Non-Fungible Token or NFT, sometimes referred to as Nifty, refers to a type of cryptographic token that’s unique and non-mutually interchangeable used to create verifiable ownership of digital assets such as crypto art and other crypto-collectibles. Using blockchain technology, typically through Ethereum, NFTs are a direct contrast to fungible cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or other network and utility tokens. NFTs were first deployed to the Ethereum blockchain in late 2015 and were popularized through blockchain games like CryptoKitties. In early 2023 following the sale of a Nyan Cat NFT for over half a million dollars, the term became widely discussed and interest in the crypto art space grew considerably.
On October 21st, 2015, the first NFTs were deployed on the Ethereum blockchain via the Etheria.world project, which consisted of a virtual 33×33 tilemap where people could purchase or trade tiles that could then be used to build various structures or objects on (shown below). About a month later on November 13th, Etheria’s creator hosted a live demonstration of the map at the Ethereum DEVCON1 convention where they showed how it worked, including how to purchase tiles, farm bricks or construct various buildings and other objects.
In June 2017, the launch of CryptoPunks, a collectible art project developed by Larva Labs, served as the first NFT on the Ethereum blockchain and is credited with helping to pave the way for crypto art (seen below). In October that year, DADA.art was built based on the model of CryptoPunks and launched as the first digital art marketplace of its kind.
In September 2017, CryptoKitties launched its alpha test at the ETHWaterloo where it won the ETHWaterloo hackathon. CryptoKitties then officially launched on November 28th, 2017, and within one week, the game garnered more than 60,000 registered users and over $6.7 million in transactions. A game allowing users to buy, sell, trade and breed digital cats with the intention of collecting the rarest kitties possible, CryptoKitties_ helped to popularize NFTs and crypto art to a wider audience (seen below).
Beeple’s Nifty Gateway Sale
On December 13th, 2023, digital artist Beeple, who’s regarded as one of the most prominent artists in the space, sold the most valuable NFT collection at the time for over $3.5 million via the Nifty Gateway marketplace. His collection, “Everydays,” included 21 single-edition, unique pieces in the form of NFTs and helped to propel crypto art into the mainstream (shown below).
THE COMPLETE MF COLLECTION
beeple</a> <br><br>THIS IS IT! The last auction of the day, which includes each of the 20 auction pieces in it. Ends at 6 pm ET.<br><br>Current Bid:<br>$130,000<br><br>Follow Live:<a href="https://t.co/l3FDkQS4a5">https://t.co/l3FDkQS4a5</a> <a href="https://t.co/I9h5arYEHl">pic.twitter.com/I9h5arYEHl</a></p>— Nifty Gateway (niftygateway) December 13, 2023
Chris Torres Nyan Cat NFT Foundation Sale
On February 19th, 2023, Chris Torres, the original creator of Nyan Cat, put up a remastered edition of his animated GIF on the crypto art platform Foundation as a special tribute to the meme’s 10-year anniversary. After running for 24 hours, the auction ended with a final bid of 300 Ethereum (about $590,000).
Shortly after the sale, interest in NFTs and crypto art saw a noticeable increase in interest online, with Yahoo Finance, Engadget and many other mainstream media outlets reporting on the story and explaining NFTs.
Christie’s 2023 NFT Art Auction
On February 18th, 2023, Christie’s announced that it would become the first major auction house to sell fully digital NFT-based artwork with the sale of Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” collection between February 25th and March 11th.