Maybe you’re a creator looking to mint your first NFT.
Or an NFT project showrunner launching a 10,000-NFT profile picture project.
You’ve seen the headlines with NFTs selling for millions, become entranced with the technology, and now want to dive head-first into this nascent industry. But, in all the guides out there proliferating throughout the internet, you haven’t found the answers you’re looking for.
- What is an NFT?
- What does it mean to “mint” an NFT?
And most important of all: What does it cost to mint an NFT?
If you have any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will cover all you need to know about minting or creating NFTs. The cost, the technology, the blockchains…it’s a lot (we know). That’s why we aim to cover the subject matter in a way that is easily understandable, digestible, and worth your (hard-won) time.
After you read this guide, you’ll have your black belt in minting NFTs. And you’ll be ready to create digital assets as easily as karate-chopping through stacked blocks of wood.
Let’s get started with the basics: What is an NFT?
What is an NFT?
This section is the first lesson: basic kicks and punches. It’s an overview of the technology, that of the New Wave — Web3 — where just about everyone starts their journey. So, what exactly is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token. They are, in essence, one-of-a-kind digital assets that live on digital ledgers called blockchains. Like real-world assets, people own them, trade them, and can hold them near and dear to their hearts if they love them. They come from the land of cryptocurrency but differ in one important aspect: non-fungibility.
When an item is fungible, a person can exchange it for another of the same asset without losing or gaining something in value. Cryptocurrencies are an example of an asset that is fungible in the Web3 space. 1 Bitcoin = 1 Bitcoin, forever and always. In the real world, currency and crude materials are examples of assets that are fungible. A $1 bill = $1 bill.
NFTs are non-fungible, meaning that you can’t exchange 1/1 for another NFT without losing or gaining something in value. 1 Bored Ape does not equal another Bored Ape. The same is true for gaming NFTs, NFTs linked to real-world assets, and pieces of digital art stored as NFTs.
This non-fungibility creates scarcity and ownership within the digital asset space. Previously, people could share an unlimited number of digital files with another person. There was no true owner. NFTs create that ownership because they are verifiable assets on blockchains. So, while anyone can “right-click-save” an NFT, there is only one true owner.
But NFTs must come from somewhere, right? They don’t just appear out of thin air. That’s where the process of minting comes in.
What does it mean to ‘mint’ an NFT?
“Minting” is the creation process of converting a digital file into a digital asset. The name came from the act of “minting” coins, a process that involved creating something of specified value out of raw materials. “Minting” an NFT is really no different. You take a digital file and through a series of actions, create a digital asset.
But you may ask, “What are the actions that mint an NFT?”
The process of minting an NFT occurs through something called a “smart contract.” These are a series of “if-then” statements that, when called upon, perform a sort of action.
In the case of NFTs, smart contracts govern the minting process. They are the bridge between the end-user or the person minting the NFT and blockchain technology.
When someone mints an NFT through a team’s website, they are interacting with that team’s smart contract. When someone mints an NFT through a marketplace, they are using the marketplace’s pre-made smart contract. Those contracts are the “by which” NFT minting happens.
In addition to performing “if-then” statements, smart contracts store the “metadata” of the NFT in question. These are all the traits and attributes the NFT contains. Have you ever seen how a Bored Ape will have all these different characteristics, like the style of their “mouth” or the “hat” they are wearing? These are the traits of the NFT, and they make up part of the metadata.
Finally, these smart contracts contain the link of the file for the NFT. That is, the “digital file” we were talking about earlier. In general, teams don’t store the actual digital file that you’re turning into an NFT on the blockchain, due to the exorbitant cost of doing so. Instead, they store it on a third-party facility and put the link to the file in the smart contract.
In summary, “minting” an NFT is the act of turning a digital file into a digital asset. These assets live on the blockchain. To mint an NFT, you need a smart contract and cryptocurrency to execute the commands of the smart contract. To create your personal NFT collection, you can either write your own smart contract or use a pre-made one on a marketplace. In this article, we will cover both options.
How much does it cost to mint a single NFT?
Okay, yellow belt secured. Now, let’s scale up. This section will cover the costs for minting a single NFT using a pre-made smart contract on an NFT marketplace. It is perhaps the most common way of minting an NFT. We will look at minting costs on different blockchains as well. As you’ll see, the cost varies considerably.
Minting an NFT on a marketplace involves three costs:
- Account fees: Between $50 and $130
- Gas or transaction fees: Between $.01 and $150
- Listing fees: Sometimes a set amount, other times a percentage of the final sale
Let’s break these down one-by-one.
First, account fees. Popular marketplaces will generally charge a fee to create an account. This is true if you’re planning to sell one NFT or thousands. The practice may have derived from those of internet marketplaces, where sellers must pay the company in question to host their “store” on the website.
Second, there are gas prices, otherwise known as transaction fees. Because these marketplaces utilize blockchains, the marketplaces suffer from the same restrictions as any entity: having to pay money to miners or validators that do the blockchain’s dirty work. Gas fees can vary significantly, as blockchain networks often have different consensus mechanisms. Here are the blockchain fees to mint an NFT, based on the latest data:
- Ethereum: $50-$150
- Polygon: Free + marketplace fees
- Solana: $.01
- Tezos: $.20-$8
- WAX: $.05-$5
- Avalanche: $.50-$1.50
- Cardano: $.10- $1.15
Third, there are the listing fees. This is a mid-range cost, and some marketplaces may not even charge you up front, choosing to take a percentage of the final sale. These listing fees, while seemingly small, can amount to a lot in the long run. There’s a reason why at least one of these marketplaces is a billion-dollar business.
All told, you’re looking at shelling out between $50 and $280 to mint your first NFT, and that’s if the gas fees are kept to an absolute minimum. There are times on Proof-of-Work blockchains where the gas fees can get so high that you’d pay $500 in fees alone to mint your NFT. We’ll cover the concept of when it’s best to mint in a later section.
Keep in mind, that’s just for one NFT as well. 10,000 NFTs are a whole different ball game.
How much does it cost to mint 10,000 NFTs?
Ever since Larva Labs debuted its CryptoPunks collection in 2017, the 10,000-NFT collection has become the mythical goal to shoot for in the NFT space. Most large collections tend to hover around this number, even if a lesser number of NFTs is warranted.
To dispel a myth really quick: Teams that create 10,000-NFT collections don’t mint the NFTs themselves. They pass that cost onto the buyer, who pays for the gas or transaction costs we discussed in the previous section. And they don’t use marketplaces either, because the cost of minting NFTs one at a time on a marketplace would run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But there are costs associated with creating a 10,000-NFT collection that generally an individual artist minting NFTs one at a time will not have to deal with. Most notably, creating and deploying a smart contract onto the blockchain. Here are the costs to do so.
There are usually three costs involved with smart contracts and NFT projects:
- The development of the contract
- The auditing of the contract
- The deployment of the contract to the blockchain
Designing a smart contract requires experienced coders and time. And then comes the auditing itself or seeing how the contract will perform once it is deployed to the blockchain. According to one source, the cost for creating a smart contract and deploying it to the blockchain is between $7,000 and $45,000. But the price can run as high as $100,000 for smart contracts servicing large organizations with narrow purposes.
Then there is the auditing of the smart contract. This is one of the ways teams determine how their smart contract will perform. The cost for a smart contract audit from a third party can run between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on the complexity of the code but can also run higher in certain instances.
All told, teams of 10,000-NFT projects can run into average costs of between $12,000 and $60,000 depending on the complexity of the smart contract and the developers the company hires to create it.
So even though some projects have been “printing money” during the NFT bull run, there is still a substantial upfront cost to creating a project, and that’s just on the technical, smart contract side.
What are the pros and cons of each blockchain?
The blockchain on which you decide to mint your NFT is one of the largest decisions you’ll make in the process. It can determine how many eyeballs you get on your NFT, how much your NFT will cost to mint, and even the reputation surrounding your NFT. After all, the NFT community holds some blockchains higher in esteem than others.
Here are some blockchain options, with the pros and cons of each:
- Ethereum. The top blockchain in existence and the first blockchain to host NFTs, Ethereum is a powerful blockchain on which to mint your NFT. It is secure and the most popular network. Most top marketplaces support it. But there is a drawback: Ethereum has the highest gas or transaction fees out of any blockchain used for NFTs.
- Solana. The king of high speeds, Solana is a popular choice for creators looking to create NFT collections that house thousands of non-fungible tokens. It is lightning quick and due to its Proof-of-History mechanism, has bargain basement blockchain transaction fees. It isn’t popular with individual artists, however, as other blockchains dominate it in this category.
- Cardano. The punching bag of the cryptocurrency world, Cardano has gained a reputation for low fees with a high degree of decentralization, key points for NFT proponents. Its NFT community is still in its infancy, however, and you might not find as many people looking for NFTs on this blockchain as on others.
- Tezos. The home of the independent artist, Tezos comes equipped with marketplaces that cater to the artist who is looking to make a name for themselves. Its NFTs are a hodge-podge of the fascinating to the bizarre, but they are always interesting. It is one of the cheapest blockchains and one of the few that can call itself carbon neutral.
- WAX. The center for many NFT collections from mainstream companies, WAX boasts low fees and a non-existent carbon footprint. The major drawback is given the number of NFTs on WAX marketplaces, it may be tough to stand out. Although minting may be straightforward, marketing may be more difficult.
Those are five blockchains to consider for minting an NFT. In addition to reading about the blockchains themselves, browsing through the marketplaces and seeing where you might sell your NFTs can also help you make a more informed decision.
Can you mint an NFT for free?
Now it’s time to level up to that mythical black belt. If you’ve read this far, you may have grown concerned about minting fees. And if you’re an independent artist or someone who wants to mint a small number of NFTs, that may be even more true. That brings us to the hack of NFT minting: Can you mint an NFT for free? The answer to that question is an astounding “yes.”
Many top secondary NFT markets have a built-in function for single NFT minters called “lazy minting.” Essentially, this process primes the NFT for being minted: You fill out all the respective fields, give it a price, and publish it on the digital platform. But the digital file still remains that: a file. Even while people find it and think about buying it, it hasn’t been turned into an NFT quite yet. In Web3 parlance, it is still “off-chain.”
What the “lazy minting option” does is put the minting process in the hands of the buyer. In other words, they pay for all “gas-related” costs to turn the digital file into an NFT and make it into an on-chain digital asset. While you’ll still need to pay for any account fees, you don’t need to pay for gas fees, saving you possibly hundreds of dollars.
The lazy minting option is not without its dangers. There’s no doubt most buyers are going to recognize when they have to pay an extra amount at the time of purchase. But it’s an easy way for the cash-strapped to get started in the world of NFTs. Of the popular platforms that have this feature, OpenSea and Rarible are the two most notable.
“Mint” at your freedom.
What are the best and worst times to mint an NFT?
You may have heard horror stories of people trying to mint NFTs, only to be hit with hundreds of dollars in gas fees. And there are some instances when people pay a much smaller amount. Those people are often the subject of questions and jealous glances. “How?” is a common question.
Here at Rarity Sniper, we can tell with certainty that it’s an easy situation to figure out. And it all depends on how many transactions (chain activity) miners or validators are performing on the blockchain in question at a given moment.
Gas or transaction fees rise and fall dependent (mainly) on one factor in the Web3 space: the number of blockchain transactions miners or validators need to process. The “gas fee” acts as a kind of bell-weather on the blockchain: If low enough, it can encourage people to transact on the chain. If high enough, it can discourage people from transacting.
As such, it naturally can work to keep a blockchain from becoming overloaded. So, it serves a larger function. The main trick is to find quieter time when the blockchain in question is less busy, thus resulting in lower gas fees.
For instance, the most expensive blockchain, Ethereum, tends to be busier during the week. On weekends, it is a little slower, meaning it is a better time to mint NFTs. Other blockchains have their own peculiarities. It can be helpful to become familiar with them.
You can also check the price of gas using a “gas tracker.” These can tell you roughly how much you will pay in fees before you log onto a marketplace website. This can save you time.
Another trick is to vary the transaction speed of your mint. In simple terms, choosing a lower speed option can result in a smaller fee. But beware: Too low and your transaction may not go through.
To summarize: The best time of minting is when the blockchain is least busy. The worst time to mint an NFT is when the blockchain is super busy, like during a big drop when miners or validators will be processing a lot of blockchain transactions.
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Minting an NFT
Minting an NFT is an essential part of the indoctrination process in the Web3 community. It exposes someone to the blockchain, sometimes for the first time, and can lead to that all-important first sale, the proverbial “red pill” that gets people started down the Web3 rabbit hole.
Fortunately, there is good news: On most blockchains, minting an NFT is not costly. In fact, it can be fairly cheap! There are even ways to mint an NFT that pass the gas fees on to the buyer, making it cheaper for the original creator to mint.
And while on Ethereum, gas fees can be high, there are tools that enable NFT creators to mint at the most convenient, cost-effective time for them. Those can help lower the creation cost of NFTs in this digital space.
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As always, thank you for reading, and happy minting!