In this year of non-fungible tokens, your mouth might have dropped as you watched your newscaster open a story with a JPEG selling for millions of dollars.
After all, they are just images, right?
NFTs, one-of-a-kind digital assets minted on the blockchain, may appear like simple images, but that’s on the surface. Behind every big purchase is access to a community, clout, and possible generational wealth.
And you probably wonder how or why.
This article takes you through the 15 most expensive NFT sales from the 15 top generative art collections in the history of NFTs. Rather than just showing the eye-popping dollar amounts, we’ll share the hidden stories behind the trades — why the buyer purchased this particular NFT and how they may stand to benefit for years to come.
The list starts in descending order, with the lowest-priced sale first. Enter World of Women #3733, which sold for $379,099.
Editor’s note: The snapshot of top sales was taken on December 27th.
#15 – World of Women #3733
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 100 ($379,099)
- Sale Date: September 2, 2021
World of Women #3733 sold for 100 ETH on September 2, 2021, soon after the mint. A quick look at the image shows a relatively unassuming woman with round, black glasses, light blue eye-shadow, and purple hair. On the surface, she’s a strange choice for a $379,000 purchase. But the key to the high sale lies in two unobtrusive accessories: her World-of-Women-coined earrings and necklace.
In the days after mint, some World of Women NFTs were divided into three clubs: curators, investors, and royalties. While each had financial perks, the royalties club was the most profitable. A royalties club NFT holder would receive part of 50% of secondary sales for the collection.
The only two markers a World of Women NFT had to have were the rare World-of-Women-coined earrings and necklace. These rare traits granted access to a passive income stream from one of the most hyped collections.
#14 – Doodle #316
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 100 ($381,034)
- Sale Date: October 19, 2021
Doodle #316, part of a generative art collection that took the NFT world by storm, may surprise as the leading sale for the collection. #316 is an illustration of a male with mussed purple-blue hair vomiting a rainbow. The rarity chart shows that while #316 has some rare traits, it’s not the rarest.
Two months ago, the original minter sold it for a little over $5,600. Soon, however, that buyer turned and sold it for the 100 ETH price, which was $381,034 at the time.
But here’s the wrinkle: the buyer is Evan Keast, the founder of Doodle. He, after purchase, used Doodle #316 as the official Doodle Mascot. It is the profile picture for the official Doodle Twitter account, the icon for the Doodle Discord server, and front-and-center in many different marketing materials.
Doodle #316 is perhaps the most recognizable Doodle and, to Keast, worth the price he paid.
#13 – Mooncat #527
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 160 ($523,489)
- Sale Date: August 27, 2021
The Mooncats have an enthralling story. Created in 2017 by Ponderware, the Mooncats were stuck on a futuristic moon base. The minters’ jobs were to rescue them and bring them back to Earth. Although Ponderware abandoned the project, an enterprising individual found the project during the NFT craze in early 2021, and NFT minters rescued all cats.
Months after the rescue, Mooncat #527 sold for 160 ETH or $523,489 at the time. White with small pink dots for a nose, ears, and feet, #527 is cute but not otherworldly. The price of the sale brings us to a new discussion — rarity.
According to rarity rankings, #527 is not only a Genesis Cat but the Master Cat. She is the only one with the “Master Cat” designation out of 87 Genesis Cats, making her ultra-rare. She is also just one of 11 cats (out of over 10,000) to have the “pale white fur” designation.
In many NFT sales, rarity reigns supreme. In the case of this Mooncat, it warranted over half a million dollars.
#12 – 0N1 Force #03
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 188 ($622,836)
- Sale Date: August 23, 2021
0N1 Force came out strong, selling out a mint and generating a great deal of hype. Within days of the minting, rarity snipers were pouncing, buying up the rarest 0N1 Force’s with an eye for collecting or flipping them. Hence, came the purchase of 0N1 Force #03 for 188 ETH. It is one of just seven K4M-1 characters in the collection, and one of the few facing to the right.
The buyer may have purchased 0N1 Force #03 simply because it is rare. Generally, when rarity combines with aesthetics, an NFT can sell for well-above floor price. But there might have been another reason: 0N1 Force lore.
In the 0N1 Force universe, there’s an epic struggle within the Ethereum Enclave, and a battle ensues. The K4M-1 members play a crucial role in that struggle.
Creators of the collection may highlight the K4M-1 if the creators deliver on their promised release of comic books about the 0N1 Force lore. And that could lead to more exposure for #03 and more money for its owner.
#11 – Pudgy Penguin #6873
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 225 ($783,010)
- Sale Date: September 8, 2021
Pudgy Penguins rocketed up the NFT leaderboard in early fall of 2021, pumped by one of the top influencers in the NFT space. Although some claimed the Pudgies lacked utility, the draw to the “Huddle” caused a steep rise in the floor price before it settled around 3 ETH.
A buyer purchased Pudgy Penguin #6873 around this time, and #6873 proves to be as rare of an NFT as it gets. It is just one of five NFTs in the 8,888 Pudgy Penguin collection without any generative art traits and the single penguin in the collection to face left.
Aesthetically, it is an eye-pleasing Pudgy, which may have appealed to the buyer. But likely purchasing the rarest Pudgy in the collection was an investment decision based on the hype for the collection.
It is also the first NFT on this list to be featured double in the top sales list. A month before this sale, someone sold it for 150 ETH or $458,752. For the buyer, the next sale would give him a nice $324,258 in profit.
#10 – CyberKong #201
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 185 ($800,262)
- Sale Date: December 7, 2021
The sale of CyberKong #201 is one of the most recent on this list, occurring on December 7th. The aesthetics of the piece are interesting — an ape in the form of a skeleton with a white grin and hollow sockets for eyes. But the high price of the sale is due to more than just aesthetics. #201’s status as a Genesis Kong plays a role.
Owning a Genesis Kong grants you 10 $BANANA per day for a decade. While $BANANA has several functions within the CyberKongz ecosystem, it is also worth a decent amount. As of this writing, 10 $BANANA per day nets you $148.40. Annually, the airdrop is worth $54,000.
Keep in mind that this is a low price for $BANANA. On the date of the sale, $BANANA was worth $40.29, which meant the buyer could expect $402.90 per day or $147,040 per year.
CyberKong #201 is also tied with nine other Kongz as the rarest. These Kongz have unique backgrounds or styles and stand out amongst the other Kongz in the collection. Because they are rarer, they will likely be worth more in the future if the collection continues to do well.
#9 – DAA #7225
- Sale Price in SOL (USD): 5,729 ($1,024,706)
- Sale Date: September 11, 2021
The Degenerate Ape Academy, known for solid visual art and Twitter quips, rolled into NFT fall with a lot of enthusiasm. It became one of the most-talked-about projects and rose up the ranks after launching. Soon, on September 11th, DAA #7225 sold for 5,729 SOL or $1,024,706. It ranks as the second-highest Solana sale out of all top NFT projects.
#7225 isn’t special just because of its rarity. The aesthetics are great too. #7225 combines a zombie ape (complete with a brain in mouth) and a gold, crooked halo. It even has a couple of gold teeth to cement its gangster appearance.
The wallet that purchased #7225 might have been looking for a flip. Today, they have #7225 listed for 9,999 SOL or $1,800,029 on Solanart. It may be a high-roller or “whale” side wallet as well, with zombie SolPunk #4513 also listed for sale over $1 million.
Both are well above the floor prices for those collections, speaking to the rarity of these pieces and the value they command on the open market.
#8 – Cool Cat #1490
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 320 ($1,084,531)
- Sale Date: October 5, 2021
Cool Cat #1490 sold for 320 ETH on October 5th, marking the highest Cool Cat sale to date. #1490 is one of just nine unique Cool Cats that have no generative art traits. And this one, like the DAA above, is a zombie. It is dressed in a torn T-shirt, has brains protruding from its skull, and wears a dismayed expression.
The NFT is a deft combination of rarity and aesthetics, and it led to a million-dollar payday for the seller.
The backstory for this sale is heartwarming. The seller was also the original minter of this piece and could have held it for much longer. As the collection overall accrued in value, this ultra-rare piece would have risen as well.
But the seller chose to take profits and do two remarkable things: start an animal shelter (aptly titled “Cool Animals”) and release an NFT collection to help with reforestation. The buyer is trying to flip the Cat for 850 ETH in true degen style.
#7 – CloneX #13692
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 288 ($1,091,337)
- Sale Date: December 14, 2021
The day that Nike announced its acquisition of CloneX creator RFTKT, sales of the CloneX collection spiked through the roof. And even amongst all the action, one transaction stood out: The purchase of CloneX #13692 for 288 ETH or $1,091,337.
#13692 is the 3rd-most rare CloneX in the collection. In it, a young woman with light blue hair looks out from beneath a racer helmet, surrounded by red eyes. It’s another case of rarity meeting aesthetics.
The buyer — Luggis — is an NFT whale with 468 NFTs in their OpenSea (OS) collection. They appear to be a big RFTKT fan, having bought multiple NFTs from the company’s other collections. The OS collection also contains various gaming NFTs like from the much-anticipated Illuvium.
Although a $1-million purchase on a collection that is still relatively new may be a risk, many RFTKT holders are counting on the RFTKT’s partnership with Nike to bring value or profits to them in the future.
#6 – Mutant Ape #4849
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 350 ($1,129,451)
- Sale Date: August 29, 2021
When the Mutant Ape collection launched, it created another entry point into the powerhouse Bored Ape Yacht Club. The prices of Bored Apes were already high, so Mutants became the next price point by which people could gain membership into the club.
However, it soon became apparent that some mutants were so popular they were selling for more than the price of some Bored Apes.
Mutant Ape #4849 sold on August 29, 2021, for 350 ETH. The million-dollar purchase is still the highest for any mutant, even though several just below trail it. #4849 is one of nine rare “mega mutants,” which are one-of-a-kind mutants that have no or few generative art traits. #4849 is the Master Devil Mutant with horns, dark skin, and gold jewelry.
The mutation of Mutant Ape #4849 didn’t come cheap. The mutator had to buy a vat full of Mega Mutant Serum for nearly the same price to create it (only a handful of Mega Mutant Serum vats are in existence).
#5 – CrypToad #1591
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 420 ($1,501,889)
- Sale Date: October 6, 2021
CrypToadz became a surprise contender in the NFT scene in the fall of 2021. GREMPLIN, the creator, stealth launched the collection, and although very few people knew of the launch beforehand, word quickly spread, and a frenzy ensued.
Soon, the collection floor price rose to 1 ETH, and the collection had its first eye-popping sale: #1591 for 420 ETH, around $1.5 million at the time.
#1591 is one of the rarest Toadz in the collection — a skeleton toad with a detaching, chomping head and one of just five Toadz that are animated. The reasons behind the purchase are mysterious, as the owner has chosen to remain anonymous.
But they are a high-end collector. Their wallet shows two other pricey NFT purchases:
- 1 Custom CrypToad bought for 150 ETH ($538,769)
- 1 Ultra Rare Cool Cat bought for 99 ETH ($352,556)
In the purchase of #1591 and some of the other NFTs in the wallet, you can see the work of the magical formula “rarity + aesthetics” once again.
#4 – SMB #1355
- Sale Price in SOL (USD): 13,027 ($2,106,236)
- Sale Date: October 1, 2021
Solana Monkey Business, the flagship Solana NFT collection, routinely had sales of individual Monkeys for 450 SOL ($72,757) during the rise of Solana NFTs. Then came the big one: #1355 sold for 13,027 SOL ($2,106,236) on October 1. It is a sale price that hasn’t been topped on Solana, making it one of the most expensive NFTs.
#1355 is the rarest of all SMBs, which may explain the purchase. It is a skeleton monkey wearing an orange jacket with a bejeweled crown on its head. Just 2.42% of all Monkeys in the collection are skeletons, 1.05% have the orange jacket, and 0.02% have a crown.
The anonymous owner of #1355 seems content with sitting on their purchase for now. They haven’t listed it for sale. And interestingly enough, it is the only NFT in their wallet, according to CryptoSlam.
They may be employing the famous diamond hands tactic: Buy a piece from a collection and hold for a long time while the overall value of the collection rises, before selling at a much later date and cashing in on their patience.
#3 – Meebit #10761
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 700 ($2,782,852)
- Sale Date: May 13, 2021
Meebits — Larva Labs’ second collection — came out with a lot of hype. It was Larva Labs’ first big drop since CryptoPunks, which at that time was at the top of the NFT hierarchy. And it debuted to much fanfare, with multiple million-dollar sales right after release.
But little compared to the purchase on May 13th of Meebit #10761 for 700 ETH ($2,782,852). The sale of this “dissected” Meebit spread throughout NFT Twitter to more than a little bit of shock. While a sale that high is more routine today, it was generally reserved for Punks alone back in May 2021.
According to our ranking here at Rarity Sniper, Meebit #10761 is the sixth-most rare Meebit and one of just a few that are “dissected.” This term means that the Meebit’s brains are exposed. Further adding to its rarity are its lack of shoes and a stylized gray hoodie.
The owner of Meebit #10761 might have been trying for a flip. At the time of the Meebits’ release, the collection was expected to be a blue-chip and rise steadily in value. While Meebits have not risen in value much, there’s always 2022 for the owner to score a payday.
#2 – Bored Ape #8817
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 819 ($3,408,000)
- Sale Date: October 26, 2021
And now we move from the blockchain to the auction houses. When Sotheby’s announced that they would be auctioning Bored Apes, NFT Twitter rose in enthusiasm and support. #SuitUpForSothebys became a trending hashtag, and soon the sales would roll in. None would be more expensive than #8817.
Sold on October 26th for 819 ETH ($3,408,000), Bored Ape #8817 is one of the rarest and most aesthetically pleasing. With solid gold fur, a dour expression, and a party hat on its head, it ranks as the 16th-most rare Ape.
The seller, well-known NFT Twitter influencer and businessman j1mmy.eth, is known for his calls to “HODL,” even as prices for the BAYC collection rose from a couple hundred dollars to the hundreds of thousands.
Community members applauded the sale, saying the money was well-deserved. J1mmy himself would give no details about how he’d use the money, but he is known to invest in various parts of the NFT industry and run his company NFT42, where he is CEO.
#1 – CryptoPunk #7523
- Sale Price in ETH (USD): 4,700 ($11,754,000)
- Sale Date: June 10, 2021
Back in the summer of 2021, NFTs were starting a big push. A wave of newcomers entered the space, armed with money and enthusiasm. And NFTs were flying off the shelves.
No sale encapsulated this renewed gusto for non-fungible tokens than the sale of CryptoPunk #7523 for 4,700 ETH in June. For PFPs, it goes down as the most expensive NFT sold. It also doubles as the most expensive NFT punk.
#7523, dubbed the “Covid Alien” for the mask it has covering its mouth, is one of the rarest Punks and just one of nine aliens. With a pale blue tinge to its skin, an orange beanie over its head, and a solid gold earring dangling from one ear, its rarity easily pushed it over the lower level Punks, which had been selling for between $300K and $500K.
The buyer was a familiar name — Shalom Meckenzie, the largest shareholder of DraftKings, the popular online sports betting platform. His net worth at that time was listed at $1.6 billion.
The seller, who goes by the Twitter handle Sillytuna, had more planned for his profits than simply stacking cash. According to CNBC, he had plans to donate 10% of his earnings. On his profile, he lists himself as an investor in a few top collections, including BAYC and CloneX.
Final Thoughts on the 15 Most Expensive Sales
Some quick hits on the way out. From the top 15 collections:
- The most expensive sales ranged from $379,000 to $11.8 million
- 13 sales were on-chain while two were at auction houses
- While rarity ruled, “rarity + aesthetics” proved the most powerful combination
Many of the top sales were simply bets: wagers that the value of these collections would rise over time. They were also statements of confidence in the NFT landscape. The old saying, “A rising tide raises all boats,” rings true here.
Perhaps the two most interesting are the World of Women and CryptoKongz purchases. These two purchases were based on projected future earnings through unusual means, showing the possibilities of Web 3.0.
Finally, two words on the methodology.
First, we didn’t include NFT art on this list. Instead, we chose to focus on generative art collections.
Second, all of the NFTs on this list were involved in completed sales, and there may be NFTs from the collections currently listed at higher prices. For instance, the most expensive NFTs on OpenSea could be listed for a maximum price of 100 trillion ETH.