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The skyrocketing value of cryptocurrency seemed unstoppable in early 2022, fueled in no small part by the massive interest in NFTs. These “non-fungible tokens” attracted mainstream interest, getting many people to purchase crypto for the first time. Then, the crash came. According to data from crypto tracker DappRadar, trading volumes on the most popular NFT marketplace have dropped by a staggering 99 percent in the intervening months. 

Bitcoin is seen as a bellwether for cryptocurrency as a whole, and the original digital cash has dropped in value by more than half since the start of 2022. A single Bitcoin was valued at more than $60,000 in late 2021, and now it struggles to remain above $20,000. Ethereum, which is often used to buy and sell NFTs, has seen a similarly precipitous drop from almost $5,000 per ETH to about $1,500 at the end of August. 

The OpenSea marketplace was confidently riding the crypto wave as celebrities were all over TV and the internet showing off their Bored Apes. On May 1, OpenSea recorded $2.7 billion in NFT transactions, but this past Sunday, it managed just $9.34 million, a negligible fragment of the trading volume from just a few months ago. 

Even the Bored Ape Yacht Club, which has been the most popular NFT project over the past year, has seen its fortunes slide. The floor piece of the NFT collection has dropped 53 percent since spring, landing at 72.4 ether (about $110,000).

ETH price throughout 2022.

NFTs gained traction because of the artificial scarcity ingrained in the tokens. While most NFTs are just low-resolution JPEGs, the ability to “own” and trade them as an asset attracted massive attention. People didn’t want to miss out and were spending millions of dollars in crypto to obtain their most sought-after JPEGs — the fact you can simply right-click and copy most NFTs didn’t even seem to bother people. 

OpenSea tells Fortune that it disputes DappRadar’s methodology, which includes the dollar value of crypto. When you ignore the value of cryptocurrency and look just at ETH volume as OpenSea prefers, trading has fallen a less alarming 62 percent. Further, OpeSea says the 99 percent drop compares the site’s all-time high trading volume with one of its lowest this past Sunday. Although I would point out, that’s generally how comparisons work, and Sunday isn’t much of an outlier. Even in the middle of the week, trading volume is under $20 million. Still, OpenSea says it expects volatility in NFTs and cryptocurrency. 

Current NFTs don’t do much, but many have pegged these digital assets as a vital part of the metaverse pushed by Mark Zuckerberg and others. Real progress in the development of virtual spaces could pump up interest (and thus prices) again, but that could take years, and the NFT fad could be long dead by then.

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