You can also watch the video version of this post here:
Memes are a rather recent form of digital art that spread virally via social media (especially on forums and Twitter). Despite their massive cultural impact, they ordinarily resulted in $0 financial gain for their creators.
The ‘broke celebrity’ phenomenon
Traditionally, if you were a successful meme creator, you lived the paradox that your face or creation was seen by hundreds or even millions of people daily, technically making you a celebrity, and yet you could still be struggling to pay your bills at the end of the month. I call this the broke celebrity phenomenon.
But this is a caricature, of course, as many of these creators weren’t poor by any means. Many could make a decent living from their day jobs and weren’t struggling to pay their bills. But it nevertheless hurt to be one of the internet’s most influential creators and in exchange make exactly $0 and get almost no authorial recognition.
Monetization at last
But this paradox is now coming to an end. And, once again, NFTs are the culprit. Because, like in so many other sectors, the paradigm-changing emergence of NFTs is also changing the rules of the game for meme creators. They can finally monetize their ubiquitous creations by selling an NFT-authenticated version of their memes. And they are doing so for astonishing amounts of money.
Below I have listed the 15 biggest meme NFT sales with a picture of the meme in question and some other transaction details. These memes are: Success Kid, Bad Luck Brian, Friendship ended with MUDASIR, Scumbag Steve, Keyboard Cat, Creepy Chan, Grumpy Cat, Side Eyeing Chloe, Creepy Chan II, Harambe the Gorilla, Disaster Girl, Overly Attached Girlfriend, Nyan Cat, and, the most expensive of them all, Doge.
But before moving into the meat of the list, I’ll mention a few patterns I’ve noticed.
All were sold in 2021
It’s interesting to note that all these meme sales took place in 2021. This, once again, shows how fledgling the NFT market is (which is not necessarily a bad thing for investors). Also, unlike other types of NFT such as crypto art, the current crypto market slump doesn’t seem to have affected this NFT category as much as other types of digital art. In fact, the biggest sale on the list (the Doge meme sale at $4 million) happened just a month ago, when we were right in the middle of the crypto market mini-crash.
All but one were sold on Foundation
Another interesting common trait is that Foundation seems to have the virtual monopoly of big sales in this category. 14 out of 15 sales on the list took place in that marketplace, with only one saletaking place in a competing marketplace. That exception was substantial, though, as it was the sale of Doge, which was sold on the Zora marketplace.
But this virtual monopoly of Foundation could simply be a coincidence. It might be due to the fact that the first high-profile meme sale (the Nyan Cat meme) took place on Foundation and that dragged the rest of the meme creators to that platform. Especially because, Chris Torres, the creator and seller of that first meme, was then instrumental in helping his fellow ‘memers’ sell theirs.
This primacy is also likely due to the savvy outreach team at Foundation. Chris Torres himself has said that the Foundation team contacted him blazingly fast when he mentioned on Twitter that he was thinking of selling Nyan Cat as an NFT. Also, later they collaborated with Torres to create the #Memeconomy event on the platform to allow other meme creators to easily sell their memes there.
It also doesn’t hurt that, unlike many of its competitors, Foundation has a very clean, and extremely easy-to-use user interface with a straightforward auction system. As you can tell, I’m a fan.
All sold on the Ethereum blockchain
More things to note. Out of the 17 memes on this list, only 3 are animated gifs (Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat, and Coffin Dance) and the other 14 are static — 12 photographs and 1 drawing. Also, 17 out of 17 were transactions made using Ether (the Ethereum blockchain currency) as the means of payment. This is, in fact, unsurprising and similar to most other digital art sales which are currently mostly made on marketplaces built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Ok, so let’s dive now into the memes and their prices. For each sale, I’ve included a link to the actual sales page in case you want to see more details and the official blockchain record of the transaction. As for the prices, they were quoted in dollars very differently all over the internet. So, to present the most accurate price possible, I’ve converted the original ETH price to the equivalent value in dollars by using the ETH exchange rate on the same day the meme was actually sold.
Here are the 17 most expensive memes of all time:
17. ‘Success Kid’ — $32K
Price: 15 ETH (equivalent to $32,365 on the day of purchase)
And that’s it. Those are the 12 most expensive memes of all time. For now.
Not Quite Memes
There’s a number of expensive NFT sales reported by many outlets as meme NFT sales that I haven’t included on the list. The reason is that they are not true memes. One of them, for example, is a comic-book page featuring Pepe the Frog. Pepe has indeed been the protagonist of countless memes, but, strictly speaking, this comic-book page is not really a meme image (that is, the page wasn’t the actual image that people posted online when they used Pepe as a meme) so I’ve left it out.
Had it been included on the list, since it was sold for $3.4 million, it would have been the second most expensive NFT, surpassed only by Doge.
Another two NFTs that I haven’t included are the viral videos: ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ and ‘Leave Britney Alone.’ Although viral videos share many traits with memes and play similar roles in our culture, they are not exactly memes. A very short video GIF (like Nyan Cat, or Keyboard Cat) that can be included on any forum thread and that doesn’t have sound does qualify as a meme. But viral videos tend to be longer, have a soundtrack that is an integral part of their meaning, and are created primarily with the purpose of being consumed on a video watching platform and not to quickly convey an idea on a forum.
The Future of Meme NFTs
As with other types of NFTs, nobody knows what is going to happen with the value of meme NFTs in the medium and long term. But the longer they survive as an investment asset the likelier it is for them to become a permanent fixture. The value of NFTs is dependent on a human convention, and the longer humans agree that something has value, the more probable it is for that value to persist. (For example, gold as a material is much less useful than other metals, it has thus very limited real-world value, but since humans have agreed for many centuries that gold = money, the value of gold has become very stable and very unlikely to go to zero overnight. The same applies to any other consensus-dependent assets like NFTs — the longer they are considered valuable the more stable that value becomes).
And NFTs have already survived their first big ‘moment of truth’: the crypto market mini-crash of May 2021 (we are still in this mini-crash, by the way). During this mini-crash of the crypto sector, NFTs as a whole have shown significant resilience. Yes, the prices of many NFT categories are not as high as during the Mars/April 2021 mania, but they are doing better during this slump than other crypto assets.
In fact, as mentioned before, the largest meme NFT sale of all time took place precisely during the current slump: in June 2021, when the Doge meme sold for a fantastic 4 million dollars. So there are many reasons to be optimistic about the medium- and perhaps even longer-term prospects for this type of investment.
A Few Hands
However, it is also important to note that a handful of investors have had an extraordinary influence on meme prices, at least on the price of the big ones. 70% of the big meme sales listed here were made by just 3 individuals: Farzin Fardin Fard, Harry Jones, and Ian Lapham.
Farzin Fardin Fard, much better known as “3F Music“ is a businessman based in Dubai but born in Iran. He doesn’t work in anything related to crypto but is behind many of the most famous NFT purchases of 2021 (not only memes). Allegedly, he is making these headline-grabbing purchases to promote his Dubai recording studio (the studio’s website looks oddly ramshackle though for someone who is allegedly going to such lengths to promote it).
Harry Jones is an extremely young collector (in his early twenties) based in New York but born in the United Kingdom. Jones is heavily involved in the overall crypto space, being part of the small team behind the up-and-coming Polymarket betting app. Jones has stated that he really believes in the long-term potential of meme NFTs as investment assets and is even considering creating some type of meme fractional investment vehicle in the future.
As for Ian Lapham, he is a software engineer from the Uniswap team, so he is also directly involved professionally in the crypto space at large. Lapham has also made significant purchases of other types of crypto art, namely several works from the highest-priced NFT artist of them all, Beeple.
But irrespective of their backgrounds or goals, the fact that just a handful of collectors made most of these purchases makes it a bit more uncertain to know if these prices could be seen again in the future, should some of these actors leave the market.
It is also interesting that the largest meme NFT sale of all time, Doge, went to a pool of buyers instead of a single person. The buyer of Doge was a group of individuals known as PleasrDAO which, apart from this multi-million dollar meme, have also pool-purchased other significant art NFTs, as can be seen on their website.
Another potential source of investment risk in the meme niche is fakes. For example, at the same time that the above memes were being sold on Foundation by their rightful owners, a couple of scammers impersonated the creators of two famous memes (‘Coughing Cat’ and ‘Me Gusta’) and tried to sell them for big bucks. In the end, neither of these sales went through because the impostors were detected by the marketplace team before the auctions were over. But, if you don’t want to lose all your money, it is essential to be extra careful and ensure that the person selling a meme NFT to you is indeed its creator.
Can more NFTs of these memes be minted?
A final thing that would worry me if I were to spend a small fortune on a famous meme, is the possibility of the meme creator minting more NFTs of the same meme after I buy mine. In general, there is some sort of tacit agreement that this won’t happen. And sometimes the agreement is not tacit but explicit — Nyan Cat’s creator Christ Torres, for example, told The Verge that he “doesn’t plan to offer another of Nyan Cat’s original’ and many other meme sellers appear to have made similar commitments to their respective buyers. But how strong are these promises? And were they recorded as contracts?
However, this source of risk is not as worrying as the fakes. Even in the absence of explicit contracts guaranteeing that the creator will never sell another NFT of the same image, over time, I believe that the market may fix this issue spontaneously by not giving any value to any NFTs of a famous image minted after the first one.
But only time will tell for sure. In the meantime, it is always a good strategy to be extra cautious and try to protect your investment with a written agreement that specifies whether the seller is selling you a unique NFT and whether they will or will not sell more NFTs of that same meme in the future.
That’s all for now. I hope you find this review of the biggest meme NFT sales useful!
However, in this post, I’m going to go beyond this in-a-nutshell answer and explain in detail what each of these different types is about, which of them really have traction in the market, where you can buy them, and, also very important, what it is that you are really getting when you buy them.
I’m going to start with the six types of NFT that are already moving significant amounts of money right now. We can call these the established NFT types.
After reviewing those established categories, I’ll move to what I call the ‘tentative’ NFT types. Some of these seven tentative categories are still at the experimental stage, while others are already being actively traded but in such small volumes that can still be considered tentative.
So, based on this, we can divide the thirteen NFT types into these two groups:
I intentionally use non-physical art as an umbrella term that includes all the art that is currently sold on the NFT marketplaces, not just digital art. This comprises true digital art but also traditional photography, traditional illustration, and even photos of actual physical canvas paintings.
As of July 2021, non-physical art NFTs have moved more money and grabbed more headlines than any other NFT category, and the most expensive NFT ever sold across all NFT types belongs to this category. It was an NFT minted by the artist Beeple and sold in March 2021 for 69 million dollars.
Non-physical art NFTs have various subcategories. For example, Beeple’s $69 million NFT is a collage belonging to the subcategory of digital art.
By the way, digital art simply meansany artwork created with a computer. It doesn’t say anything about how an artwork will look; some pieces of digital art can look like they were made with a computer but many could be mistaken for a traditional canvas painting or for an illustration.
Digital artists are the community that has most rapidly adopted NFTs to sell their work. The reason for this is because, before the appearance of NFT certificates, the artists who created artworks on computers struggled to sell them in the traditional art gallery circuit. NFTs have solved this problem for these artists, allowing them to make a living (or even a great living) off their artwork, and so this community is flocking to NFTs with absolute enthusiasm. (I’ve published an entire guidebook on the topic of art NFTs and crypto art if you are interested in the nitty-gritty.)
However, as I said above, under this non-physical art category, you can also find many artworks that are not digital art because they weren’t created with a computer. Notably, photography and illustration. Like digital artists, photographers and illustrators are also flocking to the NFT world for a similar reason to digital artists. That’s because, photographers and illustrators have always shared with digital artists the difficulty of selling their creations in the traditional art gallery/art fair/auction house circuit.
Another subcategory of art currently sold on NFT marketplaces is traditional canvas art sold as a digital file. To put it simply: selling photographs of actual physical paintings that were created on a canvas.
This might sound contradictory with what I just said that artists who use the traditional canvas medium have the possibility of selling their artwork in art galleries. However, the fact that canvas artists have that possibility doesn’t automatically mean that they succeed at it. There are only so many good slots in the best galleries, fairs, and auction houses, and there are many, many more canvas artists who want in. As a result, many of these traditional-medium artists are also seeing in NFT marketplaces an opportunity to achieve their dream of living off their creations.
The curious thing is that, although the non-physical artworks that you can buy on NFT marketplaces have these different origins, very often you can’t tell them apart. For example, many people selling photographs of their oil painting canvases won’t necessarily say that there’s also an oil painting original of that digital image they are selling, and from looking at it on a screen, you can’t always notice the difference between a digitally-created artwork and a canvas-created artwork.
Another example: many digital illustrations that belong to the category of digital art can look indistinguishable from illustrations that were made on paper. So, at the end of the day, how a piece was originally created is not extremely decisive and what matters most is the visual potency of the art. But, as an investor, it is useful to know that the art you see on those NFT marketplaces can have these very different origins.
Where can you buy them?
Being the most successful NFT category, there’s a wealth of specific marketplaces purely specializing in NFT art. These marketplaces can be subdivided into curated and non-curated.
The curated marketplaces only list pre-approved NFT artworks that have gone through the filter of the marketplace curators. As a result, the quality tends to be higher but the prices also tend to be higher. The main curated marketplaces are:
The non-curated marketplaces don’t have a filter and, as a result, anyone can list their art on them, no matter how bad (or good) their art is. This means that you will encounter a lot of junk and noise there, and that makes it difficult to find the truly good pieces. But at the same time, if you want to find great art at cheap prices these are the marketplaces to use because the artists who are still not popular enough to be accepted in the curated marketplaces list their work here and you can make a great profit someday if they become popular. The main non-curated marketplaces are:
Note that these two non-curated marketplaces are generalist. That is, they also sell many other kinds of NFTs, not just art. However, both of them have a specific subsection for art.
What are you really buying?
This is probably the most strange thing about this NFT category. When you buy one of these non-physical art NFTs, the only thing that you are getting is an NFT certificate. Of course, you are also getting a copy of the image file of the artwork. But it’s an image that anybody else can copy too, even if they are not the owners of the NFT certificate. Another thing that you are not buying when you acquire one of these NFTs is the copyright to that artwork. Although you will own the NFT, the creator of the image (the artist) will retain all the copyrights.
So, if you are not getting a unique image file that only you can possess and if you are also not getting copyright over that piece, does your NFT have any value at all?
The answer is: yes, these NFT certificates have value. At least they do to enough people for them to have become an investment asset. And the proof is that they are often sold and resold on these marketplaces and often for increasing prices. However, it’s important to know that there are also people who think that this is a pyramid scheme that will blow at some point and that the price of these NFT certificates will crash to zero when that happens. I personally think that NFTs are here to stay, but it’s important to be aware that they are still a very controversial asset class.
Why NFTs are valuable is a very tricky (and controversial) topic. So, it would take too much space to properly explain it here. If you want to read a very clear and detailed explanation on why NFTs are valuable and how likely they are to remain valuable in the future I’ve explained it in my guidebooks about NFTs and about art NFTs.
The digital collectible category is now relegated to second place by sales volume after art NFTs, but, a few years ago, collectibles were the category that started it all. The first fully functional NFT project ever launched in the crypto space was a digital collectible series called CryptoPunks. That was back in 2017 when very few people had heard of NFTs. Another of the oldest NFT projects was also a collectible: CryptoKitties, which became very popular during the boom and crash of the crypto space in 2017 even being featured in mainstream newspapers and national television, which at the time was quite a feat.
While CryptoKitties are not as popular today as in their 2017 heyday (probably because their supply is not as limited as that of other collectibles), CryptoPunks have become the number one investment in the NFT collectible space. There are only 10,000 CryptoPunks in existence and they are some of the most expensive NFTs out there, with a punk selling for a record 7.6 million dollars in March 2021.
The collectible scene is burgeoning and, every few days, new crypto collectible projects are launched with ingenious marketing strategies, and some of them (like Hashmasks recently) manage to gain a lot of traction.
Note that the boundary between art NFTs and collectible NFTs is often blurry. For example, CryptoPunks are collectibles but they could also be seen as belonging to a type of digital art called pixel art. Meanwhile, Hashmasks was a collectible project that intentionally wanted to be a bridge between art and collectibles bringing onboard many different artists to create the images for their collectible tokens.
Where can you buy them?
Most collectible projects (like CryptoPunks, CryptoKitties, and Hashmaks) have their own website in which you can buy their NFTs when they are initially released. On top of that, there’s also a secondary market for resales that commonly takes place in the generalist NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible, which usually have a section dedicated to collectibles and trading cards.
What are you really buying?
Exactly the same as with the non-physical art NFTs: you are simply getting an NFT certificate that establishes you as the ‘immaterial’ owner of the collectible. So you are buying some sort of technified ‘bragging rights.’
What you are not getting is a unique image or file representing that collectible that only you can have. And you are also not getting any copyright over the images on your collectible.
Once again, the reason why these ‘technified bragging rights’ have value and the likelihood for them to preserve or increase that value in the future, would take far too long to explain here. If you want to know more about it, I’ve written a short book ‘The 15-Minute Guide to NFTs’ in which I explain all that.
3. Sports memorabilia
Sports memorabilia are in reality a subtype of collectible, but they deserve their own category because their client base and market inner workings are very distinct from the rest of collectibles.
So far, the largest and most successful project in this category is NBA Top Shot, which started in 2019. The idea behind this project is very smart. Instead of just copying the traditional sports trading card model in a digital form, they provide something that a physical sports card could never have: video.
Each collectible card of the NBA Top Shot project is a video highlight showing a famous play or shot in the history of the NBA. The success of NBA Top Shot has been outstanding. With overall sales of over half a billion dollars as of July 2021, NBA Top Shot has become the NFT project that has the highest volume of sales across all NFT categories (followed by the NFT game Axie Infinity with also over half a billion dollars).
Interestingly, NBA Top Shot was created by the same team responsible for the success of CryptoKitties in 2017: Dapper Labs. So these guys are worth watching because they clearly know what they are doing. In fact, the next big thing in sports NFTs could be still another project created by them: a series of collectibles for the UFC. And, considering the massive fan base that the UFC has, these collectibles could really explode when they come out. Watch that space if you are interested in investing in sports collectibles.
Another successful sports collectible project is Sorare, which is catered to the fans of soccer, or as it is known in Europe, football. Sorare is special in that it is not just a set of collectible cards but it is also a fantasy sports game that can be played with those same cards.
Lastly, there is a fourth important sports NFT project for fans of the MLB baseball league. It is called Topps MLB, and is backed by Topps (Topps is the most important company in the world of traditional physical sports cards).
Where can you buy them?
Like other collectibles, most sports collectibles can be purchased both on the specific website for their project and on generalist marketplaces. However, unlike most art and collectible NFTs, the majority of sports NFTs are not based on the Ethereum blockchain (Sorare being the exception) so you won’t find them on the normal generalist marketplaces OpenSea and Rarible as these are Ethereum-based.
At present, NFT Top Shot can only be easily traded within their own project website. However, their creators have announced that it will also be available soon on the Flow marketplace known as Viv3. When the UFC collectible comes out, it will also be available on that marketplace as it is also based on the Flow blockchain.
Topps MLB original card packs are now sold out so you can’t buy them anymore from their original project website. To get hold of them, you need to use secondary marketplaces compatible with the WAX blockchain on which this project is based, like for example Atomic Hub.
Sorare is the exception in sports collectibles as it is built on Ethereum. This means that in addition to buying these cards on their original project website, you can also trade them on the Ethereum-based generalist marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible.
What are you really buying?
As with non-physical art NFTs and collectible NFTs, you are just buying an NFT certificate. You are not buying a digital file that only you can enjoy, and you are not buying any copyright to the image or video on your collectible (for example, if you buy a collectible for a video highlight of LeBron James, you don’t even have the right to post that video highlight on YouTube because you are not the copyright owner of that video, the NBA still fully owns it).
4. Video game assets
A few months back, art and collectible sales dwarfed video game assets. As of July 2021, this category has finally become one of the most successful NFTs. This is mainly due to Axie Infinity massive adoption over the past couple of months.
This has beginning to fullfil the prophecy made by many experts that one day video game NFTs would revolutionize the gaming industry. The reason why there’s so much investor expectation for this category is that traditional video game consumers are already familiar with microtransactions because they frequently buy things inside traditional video games. (For those not familiar with video games, one common example of these microtransactions is buying a special weapon that allows you to cause more damage to your enemies in a game.) So, thanks to this already existing familiarity with in-game microtransactions, adoption of video game NFTs is expected to grow rapidly.
For now, all video games NFTs that exist are related to games specifically created for the purpose of supporting an associated exchange of NFT goods. We can call these ‘crypto-native’ video games. But over time, it is expected that even traditional video games will use NFT platforms to commercialize their own in-game assets.
At present, the most popular video game that makes extensive use of NFTs is Axie Infinity. In this game, you use NFTs to buy Pokémon-style creatures that you can use to play inside the game but also with which you can speculate on the marketplaces as they fluctuate in value. As of July 2021, Axie Infinity has become the second best-selling NFT project of all time (The first one is NBA Top Shot) with total sales volume of over half a billion dollars.
Other popular games are Alien Worlds, in which you can buy many different NFTs (weapons, tools, avatars, minions, and lands), and The Sandbox, which, although still not fully playable, already offers its own NFT marketplace. That marketplace has already seen some good sales volume even before the game is active. The Sandbox is creating this anticipation because it is seen as crypto equivalent to the super successful traditional video game Minecraft.
Where can you buy them?
In many cases, you can buy them inside the videogame itself, which will have its own dedicated marketplace (like Axie Infinity’s Marketplace), but you can also frequently find their tokens on generalist NFT marketplaces. These secondary marketplaces will vary a lot depending on the video game in question, because each game uses a different blockchain platform. In the cases of Axie and The Sandbox, since they are built on the Ethereum blockchain, you can exchange their NFTs on OpenSea and Rarible. In the case of Alien Worlds, which is built on the WAX blockchain, you can buy its NFTs on a WAX-compatible marketplace like Atomic Hub.
What are you really buying?
Unlike art, collectible, and sports NFTs, in this case, you are not just buying an NFT certificate but you are also getting a product that only you can enjoy and use. For example, if you buy an Axie character, only you, the owner of the NFT, can use that character inside the Axie Infinity game (as a result the most powerful characters tend to be more expensive), and the same applies to all other video game NFTs — you are not just buying ‘braging rights’ but also something with a specific utility.
5. Virtual land
This category partially overlaps with the previous one because many crypto video games also sell land. But the category of virtual real estate encompasses more than video game land; it also includes the land from general-purpose virtual worlds (or as many like to call them now ‘the metaverse’).
General-purpose virtual worlds are distinct from video games in the sense that, although you can use them as games to some extent, their principal purpose is social. They want to partially replace physical reality and the social activities that can be carried out in the physical world.
If they succeed, they will become a parallel immaterial version of our planet in which activities like meeting people, conducting business, teaching, and learning, doing political activism, displaying art, or placing advertising could take place. Imagine the $$$ potential for the owners of the land in such a place.
At present, no virtual world (crypto or non-crypto) has ever gained the traction of say, a Facebook or a Twitter, but the reward for the first virtual world that ever gets that kind of user adoption will dwarf the size of any other social media company that came before.
The most famous virtual world in the crypto space is Decentraland. It is still rather unpolished technically and the user adoption is lacking, but it is gaining a lot of traction as a speculative investment, with investors betting on its future adoption by buying plots of land, which, for now, however, remain mostly deserted.
As I mentioned before, many video games also sell land, in that case, you can generally find them in that video game’s own marketplace and also on the generalist NFT marketplaces.
What are you really buying?
You are buying an NFT certificate, but you are also buying a real digital product that only you can use and enjoy. When you buy land NFTs, you are the only person who can exploit the plot of virtual land associated with your NFT. This means that you are the only person who can build on that land, organize events on it, rent it out to other users, or make money placing billboards on them if they are in a good location.
6. Meme NFTs
I was considering including this category inside non-physical art because, ultimately, memes are just another type of digital art. But memes also have such a distinct role culturally that they can be analyzed as a grouping of their own.
Even though the crypto market and the NFT market have been in a slump since May 2021, meme sales haven’t stopped and, actually, the largest meme sale of all time was made after that slump began: In June 2021, the original Doge meme sold for 4,4 million dollars on the Zora platform.
Other famous memes that have sold for staggering amounts in 2021 have been:
Pepe the Frog which sold for nearly $1 million, Nyan Cat which sold for $580,000 Disaster Girl, which sold for $473,000, Overly Attached Girlfriend, which sold for $411,000.
Also, this category made it into the established group by a narrow margin. The reason why meme NFTs are not completely established is that many of the big meme purchases were made by one single person: a collector who goes by the nickname of ‘3F Music.’ So this can be seen as problematic for the category’s real investment potential. Yes, many big sales are being made — but are these prices sustainable if that one collector leaves the market?
Where can you buy them?
Memes don’t have a dedicated NFT platform at present. So their sales can happen in any generalist marketplace. Since they are a form of digital art the big profile meme auctions tend to also take place on NFT art marketplaces like and ZORA
What are you buying?
Beware, anybody could say that they are the creator of a Meme. So if you are going to invest money on one you should seek for a reputable third party to verify that the seller is the actual creator. For example, for the sale of the Doge meme, Don Caldwell, the editor-in-chief of the internet meme database ‘Know Your Meme’, certified that the seller was indeed the creator of the meme.
The seven tentative types
So now that we’ve seen the categories that already have traction, let’s move to the categories that are still in the tentative or experimental phase.
Some people will be surprised to find tweet NFTs classified as tentative when the tweet category has already made so many headlines. But I’ve placed it here because all those headlines were about one single sale: Jack Dorsey’s tweet. That’s the only big sale in the entire NFT tweet space in all its (short) history.
That transaction took place in March 2021 and consisted of the sale of Jack Dorsey’s first-ever tweet (for those who don’t know him, Jack Dorsey is the founder and CEO of Twitter). This NFT sold for an eye-popping 2.9 million USD.
But apart from that mega sale, this space hasn’t seen any other big transactions. For example, if you go to Valuables by Cent (the marketplace where tweet NFTs are bought and sold) and you order all the past transactions by sales value, you get this:
As you can see the first sale listed (Jack Dorsey’s) at 2.9 million dollars is miles away from the second one at just 23,000 dollars. And, from there on, the prices go downhill very quickly: only 2 sales in the 20k range, only 3 sales in the 10k range, only 6 in the 10k-to-5k range, and so on.
This doesn’t mean that tweet NFTs can’t become a thing in the future; the world has seen weirder things (just think of the joke-coin Doge becoming in may 2021 the 4th most valuable crypto coin by market cap just because Elon Musk found it cute and kept posting on social media about it). So it’s definitely not impossible to imagine tweet NFTs becoming a booming investment asset in the future.
For example, some people think that, some day, every tweet with historical significance will be very valuable (like a politician’s tweet announcing that they’re running for president, a big celebrity coming out of the closet, etc).
Another type of tweet that could become a thing in the future is tweets in which something appeared for the first time; such as the first tweet in which the word ‘love’ was ever displayed, the first tweet in which the word ‘money’ appeared, etc. In fact, a budding example of this occurred recently: it was the sale of the tweet in which Chris Messina invented the hashtag. That tweet sold on Valuables by Cent for $10k. And, if tweet NFTs end up becoming more than a passing fad, then tweets like Messina’s could be resold for much more money in the future.
Where can you buy them?
At present, the only place where you can buy tweet NFTs is on the marketplace called Valuables by Cent.
It doesn’t appear that Valuables by Cent has any association with the Twitter corporation, so this means that, in principle, anybody could create another platform to sell tweets just like Valuables by Cent did.
And this raises the question: could potentially a tweet that was already sold on Valuables by Cent be sold again by its author on another platform? For example, if somebody creates another tweet marketplace and Dorsey lists his first tweet in it again, (the same one that he already sold for $2.9 million on Valuables by Cent) this would be legal in theory. But for the guy who bought it for $2.9 million it would be a terrible thing. He might even sue Dorsey for breaching a non-written but reasonable contractual expectation.
As with many other things in the young NFT space, it is too early to know what the legal implications and limits are, and tweets are a great example of that uncertainty. So proceed with caution as a buyer, but also as a seller.
What are you really buying?
When you buy a tweet NFT you are not really buying a tweet. You are just buying an NFT certificate. You won’t have access to the original tweet because tweets can’t be moved from the Twitter account of the person who created them. This means that the owner of the tweet whose NFT you purchase will still have that tweet in their Twitter account after selling the NFT to you and could even delete the original tweet if they wanted.
Should they delete the tweet, you wouldn’t lose your NFT certificate, obviously, but its value could diminish greatly (although once again, it is still too soon to know this for sure, and we don’t have enough real-world examples to know how the market will value the NFTs of deleted tweets).
So what you are buying is just an NFT certificate (like with art NFTs and collectible NFTs) without any associated product that only you can use. Some people (even the owners of Valuables by Cent themselves) are calling these NFTs ‘autographed versions of tweets’ to avoid confusion with the idea that you are buying an actual tweet.
By the way, even if the original tweet is deleted, a screen capture of the original tweet is stored and is permanently linked to your NFT certificate, so at least you will still be able to see that screen capture of the original tweet.
8. Crypto Domain Names
Crypto domain name NFTs aren’t still very popular. And even the few people who have heard of them frequently confuse them with regular domain names. This is not correct. What you are buying when you acquire one of these NFTs is a new type of domain name called a crypto domain.
Crypto domains, like their older brothers, can be used to host websites (although browser support is still not quite there yet, read below) but they can also be used as a sort of crypto banking address in which you can receive money. For example, imagine you buy the crypto domain mycoolwebsite.crypto, then,you could use it for both hosting a website and for letting people who transact with cryptocurrencies send you money directly there.
At present, the most common crypto domain endings are .eth and .crypto.
Where can you buy them?
Crypto domains can be bought originally from their issuers’ websites: Unstoppable Domains for domains ending in .crypto, and ENS for domains ending in .eth.
As for the secondary market, there’s not a specific marketplace for them yet, but the generalist marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible have a dedicated domain section.
What are you really buying?
You are buying an NFT certificate but also a real product that only you can use. In this case, the real product is a crypto domain name that you can use as an address to receive cryptocurrency payments and as an address to host a website.
However, it is important to know that, at present, crypto domains are not supported by any major browsers unless you install an extra add-on. So this pretty much invalidates the second use case of hosting domains as most people won’t have that add-on installed on their browser and when they enter your .crypto or .eth address on their browser, they won’t see anything.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that in the future they won’t be supported by browsers. There are already some initiatives in that regard, so they might be. But what is certain is that, at present, they aren’t.
On the plus side, crypto domains used to host websites have something very powerful going for them: nobody can censor them. So if you fear that your content could be taken down by censors, by using a crypto domain you can foolproof your site against them.
Music NFTs are like tweet NFTs in the sense that they have made a lot of media noise thanks to a couple of high-profile sales. But also, like tweet NFTs, overall they are still hardly moving any money at all and they don’t have specific marketplaces in which they can be bought and sold.
The most high-profile music NFT release was Kings of Leon’s latest album ‘When You See Yourself’ in March 2021. It was hyped as the first time an album was released as an NFT. But that’s not exactly right. What truly took place was that, a few days before they released their new album via the traditional commercial channels, they made a pre-release of a few copies on an NFT marketplace.
So it was not an NFT exclusive by any means. What they sold on the NFT marketplace was a limited edition (twenty copies at $50 each) of their album with the corresponding NFT certificate of authenticity. In addition to those, they also sold some NFTs for accompanying memorabilia, and a set of NFTs for special golden tickets guaranteeing life-long front-row seats in their concert tours. Selling all these different NFTs they made a total of $2 million, which is pretty good for the music NFT category. So far it has been the most high-profile music NFT from a media-coverage standpoint because it was the first time (or almost the first) that an album was made available in that way.
Another musician who also earned a lot of press attention (and dollars) was singer Grime. She was also one of the first musicians to the NFT party, but what she released was more in the realm of video art NFTs than that of music NFTs. Her video creations had some background music, but the focus was on the 3D animations and, in fact, they were sold on an NFT art marketplace.
Where can you buy them?
There’s not a specific platform for music NFTs, and due to their diversity, you can find them scattered across all types of NFT marketplaces. Some of them are being sold in the two main generalist marketplaces OpenSea and Rarible, but many of them are in specialist marketplaces. For example, Foundation, an art NFT marketplace, is currently selling the alternative music video for a song by the late rapper Dead Bent, and other musicians have even launched their own website using the WAX infrastructure (like the digital collectible cards sold by the pop-metal music group Babymetal).
What are you really buying?
Probably, no NFT category has more variety in this department than Music NFTs. Some of these music NFTs are actual pieces of music (like the Kings of Leon album mentioned before). In that case, you are acquiring a type of ‘autographed’ version of the original song or album represented by the NFT certificate, and you also get a copy of the music file to play on your devices. But you are not acquiring any kind of exclusive rights over that music piece use or over its copyright. So buying one of these NFTs could be compared to buying a special edition collector’s vinyl.
But musicians are also selling many other types of NFTs derived from their work: alternative music videos (like Bent), digital collectible cards with images of the musician (like Babymetal), art derived from their ‘brand’ universe (like Grimes), and so on. In most of these cases, you will be only purchasing an NFT representing that product, but not a unique product that only you can enjoy or use. But there’s so much variety that in some cases you may be also purchasing the unique underlying product to which nobody else will have access. So, read the small print.
Probably literary NFTs are the category on this entire list with the least traction at the present moment. However, I can see how this could change in the future. Especially with poetry. NFTs were embraced by the digital art community because they allowed them to monetize a product that they couldn’t easily monetize before. Well, I think NFTs can do the exact same thing for the least monetizable of all literary forms ever: poetry.
You can probably count with your two hands the number of people in the world who actually live off of writing poetry. Perhaps even with just one hand. By turning poems into unique collectible products, the same could happen to poems that has already happened to digital images, memes, and tweets. Because, in the same way that people are buying the ‘bragging rights’ to owning skillful images, why not buying the bragging rights to owning skillful poems?
As for other forms of literature, like novels, short stories, or non-fiction, I can see how short stories could also have the potential for tokenization since their writers also make hardly any money from them at present. However, I don’t see them getting as much traction as poetry due to their length.
Regarding full-length novels and other types of books like non-fiction works, there’s no reason why you couldn’t sell a whole book as a unique ‘autographed’ book NFT. But so far this hasn’t become a thing, and the most common use case for writers has been to sell ‘bonus’ material in the form of NFTs.
There’s still no famous fiction author, however, who has released bonus material as NFTs. As of today, the only author who has gotten significant media coverage about their NFTs was the non-fiction author Anand Giridharadas who sold several bonus-material NFTs related to his book ‘Winners Take All’.
However, the bonus material subcategory has a lot of potential in my opinion. For example, I can easily see how the bonus NFTs of a famous novelist like J K Rowling could sell for a small fortune. Memorabilia like exclusive photos of the napkin notes she made when she was planning Harry Potter, the alternative book covers she discarded, the chapter she removed from a Harry Potter installment, the first unedited draft of Harry Potter, or an exclusive voice recording of her reading her novel, the list is unending and they would all very likely fetch crazy prices.
But the product that could really be the star collectible related with author NFTs is the unabridged versions of their manuscripts. Due to printing and commercial constrains, many novels are significantly shortened by the publishing houses before being released. Die-hard fans of an author will surely want to get their hands on these original drafts and unabridged versions of their beloved novels, even at premium prices.
Where can you buy them?
At present, there are no literature-specific marketplaces. Not even generalist marketplaces have a special section dedicated to them. But you can find some literary NFTs mixed with other NFT types on the ‘shelves’ of the biggest NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and Rarible.
What are you really buying?
As with music NFTs, what you actually buy in this category can be extremely varied. For example, if somebody sells an NFT of a published book, you are just getting an ‘autographed’ version of that book and not any exclusive rights to access that content.
But, if somebody sells bonus material NFTs, in many cases, only the buyers of that NFT get access to that special text, file, or image, which becomes only viewable after the purchase is completed (an example of this is the already mentioned sale of Anand Giridharadas’s bonus material).
11. Physical Real Estate
The tokenization of physical-world assets like physical real estate or physical art (see below) is still in its infancy. For example, there’s not a single platform dedicated to buying and selling them and not even the generalist marketplaces have a section for them. However, a few tentative projects on the space of physical real-estate tokenization have already begun.
But first of all, what is tokenization? In simple terms, to tokenize is to attach an NFT certificate to something to make it sellable in the crypto space. In this way, you can sell a real house or a real plot of land that really exist in the physical world by buying and selling the associated NFT that will act as the proof of your ownership (in these cases NFTs become a sort of fancy techno property deeds).
However, the tokenization of real-world assets has a second side and that is the reason why this category has so much potential: Instead of selling a house or plot of land as a single entity, you can break them down into multiple NFTs and therefore create something similar to shares for that property. This will enable small investors to invest in very expensive real estate.
For example, very few people can afford to buy an entire building on Manhattan’s 5th avenue or one of those huge Iowan plots of farmland. By tokenizing and breaking down their ownership, anybody could invest in them. And what’s more, you won’t just profit from your NFT when you re-sell it at a higher price—while you hold your NFT you will also receive the proportional rental profit that the building is making or the proportional farming profit that the land is generating.
Where can you buy them?
There isn’t a marketplace to sell real estate NFTs at present, and you can’t find them on the generalist marketplaces either. The only thing that exists so far are individual projects like the one announced by the LABS Group, which will be using the Enjin platform.
What are you really buying?
Unlike many other types of NFTs, in this case, the actual NFT certificate is just instrumental and not the product in and of itself. So you are getting an NFT certificate, but also a real piece of property (or if that real estate is broken down into shares, a percentage of that property).
12. Physical Art
This category is very similar to physical real estate in how it works: you can tokenize any existing piece of physical artwork by linking its ownership to an NFT certificate. But you can also break its ownership down into many sub-units and attach each portion to a different NFT certificate (and no, the actual physical artwork won’t be broken down, of course) that can be sold individually as if it were a share in a company.
The tokenization of art could change the world of art investing radically. First, it would allow the average Joe or Mary to invest in super expensive but very profitable artists like Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci. Second, it would bring enormous liquidity to the art world.
In the current world of art investment, it is not easy to find a quick buyer for a very expensive work of art, no matter how reputed and scarce the artist is, because there are only so many billionaires and institutions with that kind of purchasing power looking to buy at any given time. But if costly artworks could be broken down into shares and sold on exchanges, then, you can easily see how revolutionary that would be. Art investing would become similar to stock market investing.
Where can you buy them?
There’s no platform to sell physical-art NFTs at present, and you can’t find them on the generalist marketplaces either. The only thing that exists so far are a few isolated projects like the NFT project initiated by artist Matteo Mauro to tokenize his own physical artwork, or the project by Titan Invest (although Titan is using regular blockchain tokens rather than NFTs) that allows you to invest in masterpieces by Rubens or Van Gogh in a fractional manner.
What you can find on many NFT marketplaces is physical art transformed into digital art (by taking a photograph of the original artwork). But this doesn’t count as physical-art NFTs because they are not selling you the actual physical piece when you buy the NFT, they are just selling you a digital photo (unless specified otherwise).
What are you really buying?
As with physical-real estate NFTs, with physical-art NFTs, the NFT certificate is not the product but just a means of transferring the ownership of the actual physical product. So when you buy a physical-art NFT you are getting both an NFT certificate of authenticity, and a physical work of art.
The exception to do is when you buy the NFT of a subdivided physical artwork. In this case, they can’t obviously destroy the actual artwork and send you your fragment, so although you are the real owner of that fragment, the actual object will be kept by a custodian that stores the piece on behalf of all its ‘stockholders’.
13. Functional NFTs
I was tempted to leave functional NFTs out of this list because functional NFTs are an entire whole family of categories rather than one single type. But they all do share one thing in common and that thing differentiates them from the previous 12 types we’ve seen: you can’t use functional NFTs as an investment. They are not assets.
Functional NFTs are NFTs that are used because their technical characteristics are useful for simplifying bureaucratic or technical transactions rather than because of their value as an investment asset. Some of the many examples that could be mentioned are medical record NFTs, event ticket NFTs, or academic degree NFTs.
Functional NFTs are a very experimental area with very few projects already implemented. But the potential is big and many common activities that require identifying somebody or something in a unique and unforgeable way can benefit from the NFT technology. However, if you are or want to be an investor, this category is not very relevant to you.
So these are the 13 types of NFT that exist at present (July 2021). Before finishing this report, I want to say that I’ve left out of this list a few ‘micro types’ of NFTs because they are so specific that they don’t deserve their own category (or at least not yet). For example. The Decentraland virtual world is selling usernames as NFTs. You can create a username when you open an account on Decentraland and then speculate with that name on OpenSea in the hope that due to its originality or significance it will gain value over time.
Another ‘micro type’ of NFT that doesn’t yet deserve a category of its own is historic pieces of programming code. So far, the most significant sale in this category has been the very source code of the world wide web. In June 2021, it was sold by its creator, the star-developer Tim Berners-Lee, for a staggering 5.4 million dollars (and if it hadn’t coincided with the current market slump it could have fetched even crazier prices — bad timing!). Interestingly enough, this piece of code, which represented the beginning of the end of the brick-and-mortar monopoly over culture, was sold via the brick-and-mortar auction house Sotheby’s instead of an online NFT marketplace.
And that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed the details in this report. If you want more quality insight on the NFT ecosystem, you can join my loop, get one of my NFT books on Amazon or follow me on Twitter.