Why Are NFTs Fetching Astronomical Prices?

In the digital age, our understanding of value, ownership, and authenticity has been challenged and redefined in various ways. One phenomenon that encapsulates this seismic shift is the rise of Non-Fungible Tokens, commonly known as NFTs. Operating on blockchain technology, NFTs have transformed intangible digital assets into something you can “own,” akin to having a rare collectible item, be it a rare baseball card or a first edition of a book. However, instead of sitting on a physical shelf or locked in a safe, these assets are securely stored on a digital ledger, accessible only by the owner who holds the unique key to that particular digital treasure.

Unsurprisingly, this revolutionary concept has sent shock waves across multiple sectors, from art and entertainment to sports and real estate. Auction houses that once dealt exclusively in classical art are now hosting, digital galleries, celebrities are minting their tweets, and virtual real estate is being bought and sold as if it were physical land. Yet, what has truly catapulted NFTs into mainstream consciousness is the astonishing sums of money people are willing to pay for them. Some NFTs have already sold for millions of dollars, reaching price tags that rival those of established works of physical art.

The NFT Market size was predicted to Cross USD 342.54 Billion by 2032, with a 27.60% CAGR by 2032 – Report by Market Research Future (MRFR). The reports further predict the market will acquire nearly USD 342.54 billion by the end of 2032. As per the documents, the NFT market was valued at nearly USD 38.2 billion in 2022. factors such as massive sales to a new crypto audience, positive impact on the creator economy, rising usage of blockchain-based digital collectible platforms, and growing government initiatives worldwide are also likely to enhance the market performance over the coming years.

This begs the question: What makes these digital assets so valuable? Are they digital art, digital gold, or perhaps both? And with eye-watering sums of money involved, what are the challenges and controversies that surround this nascent yet explosive market? In this Cryptopolitan guide, we’ll explore the most expensive NFTs ever sold, finding the reasons behind their astronomical value and determining what the future holds for this disruptive form of digital ownership. 

What Are NFTs? 

Non-fungible tokens, commonly known as NFTs, are unique digital assets secured and authenticated through blockchain technology. Each NFT comes with its own distinct identifiers and metadata that set it apart from any other tokens, establishing its singularity.

These NFTs can be bought, sold, or traded for real-world currency, various forms of cryptocurrency, or even other NFTs, depending on the perceived value assigned by both the market and individual owners. For example, you could tokenize an image of a banana, and that specific NFT could either fetch millions or be considered worthless, all based on what value people are willing to assign to it.

It’s important to note that while cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum are also tokens on a blockchain, they are fundamentally different from NFTs in that they are fungible. This means that each unit of a cryptocurrency is interchangeable with any other unit of the same kind. In contrast, even if two NFTs on the same blockchain appear visually identical, their unique identifiers ensure that they are not interchangeable.

How Do NFTs Validate Ownership?

NFTs come into existence through a procedure known as minting, where the digital asset’s specific details are indelibly recorded on a blockchain. Simplistically, the minting process involves the creation of a new block on the blockchain, the validation of the NFT’s information by a network validator, and, finally, the sealing of that block. This creation often involves the use of smart contracts, which are self-executing contracts with the terms directly written into code, to define ownership and set the rules for how the NFT can be transferred or traded.

When an NFT is minted, it is given a unique identifier that is tied to a single blockchain address. This information about who owns the NFT (i.e., the blockchain address where the token is stored) is transparent and publicly accessible. Even if multiple NFTs representing the same digital asset are minted—say, 5,000 NFTs serving as general admission tickets to a film—each individual token will possess a unique identifier, making it distinguishable from all others.

Blockchain And Fungibility 

Traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum are fungible in nature, meaning one unit is interchangeable with another of the same kind. Think of it like physical money; one dollar bill has the same value as another dollar bill, and one bitcoin is worth the same as another bitcoin on any given trading platform. This fungibility is what makes cryptocurrencies an effective medium for transactions in the digital financial landscape.

However, NFTs disrupt this traditional crypto model by being unique and non-interchangeable, making it impossible for one NFT to be precisely “equal” to another. They serve as digital equivalents of unique assets and have been compared to digital passports. Each NFT carries a distinct, non-transferable identity that sets it apart from any other token. Additionally, NFTs are extensible, meaning they can be combined with other NFTs to generate a new, distinct digital asset, further highlighting their unique and dynamic nature.

What Makes An NFT Popular?

The presence of an engaged community that collaborates with a project’s development team can notably boost the NFT’s popularity.

Take the ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’ (BAYC) as an example: a large portion of its community members actively use their BAYC NFTs as Twitter avatars and are consistently vocal on social media, sharing updates and promoting the project. This active community engagement plays a significant role in the project’s success.

Doing some community research before investing in an NFT is an effective way to gauge the project’s popularity. High-profile purchases by celebrities like Eminem, Post Malone, and Snoop Dogg can also serve to amplify demand for a particular NFT project.

What makes an NFT valuable?

It’s difficult to nail down the exact value of a valuable NFT or what may make NFT sales valuable. However, noting the recent NFT price trends, some factors make NFTs valuable. An NFT’s value is defined by the market forces of supply and demand. 

It’s usually easier to evaluate an NFT when it’s created to represent a physical asset. But most NFTs only exist on-chain, in the digital realm.

Each NFT collection is unique, with each NFT having special attributes. But several other factors can determine how much an NFT is worth. Limited series NFTs with specific utility tend to be more valuable. The founding team and the artists and community can affect demand.

In other words, the value of an NFT could be related to the digital artist, its value in play-to-earn games, or simply community and market sentiment. There are many cases of successful NFT sales, but there are even more that have failed. Make sure to research before trading or investing in NFTs, and don’t use the money you can’t afford to lose.

Other factors include:

Ownership History

An NFT’s transaction history is recorded, thanks to blockchain technology. Traders can see when transactions took place, the public address of the previous owner, and more. If a celebrity or notable collector had owned a specific NFT, that NFT’s value may appreciate or hold its value.

Creator Ethos

Established artists and creators may create new pieces in the digital realm that may already come with a high price tag. Consider Beeple, or their work is coveted in the space, so any new art they create may automatically be valuable.


Membership NFTs, Gaming NFTs, or domain NFTs are great examples of utility in this space. Some NFTs are just meant for collecting, but a gaming trading card NFT can be used in a blockchain game, making it more valuable depending on the audience.

Consumer interest

There are millions of NFTs now, but not all of them are guaranteed to be successful. Trending collections and overall consumer interest are two of the most significant predictors of value in NFTs and crypto. The more popular a collection is, the more likely the NFTs will appreciate it.

If you decide to invest in NFTs or crypto NFTs, know that the value of any given NFT isn’t guaranteed. Values fluctuate every second, so it’s a speculative investment.

Most Expensive NFTs Ever Sold 

The fervor surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that dominated headlines and crypto trading in 2021 has since cooled off. However, even in the more subdued market of 2023, NFTs are still raking in billions in trading volume. Notable sales continue to surpass the million-dollar threshold, such as Yuga Labs’ “Golden Key” fetching $1.6 million in February. Other significant transactions this year include the $1.4 million sale of CryptoPunk 5066 and a Bored Ape selling for $1.3 million. Last year, the record-setting sale was that of CryptoPunk 5822, which went for 800 ETH and then valued at an astonishing $23.7 million.

In this section, we’ll list the top most expensive ever sold in the market to help you understand the true power of digital art, from the least expensive to the top grosser at the end.

CryptoPunk #7804: $7.56 million

CryptoPunk 7804 is one of the Alien punks easily notable with its forward cap, small shades, and smoking pipe. Dylan Field, CEO of Figma, sold the NFT.

Here is how it played out. A few years ago, Dylan started telling people he owned the digital Mona Lisa. Pretty much everyone, he told thought felt he was nuts. After all, the digital artwork in question was a low-res, algorithmically generated picture of a blue alien wearing a hat and puffing on a pipe. Its name is “CryptoPunk #7804,” It doesn’t exactly scream “high-end crypto art.”

Seemingly, Field’s proclamation seems a lot fewer nuts. (But maybe a little nuts.) CryptoPunks’ NFT project gained huge admiration as early players in the NFT space, helping pioneer the kind of digital, scarce goods buyers worldwide are clamoring to get. Later, Field sold the pipe-smoking Mona Lisa for 4,200 ETH, or about $7.5 million.

CryptoPunk #3100: $7.57 million (4200 ETH)

CryptoPunk #3100  is a CryptoPunk with alien skin and a single attribute, a headband. CryptoPunks’ NFT collections are expensive because they have tremendous historical value within the NFT space. CryptoPunk 3100 is position 7 in rarity, according to the NFT rarity tool.

The NFT sale happened on 11 March 2021 for 4,200 ETH -$7,584,485.82 breaking the record set by Punk 7804 the previous day. 3100 is owned by an anon owning the Ethereum address 0x7b8961f67382c51c389726667ef7dd7cf95fefd3. The original minter Straybits. eth, who still owns another 3 more CryptoPunks, sold CryptoPunk 3100 for a measly 8 ETH on 6 July 2017. The new owner held the NFT for nearly 4 years until he sold it to the current owner at a whopping 4,200 ETH (valued at $7.58 million). CryptoPunk 3100 was later listed for sale at 35,000 ETH, more than $100 million.

CryptoPunk #5577: $7.7 million (2501 ETH)

Cryptopunk NFT #5577 stands out as a cowboy with a dark complexion and a hat.

The NFT art was purchased by Robert Leishner, the founder of Compound DeFi protocol. After the purchase, Robert tweeted “Yeehaw,” which signifies riding a horse. Many Twitter users congratulated Robert; some also showcased their own NFTs on the platform. However, there is no direct confirmation from Robert about the purchase, but it seems to be the case. The purchaser is identified by the Ethereum address  0xfc50541c3deaf725ce738ef87ace2ad778ba0c5.

CryptoPunk #4156: $10.2 million (2500 ETH)

The Punk sold was #4156. It’s a rare Crypto Ape Punk in which there are only 24 in a collection of 10,000 items. A remarkable feature of this sale is that it happened at all; most owners of CryptoPunks are obstinate in selling their beloved NFT. In October 2022, someone bid 2,500 ETH on CryptoPunk #6046 — which, had the owner accepted it, would have been the highest selling NFTs sale at the time at $9.5 million. The owner declined the offer, citing that the rare punk was tied to his identity and brand.

The NFT art was sold by the famous influencer and investor Punk4156. Punk 4156 purchased CryptoPunk #4156 for 650 ETH ($1.25M) on Feb. 18; the dear anon has given up the iconic visual part of his branding for 2,500 ETH ($10.26M) — making this one of the highest-selling NFTs of the CryptoPunk collection.

The motivation behind the landmark sale seems the move was far less about the potential gains and much more about the underlying issues Punk4156 takes with Larva Labs’ copyright policies. As a prominent investor in the space, Punk4156 has been an outspoken proponent of licensing NFTs under Creative Commons for all to enjoy — the CryptoPunks collection lies under a restrictive NFT License created by Dapper Labs.

Tpunk #3442: $10.5 million (120 million TRX)

Tpunk #3442, nicknamed ’Joker” due to its uncanny resemblance popular Batman villain, is an NFT part of the Tpunks series. The Tpunseries derives artistic inspiration from the Cryptopunks and consists of 10,000 avatars. Some of the avatars in the collection have rare features, hugely coveted by designers.

The NFT was bought by Justin Sun, the supremo of blockchain and founder of the Tron blockchain. Justin Sun is not a new entrant on NFT marketplaces. He was an enthusiastic bidder during Christie’s sale of the Beeple’s Everydays: the first 5000 days NFT sale. Sun revealed that he bid at $60  million at the time, but an anonymous buyer outbid him by $250 000 at the last hurdle.

The significant push from Justin Sun is a severe vote of confidence for the Tpunks collection and not just another copycat version of the Ethereum-based CryptoPunks. Copycat collections like Tpunks are gaining momentum on other blockchains. Avalanche Punks, on the Avalanche blockchain, also saw increased interest.

Tpunk #3442 is the most expensive NFT sold on the Tron blockchain.

CryptoPunk #7523: $11.7 million (4700 ETH)

Cryptopunk nft sale

CryptoPunk #7523 is a particular, highly sought-after crypto punk with blue-green skin and, most importantly, a medical mask of the Alien variety (one of nine alien punks). Owning a piece of the NFT series like this demands an exorbitant price tag,$11,754,000. You probably think that’s an astronomical price to pay for a piece of pixel art that you can right-click and save on your laptop right now, but this work is verifiable on the blockchain, which certifies its ownership.

CryptoPunk #7523 was sold for $11,754,000 as part of Sotheby’s online auction “Natively Digital: A Curated NFT Sale” hosted on the Decentraland metaverse. Decentraland is a blockchain-based virtual world resembling Minecraft; unlike regular auction house sales, no physical artwork changed hands; instead, Sotheby’s sent the piece to the owner’s crypto wallet. The expensive Cryptopunk was bought by Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Mackenzie, the largest shareholder of digital sports company DraftKings.

CryptoPunk #5822: $23.7 million (8000 ETH)

The CryptoPunks Bots have reported the sale of the expensive Cruptopunk bought by address 0x69c488. The Bot was developed by the same company which made Crypto Punks – Larva Labs, and it announces all sales and giant bids for CryptoPunks on the Ethereum blockchain. 

The NFT was purchased by the CEO of Chain, Deepak Thapliyal, who goes by Deepak.Eth on the Ethereum blockchain. The 8,000 ETH transaction smashed the previous record sale of CryptoPunk #7523, “COVID Alien.” Thapliyal purchased CryptoPunk #5822.

The original owner of the CryptoPunk had bought the scarf sporting Cryptopunk for less than 1 ETH. He held through the initial boom of the collection and finally sold the punk for more than 7,999 ETH in profit.

CryptoPunks have fetched millions on multiple occasions, with top sales including:

  • CryptoPunk #3100 — $7.67 million, March 11, 2021
  • CryptoPunk #4156 — $10.26 million, December 10, 2021
  • CryptoPunk #7523 — $11.75 million, June 11, 2021
  • CryptoPunk #5822 — $23.7 million, February 13, 2022

The CryptoPunks phenomenon has made its way into mainstream awareness, attracting high-profile buyers such as Visa, Jay-Z, and Gary Vee.

Beeple, Human One 28.9 million (4700 ETH)

Human One is a hybrid physical and digital animated artwork by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, popularly known as Beeple, sold for $28.9. The generative NFT art known as Human One was auctioned off as part of Christie’s 21st Century Evening Sale on 9 November. The art consists of a kinetic video sculpture with a corresponding  NFT designed to display artwork continuously that evolves. Winkelmann has remote access to the artwork and creative control over its content forever.

At the center of the art is a lone astronaut, forever striding through the wastes of a vaguely familiar world, one strewn with oversize Pop icons in various states of decay or perversion, punctuated by the occasional spray of flora, lonely stretches of dunes and a few nods to some of the titans of Art History.

Winkelmann was inspired to create the sculpture over the summer by combining several TV screens on wheels into different shapes and patterns. He realized that the screen configuration was a robust canvas and looked incredible.

Julian Assange and Pak, Clock: $52.7 million (16953 ETH)

AssangeDAO, the organization on a mission to fight for the freedom of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won the bid for Assange and Pak’s Clock NFT. Assange DAO organization, established in December 2021, consists of over 10,000 Julian supporters who pooled their funds to purchase the NFT. Their goal? To raise funds and free Assange “at all costs.”

The Clock NFT sold for 16,953 ETH, making it one of the most expensive NFTs ever. 

Precisely what does the Clock NFT entail? A single NFT depicts a timer, which counts the number of days Assange has spent in prison. It was curated as part of Pak and Assange’s Censored collection and featured a dynamic, open edition. Pak is an anonymous artist and one of the highest-grossing living artists. The artist took to Twitter after the auction closed, labeling the endeavor “a drop with no creator, developer, platform, middlemen share,” that is, “from people, for the people.” Millions of dollars from a group effort.

Beeple, every day’s: The First 5000 Days – $69.3 million (38525 ETH)

Beeple 1

Until October, the highest Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, ever made on NFT marketplaces was $100. Mr. Beeple would later sell his famous NFT for $69.3M, the third most expensive NFT ever sold. The artist from South Carolina is a graphic designer and motion artist famous for creating a picture every day for 13 years – not missing a day for 5,000 straight days. 

The First 5000 Days collection consists of every individual image from Beeple’s first 5,000 days compiled into a single composition. This work offers a glimpse into Beeple’s artistic journey from his early days of anonymity while creating a poignant timeline charting the progression of United States history in real-time.

The record-smashing NFT sale comes after months of increasingly valuable auctions on Christie’s NFT market.  In October, Beeple sold his first series of NFTs, with a pair going for $66,666.66 each. In December, he sold another series of works for $3.5 million. And later, one of the NFTs that sold for $66,666.66 was resold for $6.6 million.

Pak’s “The Merge” — $91.8 million

The Merge and NFT created by Pak recorded the highest sale ever on the Nifty Gateway marketplace. Pak, the artist, uses code as art; in this art, he used the blockchain and the internet to create global-scale art that moved minds and bodies. 

How did The Merge become the highest-selling NFT on the Nifty gateway? Merge is a dynamic NFT whose visuals are tied to Mass unit tokens, the more Mass tokens you own, the higher the mass of your NFT generated on the chain. Pak put the Mass tokens on sale for 48hrs, and NFT collectors could buy any number of Mas tokens. On 2 December 2021, the Mass tokens had a starting price of $525 and went up $25 every 6 hours; the buyers also received a bonus for buying the tokens. 

The sale event attracted over 28,000 collectors who bought into the digital art, spending a whopping$91,806,519 to purchase 266,434 total units of what Pak is calling ‘mass.’ The expensive sale technically made Pak the most expensive living artist in the world.

Larva Labs “CryptoPunk #9998” — $529.77 million (Controversial)

The Cryptopunks NFT collection has dominated the NFT market for a while, boasting the highest number of expensive NFTs sold. The sale has, however, been critiqued, with some analysts referring to it as a ‘wash trade.’

How did Cryptopunk #9998 make it to the list of the most expensive NFT sold? On that particular day,  the seller transferred CryptoPunk #9998 from their ETH address (starting with) 0xef76 to the address 0x8e39. Later, 0x8e39 would sell the NFT to an address 0x9b5a for 24,457 ETH. The significant sale grabbed immediate attention because there is no example of an nft collection going this expensive in history.

Deep analysis of the transactions indicated that the ETH was sent to a smart contract and later transferred to the seller. The seller also sent another 124,457 ETH to the buyer, who repaid the loans. Then, the NFT was returned to the address 0xef67 and offered 250,000 ETH. The position of #9998 in the second position stands on shaky ground; the crypto community is yet to approve the transaction as legit. 9998 might not even be the most expensive Cryptopunk.


The NFT marketplace is undoubtedly growing in popularity and continuously creating new record NFT prices worth tens of millions. Digital artists are getting more creative with their artwork, and people are slowly seeing the worth of NFT collections.  While most NFTs are collectible artworks, we have more NFTs created with utility. As NFTs mature, we can expect more utilities and adoptions than digital collectibles and possibly even higher sales. While The Merge holds the crown for the highest-selling NFT, the positions are constantly shifting. The crypto community is anxiously waiting to witness more records make the list of the most expensive NFTs ever sold. The Bored Ape Yacht Club is a famous collection likely to make it to the list.

These astronomical figures underscore the mainstream cultural and financial acceptance of NFTs as legitimate forms of art and investment. Whether it’s the auction houses like Christie’s endorsing them or corporations and celebrities jumping on board, the high prices of these digital assets affirm their staying power and influence. These trends indicate not just a fad, but a sustained shift in how we perceived value, ownership, and artistic expression in the digital age.

Copycat collections of popular NFTs dominate NFT marketplaces. Always conduct thorough research on the authenticity of a Non-fungible token before committing yourself. NFT sales and purchases on decentralized platforms are not refundable.


What is an NFT?

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are cryptographic assets ceded on the blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other.

Which is the most expensive NFT ever sold?

The Merge and NFT created by Pak recorded the highest sale ever on the Nifty Gateway marketplace. Pak, the artist, uses code as art; in this art, he used the blockchain and the internet to create global-scale art that moved minds and bodies.

What is the most highly-priced NFT one can buy on the marketplace??

Many NFTs are listed for astronomically high prices, but the bids can go high or low depending on FOMO or sentiments of NFT fanciers.

What kind of NFTs get top prices?

High-value NFTs likely fall into two categories. Firstly, they may be part of an extensive collection that builds up community hype and utility and then sells for high amounts on the secondary market. Alternatively, they are one of one bespoke piece designed by famous NFT designers like Beeple or Pak and Beeple.

Can anyone create an NFT?

Yes, anyone with the technical know-how can create an NFT. However, when creating one, ensure that you own the intellectual property rights to the item you want to turn into an NFT. Creating arbitrary NFTs of digital assets you don't own could get you into legal trouble.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Shayan Chowdhury

Shayan is a professional crypto journalist with over 4 years of experience, specializing in cryptographic modules and blockchain development. He delivers easy-to-understand crypto content through in-depth research and technical insights.

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