Community. Clout. Art.
These are just three of the reasons people buy non-fungible tokens. And since 2021, this new technology has exploded in adoption, to the tune of $25 billion in sales that year. After seeing the headlines, exploring the Discord servers, and battling it out on Twitter, you’re ready to take the plunge. But you may have some questions — most notable, “Where do I buy an NFT?”
In this article, we’ll explore the five top marketplaces where you can buy an NFT and two methods for buying directly from an NFT team.
This guide contains all the tricks you need to know, from purchasing with one click, making cryptocurrency offers, analyzing rarity, and handling gas fees. At the end, when we touch on buying from a team, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of purchasing from a smart contract.
Let’s start with the most common way to acquire an NFT — buying on a secondary market.
Buying on a Secondary Market
Secondary markets are like the eBays of the NFT ecosystem. You can buy everything from profile-pic collectibles to blockchain game items, all with just a crypto wallet, cryptocurrency, and access to the internet. And while secondary marketplaces aren’t the only place to get your NFT fix, they are the most convenient, accessible, and risk-free.
On secondary markets, you are generally buying from another collector or an artist. This modality is a crucial difference from the other methods we’ll cover, where you are purchasing directly from a team. Another important point about buying on secondary markets is that you know the exact NFT you’re purchasing.
This specificity is different from the minting process, where you may buy an NFT but might not know what it is until the reveal.
This section will cover the top five secondary markets: OpenSea, Magic Eden, LooksRare, Solanart, and Rarible. These are the major marketplaces. Each has certain features that distinguish it from other markets. Together, they make up the cream of the crop in NFT marketplaces, accounting for a large chunk of NFT sales volume. Let’s start with the oldest and most popular: OpenSea.
#1 – OpenSea
Founded in 2017, OpenSea has become the largest NFT marketplace — and it’s not close. Last year, it raised $300 million in Series C funding at a $13.3 billion valuation. And no longer is OpenSea confined to Ethereum and Level 2 scaling solutions. It recently added Solana NFTs, eating into the market share of some of the other marketplaces on our list.
As the biggest NFT marketplace and the oldest on this list, it has more to offer for buyers than just about anyone. Here is a quick run-down on what you can expect as a buyer on OpenSea:
- Digital wallet compatibility: OpenSea is compatible with over 10 wallets, including the MetaMask Wallet, Coinbase Wallet, and two that serve the Solana blockchain
- The most varied NFT collections: OpenSea has the most extensive collection of NFTs to offer, including profile-picture sets, NFT art, gaming NFTs, metaverse land, and sports
- A dedicated statistics page: On OpenSea’s stats page, you’ll find collection trading volume, floor price, unique owners, and the number of items
- Sorting through traits: If you’re looking for an NFT with particular attributes, you can search for it on the collection page by using the sorting tools
- Multiple buying options: Bidding is included
OpenSea’s design set the standard for NFT marketplaces. It opens to a straightforward home page with a search bar, collections, featured NFTs, a preview of the statistics page, and the different categories of NFTs hosted on the site. At the bottom is a list of partners and a navigational section.
Typing in the name of an NFT will give you a list of collections, accounts, and single NFTs based on that keyword. Fortunately, the website puts a blue checkmark next to verified collections in the search. This method makes it a little more difficult to get scammed.
Navigating to a collection page will pull up the NFTs in that collection. By default, the website orders them by price low to high. You can change that via a drop-down button that has 10 selections. Under each NFT, you can see the price (if the NFT is listed for sale) and the time left on the sale. You can sort by traits on a left-hand bar, enabling you to find the NFTs you desire quicker.
The layout is clean and uncluttered despite the bevy of options. OpenSea presents its site in blue and white, which may make the colors of the NFT art pop. However, if you prefer Dark Mode, you can toggle to it under the account drop-down on the top menu.
Creating an OpenSea account is as simple as connecting a crypto wallet. Once you do, you have access to other personalized features. These helpful tools include a list of the NFTs you’ve favorited, a “watchlist,” and your collections. You can even change your name and put a profile picture, even of an NFT you have just bought.
One of the larger perks of shopping on OpenSea is paying for NFTs using a debit card or credit card. But there is one catch: Those NFTs need to be on the Polygon blockchain (a Layer-2 Ethereum solution).
Now, while OpenSea is the top dog, other marketplaces are vying for its title. The next listed is the top dog on the Solana blockchain, a marketplace that has only been around less than a year but already has made a significant impact.
#2 – Magic Eden
Founded in 2021, Magic Eden is the most prominent marketplace servicing the Solana blockchain. Even though it came on late compared to other Solana NFT exchanges, it quickly became the top dog. Its mix of a pleasing UI combined with helpful guides for newcomers makes Magic Eden accessible — even if you’re just getting started.
Here is a quick breakdown of what you can find on this Solana marketplace:
- Digital wallet compatibility: Magic Eden can connect to over 10 Solana wallets
- A varied set of NFT collections: From profile-picture collections to gaming, Magic Eden has one of the most extensive collections of Solana NFTs available
- An insights page: This dedicated statistics page has a collection of six stats that can tell you the trends for different NFT collections, with some additions that other marketplaces lack
- Sorting by trait: If you’re looking for a particular NFT within a collection, you can find it early by sorting different traits
- Multiple buying options: On Magic Eden, you can buy an NFT outright, make an offer (with a zero percent fee), and bid on auctions
If there’s one thing certain about Magic Eden, it makes buying an NFT easy. The homepage has a wealth of data readily available: the latest drops, popular collections, upcoming launches, top collections by market cap, and the “OG” Solana collections. Each collection comes with a sample NFT image so you can quickly discern the projects you’ll like the most.
The “popular collections” page shows row after row of NFT projects. Like on the homepage, each collection comes with an image representing the art. But, unlike the homepage, below the pictures are the beginnings of sentences: small descriptors about the projects.
But the real coup for Magic Eden is four features that OpenSea lacks.
First, when you navigate to a particular NFT, you can see something called a “MoonRank.” This MoonRank is a rarity score, which helps you determine how rare an NFT is within a collection. You can even see the rarity of individual traits under Magic Eden’s “attributes” section.
Second, the other NFT descriptors are more detailed on Magic Eden. You can easily see the artist’s royalty fee (which usually is a cut from any secondary sale), the price history (what it was sold for and when), and what crypto wallet currently holds the NFT.
Third, Magic Eden has a handful of guides available for NFT newcomers. These include introductions to specific collections, general NFT topics, and even a weekly newsletter. If you’re getting started in NFTs, it’s not a bad place to get your feet wet.
Fourth and finally, the website has applications for creators and digital artists. Many people who start out buying NFTs create one eventually. Using the left-hand menu, you can apply to receive privileges to list, auction, and even join its Launchpad program. Although listing may be more accessible on OpenSea, Magic Eden clarifies the steps a creator needs to follow.
#3 – LooksRare
Launched in early 2022, LooksRare has used a cunning business strategy to siphon users from other Ethereum marketplaces like OpenSea.
It started when the marketplace first went live: People who had spent a certain amount of Ethereum on NFTs in 2021 were entitled to an airdrop of the company’s native $LOOKS token. There was just one catch: The person had to list an NFT for sale on the Looks marketplace. That airdrop was at least worth hundreds. For many, it amounted to the tens of thousands.
The marketplace employs various Web3 strategies to get, hook, and retain users. Given that LooksRare is #3 on this list, its strategy has so far worked. Here is a look at its specs:
- Digital wallet compatibility: LooksRare supports just two standalone crypto wallets, including the MetaMask Wallet and WalletConnect.
- A varied set of NFT collections: You can find many NFT collections on Looks that are also on OS.
- A statistics page: There’s a dedicated stats page, although it isn’t as detailed as some sites.
- Sorting by trait: You can quickly sort by trait on NFT collection pages and see the floor price per trait.
- Multiple buying options: You have all the options available on other sites (and one more).
LooksRare, as you might have suspected from the list, is lacking in the UI department. Its homepage has just a trending collection and popular collections section, with the other two parts advocating for the marketplace’s selling points. It has just three tabs in its top menu: “Explore,” “Collections,” and “Rewards.” The sorting tools are on par with OpenSea’s and Magic Eden’s.
Why you might choose LooksRare to shop over OpenSea lies in four aspects.
The first is functionality that OS lacks: a collection-wide bid option. This feature lets you place a bid on all NFTs in a collection for a set WETH price. If you want into a collection and don’t mind the NFT you get, this option can save time.
The second lies in the $LOOKS rewards. For most actions you’ll take as a buyer or trader of NFTs on LooksRare, you’ll gain $LOOKS rewards. These actions include buying, selling, or listing an NFT. You also have the option of staking your $LOOKS so they can earn more $LOOKS. If tokenomics and gaining free money is your goal, LooksRare might be a place for you.
The third is the marketplace or service fee — a cool 2 percent. This fee is 0.05 percent lower than the marketplace or service fee on OpenSea. If you like NFTs and buy in bulk, this lowered service fee can save you a great deal of money.
Finally, LooksRare has integrated rarity into its interface, courtesy of yours truly. If you like the simplicity of using just one screen to shop and compare rarity ranks, then LooksRare will be more convenient than OpenSea.
#4 – Solanart
Founded in 2021 as the OG (original gangster) Solana NFT marketplace, Solanart held the crown as the top alt-blockchain marketplace for months. Today, it sits behind only Magic Eden for that title. And while Solanart doesn’t have the extreme amount of resources Magic Eden has, you, as a buyer, will find many positive features on its website.
Here’s a quick look at the specs:
- Digital wallet compatibility: Solanart supports 10+ Solana wallets.
- A varied set of NFT collections: You’ll find a variety of NFT collections on Solanart.
- A statistics page: The website has a very basic statistics page for you to browse through.
- Sorting by trait: You can sort by collection trait and even see the trait floors.
- Multiple buying options: You can buy an NFT outright or make an offer.
Solanart, like many Solana NFT marketplaces, defaults to the dark colors of its logo’s native token: blues and purples, with a contrasting white font. That makes the site easy to read, which is helpful if you plan on spending a great deal of time there.
Compared to Magic Eden, Solanart lacks the number of resources it makes available. On its homepage are standard NFT marketplace sections: a featured NFT collection section, recently listed NFTs, trending collections, and a “coming soon” section.
Its navigational bar up top has a search bar and links for collections, the launchpad section, and the help center. The collection pages are set up well and take a user directly to the NFTs for sale, which they can sort. The sorting by traits is a nice feature if you’re looking for a particular NFT, and the floor price per trait can give you an idea of which traits are more valuable.
However, the site lacks an integrated rarity tool, which sets it behind Magic Eden. Without it, you have to use the traits floor feature to determine which traits are rarer than others. Or, if you choose to navigate off the site, you can pull up a rarity site for Solana NFTs and cross-reference NFTs on the rarity page with those on Solanart.
But Solanart does stand out in one aspect: the number of OG Solana NFT collections available. Because the team behind Solanart founded the marketplace before Magic Eden, it has many of the original Solana collections available. These include Degenerate Ape Academy, SOLPunks, Thugbirdz, and more.
Solanart is suitable for buyers looking for an alternative to Magic Eden. It has a variety of collections that you can choose from, old-school Solana projects, and a pleasing UI that makes buying and selling over long periods easy.
#5 – Rarible
Founded in 2020, Rarible was part of a cohort of Ethereum NFT marketplaces that struggled under OpenSea’s shadow. But by not being in the limelight, the team at Rarible had to innovate. And more than survived — it thrived. Soon, it had incorporated four different blockchains into its marketplace and was experimenting with tokenomics to create a true marketplace community.
Here are the specifications:
- Digital wallet compatibility: Rarible supports 10+ wallets across four blockchains.
- A varied set of NFT collections: You can find just about any type of NFT on the Rarible marketplace, from profile-pic collections to domain names.
- A statistics page: The very basic statistics page shows trading volume over different periods and the floor price of the collections. But it does cover all four blockchains.
- Sorting by trait: While you can see traits, you can’t sort by them.
- Multiple buying options: Buying outright and placing bids are both options.
Rarible’s UI is the least pleasing in our top five. The background color is a stark white, with the fonts generally black and gray. The images representing the collections are small on a computer and tough to make out, making it seem like there are splotches of colors across the site.
An odd component to Rarible is that it appears users need to list their NFTs on the website rather than a collection team submitting all the NFTs. That means you might be able to browse a limited number of the total NFTs. So even though Rarible has a variety of different NFT types, availability is a factor.
Rarible also lacks an overall rarity score to go with its NFTs, so you’ll have to use a secondary website for rarity information if you’re a rarity sniper. The UI does give you the ability to see the rarity of specific traits, which is helpful.
For the buyer, Rarible has two features that the other four marketplaces on this list lack: The first is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Any individual that holds the marketplace’s native token ($RARI) is part of the DAO and can vote on future directions of the online platform. Because $RARI is a governance token, the more of it you accumulate, the more voting power you have.
In the past, you gained $RARI from trading on the website. Now, you have to pick it up from other exchanges. If being a part of an NFT community that governs one of the largest marketplaces seems appealing to you, Rarible might be a good fit.
The second feature of Rarible that makes it worth shopping on (in this writer’s opinion) is the number of blockchains it supports. Today, you can access non-fungible tokens on the Ethereum, Tezos, Flow, and Polygon blockchains. Tezos and Flow are particularly interesting because they lack powerhouse standalone marketplaces.
If you do your purchasing on those blockchains frequently, Rarible might be well-suited for you.
Buying on a Team’s Website
If you’re into NFTs for any time, you may stumble upon a project whose NFTs are not out on secondary markets yet. The team may have shared the art, roadmap, and utility but hasn’t put the NFTs for sale.
This situation is common. Here, instead of purchasing an NFT from another collector, as in the case of secondary markets, you’ll buy directly from the team. The process is called minting.
When you mint an NFT, you interact with the team’s smart contract. You are, in essence, giving birth to the NFT on the blockchain. There are two ways to do this, the first of which we’ll cover here: Minting from the team’s website.
Minting an NFT from a team’s website is similar on your end to buying an NFT on a secondary marketplace. The team will usually have a button on the homepage — “mint” or “buy now” being the most common. You’ll click the button, which will prompt you to connect your crypto wallet. From there, you pay the price of the NFT in cryptocurrency and any related gas fees.
A word of caution: While this method can be good news (you’re early or allowlisted to the project, after all), there can be challenges. Scammers are known to set up fake websites to trap NFT collectors. When you sign off on the transaction, instead of receiving your NFT, the smart contract transfers all your NFTs to another wallet.
Therefore it is crucial to do the following things:
- Make sure the website is legit and comes from the team’s official channels
- Read the transaction before clicking confirming it
If you have a hunch that the site or smart contract is malicious, it is fine to back away. Never FOMO (fear of missing out) into an NFT mint, as that can lead to mistakes, lost money, and stolen NFTs.
For Pros: Buying Directly from a Smart Contract
Purchasing an NFT from a team can happen on the team’s website, but it’s not the only way. The other method is by directly transacting with a smart contract. But keep in mind that this method is for advanced practitioners.
On Etherscan and other services, a user can interact mano-a-mano with a team’s smart contract. And the user can buy NFTs as well, though they need to know some particulars. Here are some of the bits of information you need to know to buy directly from a smart contract on a third-party service:
- Contract address
- Token amount
- Smart contract functions like “write”
An NFT buyer will use this method if the minting site is down due to high traffic or another technical issue. Beginners should use it sparingly or with a guide.
Final Thoughts on Where to Buy an NFT
Buying NFTs is usually a simple process requiring a crypto wallet, some cryptocurrency, the place or method of purchase, and the digital assets themselves. The most common way is through a secondary market, where you buy and sell with other traders or digital artists. Two other methods include minting through a team’s website or the smart contract via a third-party service.
Generally, a sound basis for purchasing a non-fungible token is to go with the one you like. For other advice about buying an NFT, please visit our How to Invest in NFTs guide. It is for NFT investors, traders, and consumers.
Thank you for reading this guide. Happy buying!