Good news seems hard to come by these days, but for fans of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), 2021 was a year to raise a glass to.
The sale of NFTs hit an eye-popping $25 billion in sales this past year, according to DappRadar, up from $94.9 million in 2020.
NFTs are unique digital tokens that are verified and stored on a blockchain, the most popular of which is Ethereum, although more blockchains are becoming players in the NFT space.
These digital tokens can represent an image, video, audio file, land in a virtual world, or even a digital horse — and whoever buys them becomes the owner of a verifiable digital asset that in theory lasts “forever.”
Ever since NFT collections like CryptoKitties and CryptoPunks burst onto the scene in 2017, digital artists and all sorts of creators have been exploring the boundaries of NFTs and blockchain technology.
Some of the most popular collections over the past year include CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Cool Cats, World of Women and CyberKongz—all of which are digital art collections that were randomly generated at “mint” and have certain traits and characteristics that vary in rarity.
Individual artist can also create one of one art pieces or small collections, and musicians have released successful NFT projects with audio tracks and videos as well. NFT creators can even earn royalties on secondary sales—something that was not possible for artists before blockchain technology.
Let’s look at some of the elements that contributed to the success of NFTs in 2021:
- Big names. Eminem, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg, Meek Mill, Travis Barker, Eva Longoria, Steve Aoki, Steph Curry and a string of other celebrities bought NFTs or added to their collections.
- Artworld acceptance. Christie’s Auction House, one of the most famous art auctions in the world, announced they had sold $150 million in NFTs this year. Also, in August, Beeple sold an NFT for $69.3 million at Christie’s, helping to make it the highest grossing month for NFTs this year.
- Big brand adoption. The NBA, Adidas (image above), Gucci, Coca Cola, Hennessy, Yum Brands, Disney, Warner Music Group, and other companies all entered the NFT market or became more involved.
- Beeple appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast. The highest grossing NFT artist of all time appeared on the most popular podcast in the world and joked good-naturedly about people trying to make sense out of his surrealist and often absurd digital artwork. Beeple gifted Rogan one of his NFTs, which is now a staple piece in the studio and sometimes alluded to on other shows.
While NFTs are sometimes written off as “simple cartoons,” the most successful collections provide value and utility to their communities. It might also be worth noting that the artists who’ve been known for taking risks and being fearless enough to shape culture are some of the ones making major investments in the NFT space.
No matter what your opinion of NFTs is, 2021 was a big win for the NFT community. Let’s see what 2022 has in store for non-fungible tokens and its fans.