Most expensive NFT sales shake up the art world

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Most expensive NFT sales have been making headlines in recent years as digital art continues to gain mainstream acceptance. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that represent ownership of a digital item like art, music, video clips, and more. The ability to buy, sell, and trade these tokenized digital items has created a new marketplace for digital art and collectibles.

As the popularity of NFTs grows, so do the prices paid for rare and desired works. Most expensive NFT sales have reached dizzying heights, with individual artworks selling for millions or even tens of millions of dollars. These record-breaking sales signal the growing value and prominence of NFT artwork in the larger art world.

Highest valued NFT art sales

Here is a look at some of the most expensive NFT sales to date:

Artwork Artist Sale Price Buyer Date
Everydays: The First 5000 Days Beeple $69.3 million Metakovan March 2021
Human One Beeple $28.9 million Ryan Zurrer November 2021
Clock Pak $52.7 million MetaKovan December 2021
CryptoPunk #7523 Larva Labs $11.8 million @0x650d June 2021
Right-click and Save As guy XCOPY $7.6 million @twobadour February 2022

Most expensive NFT sales have come from established and anonymous digital artists alike. Beeple is the pseudonym of digital artist Mike Winkelmann, who has quickly risen to become one of the most valuable living artists with his NFT sales. His piece Everydays: The First 5000 Days sold for a groundbreaking $69.3 million to Metakovan at Christie’s auction house in March 2021, putting him in the company of famous traditional artists like David Hockney and Jeff Koons.

CryptoPunks, a generative pixel art collection created by Larva Labs, have also seen enormous sales, including CryptoPunk #7523 selling for $11.8 million in June 2021. The anonymous artist Pak fetched $52.7 million for his NFT artwork Clock, while XCOPY sold his popular Right-click and Save As guy meme NFT for $7.6 million.

These massive sales indicate the disruptive influence NFTs are having in the larger art world. Digital artists are commanding prices comparable to major auction sales of traditional physical artwork. While some critics view multimillion-dollar NFT sales as hype, proponents see it as a democratization of the art world that enables digital artists to gain recognition and earn a living.

What’s driving expensive NFT art sales?

Several key factors help explain the explosion of most expensive NFT sales in recent years:

  • Scarcity – Most NFTs have a limited supply or even a supply of just one, increasing their perceived value and collectability. Owning the lone copy of a scarce digital asset commands a premium.
  • New technology – NFTs represent ownership on the blockchain, which provides security, transparency, and authenticity to digital items. This makes them more attractive than traditional digital files.
  • Status symbols – Expensive NFT purchases can signal social status, wealth, and being part of an “in” crowd, especially for high-profile collectors.
  • Popular culture – Trends like profile picture collections and memes have boosted interest among everyday crypto traders looking to be part of internet culture.
  • Celebrity interest – As musicians, athletes, and celebrities buy and create NFTs, it further drives public fascination and demand.
  • Investment opportunity – Some buyers believe scarce, one-of-a-kind NFTs will appreciate in value over time and see them as an investment.

These factors create a perfect storm for multimillion-dollar NFT art sales. Most expensive NFT sales capture the public’s imagination while also opening up digital art collecting to a new crypto-native generation.

Notable record-breaking NFT sales

Here is more detail on some of the standout most expensive NFT sales so far:

Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple – $69.3 million

This digital collage by digital artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, sold for a groundbreaking $69.3 million in March 2021 at a Christie’s auction to Metakovan. It includes 5000 individual images Beeple created each day starting in 2007. Its sale positioned Beeple among the top three most valuable living artists.

Human One by Beeple – $28.9 million

Beeple broke his own record when this hybrid digital/physical artwork sold for $28.9 million in November 2021 at Christie’s. Human One is a moving sculpture with constantly changing videos on four screens,explore the human experience in our tech-driven society. It also came with an NFT component.

Clock by Pak – $52.7 million

Digital artist Pak (who remains anonymous) earned $52.7 million for his NFT artwork Clock in December 2021. Clock’s price steadily increased for several days before the sale closed, and partial ownership was distributed to all bidders.

CryptoPunk #7523 – $11.8 million

One of the original generative pixel art characters from Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks collection, CryptoPunk #7523 sold for $11.8 million in June 2021. CryptoPunks are seen as the blue-chip NFT collection, with its rare Alien punks attracting huge sales.

Right-click and Save As guy by XCOPY – $7.6 million

This popular NFT based on a digital meme by anonymous artist XCOPY fetched $7.6 million when it sold in February 2022. The meme itself makes fun of people who think they can “steal” NFTs by saving the image, when the blockchain links the asset to the owner.

Most expensive NFT sales like these have shattered records and opened the door to digital artists being valued alongside traditional greats. Still, even as the market matures, new record-breaking sales continue to surprise and excite the NFT community.

Venture capital interest in NFT startups

The growth of the NFT market has caught the attention of venture capitalists, who are pouring money into startups building NFT products and marketplaces.

According to market data provider Pitchbook, investors put $2.1 billion in global web3 and NFT startups in Q1 2022 alone. That’s more than double the $1 billion invested in all of 2021.

Some of the top-funded NFT startups include:

  • OpenSea – The top NFT marketplace received $300 million in February 2022, valuing the company at $13.3 billion.
  • Yuga Labs – The maker of popular NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club raised $450 million in March 2022.
  • MoonPay – A crypto payments startup that facilitates NFT purchases landed $555 million in November 2021.
  • Dapper Labs – The startup behind NBA Top Shot and Flow blockchain raised $250 million in November 2021.
  • Metaplex – This NFT creation and minting platform bagged $46 million in October 2021.

Venture investment in NFT and web3 startups is expected to continue as the market matures. Improving the buying experience, securing transactions, verifying assets, and moving to lower-energy blockchains are areas of focus.

Future outlook for NFT art sales

Most expensive NFT sales to date may just be the beginning as this new market for digital art continues to evolve. Some predictions for where the multibillion-dollar NFT art market may be headed:

  • More record sales as asset prices increase – As the market matures, even higher sales exceeding $100 million could occur.
  • Expansion to traditional auction houses – Mainstream auctioneers like Christie’s and Sotheby’s will sell more high-value NFTs alongside physical art.
  • New blockchain platforms – Ethereum remains dominant, but competitors like Flow, Tezos, and Solana will host more NFT projects.
  • More utility and mobility – NFT owners may get access to launch parties, merchandise, or other perks, and be able to use NFT assets across different virtual spaces.
  • Celebrity artists diving in – From musicians to athletes to movie stars, expect more big names to release collectible NFTs catering to fans.
  • Art world integration – Galleries, museums, art fairs, and publishers could showcase NFT art alongside physical works.
  • Market consolidation – Top NFT platforms will increase their market share as niche markets fade away or get acquired.

Wherever the market goes next, NFT art sales have undoubtedly left a permanent mark on the art world. Most expensive NFT sales have put digital creations on equal footing with physical ones, a shift that has been embraced by a new generation of crypto art collectors. For digital artists, blockchains have created a way to finally make a living by connecting directly with their fanbase. Expect the creativity, culture, and profits around NFT art to continue flowing into the future.


Galston, A. Beeple’s $69 million NFT explained. How one digital artist is reinventing the art world – with help from crypto. Andreessen Horowitz.

Not Boring. The most expensive NFTs ever: The why, who, and wtf. Not Boring by Packy McCormick.

Robertson, K. NFT artwork by Pak fetches record $52 million at Nifty Gateway. Decrypt.

Robertson, K. Bored Ape NFT sells for $11.8 million on Sotheby’s. Decrypt.

Rooney, K. Beeple’s $69 million NFT beats auction record for digital art. CNBC.

Shiffman, E. An NFT mocking the idea of saving NFT images sells for $7.6 million. The Verge.


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