The 11 Most Expensive NFTs Sold in 2021 You Need to Know About

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a new digital asset that can be anything online, such as art or collectibles. They’re designed with the future in mind and more creative freedom than previous generations. Many investors are also bullish on the tech surrounding NFTs and see several use cases.

The blockchain is a powerful technology that can revolutionize business and investments. Each NFT can be bought, sold, or traded just like any other physical asset but with one major difference: their ownership will always stay secure because it’s tracked on the blockchain. Many innovations have been happening rapidly within this space, making investors very excited about what could come next from these developers’ imaginations. NFT sales volume totaled $24.9 billion in 2021 compared to $94.9 million in the year-ago period (pretty much reversing 2018’s landscape). DappRadar, an analytics tracker for new blockchain development, said in their industry report for 2021:

2021 was perhaps the most critical year for the industry so far. After a 2020 that can be defined as a year of building and preparation, this year saw enormous progress and positive results across the industry’s most important metrics and macro indicators. The number of wallets interacting with dapps, and the trading volumes are higher than ever, while the demand for NFTs and games increased considerably.

Here are the eleven most expensive NFTs sold in 2021:

  • Beeple, ‘Everydays—The First 5000 Days’
  • Beeple, ‘HUMAN ONE’
  • CryptoPunks (CryptoPunk 3100, CryptoPunk 7804, CryptoPunk 4156, CryptoPunk 7523)
  • Beeple, ‘Crossroads’
  • XCOPY, ‘Right-click, and Save As guy’
  • Beeple, ‘Ocean Front’
  • XCOPY, ‘A Coin for the Ferryman’
  • Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection
  • Edward Snowden, ‘Stay Free’
  • ‘This Changed Everything: Source Code for WWW x Tim Berners-Lee, an NFT’
  • XCOPY, ‘Some Asshole’

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: Beeple, ‘Everydays—The First 5000 Days’

A digital artist who typically animates using 3D modeling and graphic design, Michael Joseph Winkelmann often goes by the name of Beeple. His work uses a range of mediums to create humorous, surreal art that often comments on social and political themes. His work also often includes references to pop culture figures.

Beeple now resides in Charleston and originally set out on his project in 2007 by posting a piece of digital art every day. Artist Tom Judd had a significant impact on the Beeple project deciding to make a new project every day for 5000 days.

Some of the scenes in these paintings are depictions of Jeff Bezos, former President Donald Trump and other figures from popular culture. They are subject to criticism for portraying racist, transphobic and homophobic stereotypes. “Everydays” by Beeple was sold for $69.3 million at Christie’s auction. It was the third-highest sale of a living artist ever at auction. It’s surprising the artwork changed hands for that much. The starting bid was just $100.

Beeple, HUMAN ONE

Sold at auction in November for $28.9 million, HUMAN ONE by Beeple is an amazingly creative NFT. HUMAN ONE is a special sculpture that blends video and kinetic art for one audience, unlike other brands. One of the coolest aspects of art is that it combines digital technology and analog craftsmanship to create something more immersive. This type of work also shows interest from potential investors and big names in the field.

The artist will connect with visitors and give them creative control over the content. Beeple aims to provide an environment where creativity can thrive and evolve. Therefore, when you observe this piece of art, you see the dystopian portion of his craft.

The protagonist in the piece is forever walking across a desert, while this world’s iconic figures are either decaying or perverting themselves. Along the way, you can see a few great art pieces from world-famous artists. Christie’s sold the HUMAN ONE sculpture for $28.9 million, making it one of the most pricey items on this list.

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: CryptoPunks (CryptoPunk 3100, CryptoPunk 7804, CryptoPunk 4156, CryptoPunk 7523)

Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson launched the CryptoPunks collection in June 2017. It features non-fungible tokens with identity, history, and collectability.

CryptoPunks were among the first examples of non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum (CCC:ETH-USD) blockchain, numbered 10,000. They were quick to make their mark and soon became popular. They can only be bought on the Larva Lab marketplace right now, and the total sales to date are 645,180 ETH-USD, or approximately $1.91 billion.

Last year, four CryptoPunks sold for $14.2 million total — the most expensive of which, CryptoPunk 7523, was sold for $11.75 million. One CryptoPunk “sold” for $530 million but that sale was made under questionable circumstances.

Beeple, ‘Crossroads’

Beeple holds the top spot on the 2021 list of most expensive NFTs. Last year, Nifty Gateway sold his Crossroads for $6.6 million.

The high sale of this NFT made it clear that more are on their way, with the best-selling piece so far being another Beeple NFT, the aforementioned ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days.’

‘Crossroads’ came to the fore as a response to the 2020 election. It had two possible outcomes: either Trump wins, or he loses. This NFT is a video clip of people walking on a sidewalk with the, now former, president covered in graffiti in the background. Like the other NFTs, the video file is impossible to copy & the signature is one-of-a-kind.

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: XCOPY, ‘Right-click, and Save As guy’

XCOPY is a pseudonym for one of the original and best-selling crypto artists. He lives in London, but his identity is anonymous. XCOPY is a big proponent of the crypto community and an artist with an iconic style — he’s considered a “blue-chip” artist because of his long-standing reputation. Other artists are often confused with the icon’s kind of work. He uses “cartoonish” illustrations and bright colors, while his theme behind the result is more mature.

His biography mentions that his work focused on “death, dystopia, and apathy through distorted visual loops.” The NFTs he’s created come with a warning — they use jarring colors in bright patterns that may pose potential problems for those with epilepsy.

XCOPY sold one more digital piece for several million dollars in December 2021. Snoop Dogg purchased Right-click and Save As guy for $6.57 million, or 1600 ETH-USD. As the title suggests, this work often targets people who don’t believe digital art is valuable. “Right-click and Save As guy” has become a popular internet meme for those who accuse NFTs of being meaningless.

Beeple, ‘Ocean Front’

At this point, talking up Mike Winkelmann, who goes by the username “Beeple,” is looking futile. One of his other pieces, “Ocean Front,” sold in March for an incredible $6 million. This makes him one of the most successful Non-Fungible Token artists on the market.

The environmental message in “Ocean Front” imagery is passionate and strong. The link in the text between rising sea levels and landfill materials highlights the pressing need to address climate change. The “trash” tree stands tall, cradling the world above it in its branches. With every gust of wind comes, new life as debris from our throwaway culture falls onto this humble platform that spans across both land and sea — a reminder for all to arise with mindfulness towards Earth’s future before we lose what little remains.

These profits all go to a non-profit focused on developing innovative open digital infrastructure to manage the planet better.

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: XCOPY, ‘A Coin for the Ferryman’

“A Coin For the Ferryman” by XCOPY sold for $6 million worth of Ethereum. It is a one-of-a-kind artwork. The original owner of this NFT acquired it for less than 0.5 ETH, then sold it to the new owner for 1330 ETH. As one of the earlier pieces from a famous crypto artist, ​XCOPY. His work is a defining moment in the crypto art scene.

XCOPY generally prefers topics like his aforementioned interest in the themes of death, apathy, dystopian society, but also the contemporary art market, and social media. The titles of these articles are really funny and, at the same time, pretty informative. One says “This is Clearly Money Laundering,” and another says, “Hello Admin PM Me.”

The work is one of the earliest pieces by XCOPY, so it has a particular authenticity. Art listed on SuperRare typically goes for 10% of the final sale price on the secondary art market. That means XCOPY made $600,000 worth of Ethereum from this sale.

Ross Ulbricht Genesis Collection

SuperRare launched a Ross Ulbricht auction in Florida in December. The collection on sale included original writings, artworks, and animations by Ulbricht. The auction was successful, and it sold for $5.93 million.

Ross Ulbricht was an online market operator that ran the Silk Road market. Authorities arrested him in 2013 and sentenced him to life without parole. In 2015, he was found guilty of a range of charges, including laundering money and trafficking narcotics over the internet.

While efforts continue to free Ulbricht, he’s been using his talent and intelligence to help other artists and prisoners.

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: Edward Snowden, ‘Stay Free’

The leaker of government secrets, Edward Snowden, is famous for his expose’ on America’s surveillance system. He caused an uproar in the past, which led him to live as a fugitive from American justice. In 2015, he revealed the mass surveillance program he was involved in as a violation of U.S. law. He is now subject to an expensive NFT called ‘Stay Free’ as a result of the whistleblowing.

“Stay Free” sold for around $5.4 million in ETH-USD last year.

The proceeds provide a way to fund the Freedom of Press Foundation, where Edward Snowden is President. Snowden is a big supporter of encryption and cryptography and he had this to say about the sale: “Emerging applications of cryptography can play an important role in supporting our rights,” and “This auction will drive the development of valuable and privacy-protecting uses of encryption, to safeguard press freedom and serve the public.”

‘This Changed Everything: Source Code for WWW x Tim Berners-Lee, an NFT’

The internet has revolutionized our lives, changing how we communicate, share information, and conduct business. The internet has become a vital part of our lives. It is hard to imagine life before the internet. We all have our favorite websites that we regularly visit to check the latest news, social media updates, and everything else that interests us.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that Sotheby’s sold the world’s earliest version of the World Wide Web’s code for $5.4 million. The NFT includes a letter from the inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a digital poster of his code, and artistic renderings of him working on the code. Furthermore, some documents chart his life-altering project throughout the years.

Most Expensive NFTs Sold: XCOPY, ‘Some Asshole’

There are many different types of art globally, but some people prefer to express themselves through NFTs on SuperRare. One early adopter is XCOPY, and the artist continues to feature heavily on this list.

Snoop Dogg is a well-known NFT collector, and he’s known to trade some of his NFTs for special items. Snoop recently purchased a special NFT — “Some Asshole” by XCOPY for 1,300 ETH-USD, about $3.8 million. ‘Some Asshole’ is a digital art piece that consists of a blurry face and a black and red background. Snoop Dogg is getting involved in the NFT space, and it’s turning into a really big deal. His reveal about being “Cozmo” (his NFT purchasing pseudonym) was an interesting move in the NFT world. Since then, his Twitter account has had 20,000 new followers.

On the publication date, Faizan Farooque did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Faizan Farooque is a contributing author for InvestorPlace.com and numerous other financial sites. Faizan has several years of experience in analyzing the stock market and was a former data journalist at S&P Global Market Intelligence. You can check out his analysis on InvestorPlace and TipRanks.

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