Sotheby’s announced it will hold a single-lot sale featuring 104 CryptoPunks with a “landmark” estimate of $20 million to $30 million—the highest asking price to date for an NFT (non-fungible token) or piece of digital art at auction.
The auction will be conducted live from Sotheby’s New York saleroom on February 23. This past June, Sotheby’s sold CryptoPunk #7523 for a record $11.8 million. In May 2021, Christie’s sold nine CryptoPunks at an evening sale for just under $17 million ($16.96 million). Although the category only debuted last year, total NFT sales at Sotheby’s have already hit $100 million.
The CryptoPunks were released in 2017 by Larva Labs, and are among the world’s most sought-after and expensive NFTs. The group in question was acquired together in a single blockchain transaction from an anonymous collector known as 0x650d. This stand-alone acquisition connects each of the 104 Punks with the same provenance—a wallet that currently holds more than 1 percent of all CryptoPunks, one of the largest Punk collections, according to a statement from Sotheby’s.
Larva Labs, CryptoPunk #352. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
The auction house will accept cryptocurrency, and the winning bidder has the option to make final payment in Ether, Bitcoin, USD Coin, or any fiat currencies. The auctioneer will also announce bids in Ether alongside U.S. dollars, as Oliver Barker did in November, when Banksy’s Trolley Hunters and Love Is In The Air (2006) were both offered with real-time cryptocurrency bidding.
In the lead-up to the auction, Sotheby’s will host a live panel discussion on the history of NFTs, examining how CryptoPunks gained mainstream recognition, with celebrities including Jay-Z and Jason Derulo adopting Punks for their social media profile pictures. Speakers will be announced at a later date and the talk will be live-streamed.
A presale exhibition will be held at the auction house’s New York headquarters February 18–23, along with a virtual display at Sotheby’s HQ in Decentraland.
“CryptoPunks are the original PFP [profile pic] series that created the template for other NFT projects that have followed,” said Michael Bouhanna, the auction house’s co-head of digital art.
The Punks’ signature pixelated style reflects the early NFT aesthetic, Sotheby’s noted. Each of the 10,000 Punks has a unique set of attributes, with up to eight distinguishing characteristics designated by algorithm.
When the experimental CryptoPunks were released on the Ethereum blockchain nearly five years ago, the collection became one of the network’s earliest NFT projects, and it also inspired the ERC-721 standard that is used for much of today’s digital art and collectibles.
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