enthusiast hopes that the publicity it received will make crypto art acceptable to a wider audience. That is exactly what’s happening right now. 

Crypto Art is indeed being accepted and assimilated into the mainstream. Christie’s will now offer 9 CryptoPunks in its 21st Century Evening Sale on 13th May, for an estimated $7-$9 million. This will consist of rare punks in the sub-1000 series, like CryptoPunk #2 and CryptoPunk #635. Noah Davis, art specialist at Christie’s has called this “a historic sale” with the CryptoPunks being the “alpha and omega of the CryptoArt movement.”  

Moral of the story? Never ignore an NFT when you get it for free. It may not be valuable at the moment but you can potentially be sitting on a goldmine a few years from now. On that note, check out the latest NFT airdrops

The CryptoPunks Legacy

Several digital art projects have popped up on the Ethereum blockchain, all drawing inspiration from CryptoPunks. It is important to note, however, that none of them is associated with Larva Labs, the creator of CryptoPunks. We’ve listed these projects for you to check out. 

  • PicassoPunks: A set of 1000 unique and single edition NFTs using Picasso’s painting style to depict punk characters. In March’21, 5 PicassoPunks were sold for $334,000 in just 24 hours, with a single punk (#0107) fetching $92,000. 
  • Sketchy Punks: A set of 325 unique and single-edition NFTs that depict the punks in handmade art styles. 
  • 3DPunks: A set of 100 unique punks with an average price of 3 ETH. 
  • Punks2Life: A set of 69 unique punks that can be digitally given lives and souls of their own. The 69th punk will be custom-made with the face of the highest bidder morphed on it, along with two special attributes. 
  • RevisitedPunks: A digital art project consisting of a set of 1000 unique and single edition NFTs. 
  • VG Pink Punk: A set of 853 punks and 47 exclusive characters that use Vincent Van Gogh’s painting style. 

However, not all projects inspired by CryptoPunks are on Ethereum. For instance, the Substrapunks project is built on the Substrate ecosystem. It is a part of the demo use of the Unique Network, the NFT chain for Kusama and Polkadot. The present supply of these punks is 10,000, but there are plans of further development for games and other useful applications.   

A Final Word

There are skeptics out there who regard the NFT boom as a bubble that is soon going to burst. Some compare it to the 2017 ICO boom which saw a lot of scam projects and investors losing money. Others accuse NFTs of wash trading and money laundering. 

However, they often overlook the fact that NFTs hold enormous potential, not just as collectibles but as a means to protecting intellectual property rights. Furthermore, digital artists now have a robust way of getting their work out in the market, and therefore, of being adequately compensated. These are the biggest reasons why NFTs are where they are today, with a trading volume of $76.02 million in the last 30 days. 

That being said, and with the lesson learned from CryptoPunks’ success, wait not and jump right on the NFT bandwagon. As regards the latest information and updates, you have Airdrop Alert at your service. 

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