10 Most Expensive NFTs Ever Sold: Overpriced Scams or True Masterpieces?

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In 2024, the non-fungible tokens (NFT) market experiences meaningful recovery, with Statista predicting that the market could make $2.37 billion this year and see an annual growth rate of 9.10%, potentially reaching $3.36 billion in the next four years.

Since the first NFT was ever minted in 2014, the market has seen a total market capitalization surpassing $4 billion and all-time sales volumes exceeding $78 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.

With prominent NFT collections such as Axie Infinity and Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) oftentimes making headlines, what were the most expensive NFTs ever sold, and where is the market headed next?

In this article, we highlight the most expensive NFT sales ever.

Key Takeaways

  • The NFT market has diversified since 2017, with its value expected to reach $2.37 billion in 2024.
  • Some of the most expensive NFTs ever sold share commonalities, which include renowned artists or unique features.
  • Experts predict that metaverse integration and enhanced interoperability are key future trends for NFTs.
  • As of April 2024, the most expensive NFT in the world is The Merge, the NFT collection created by digital artist PAK.
  • The most expensive NFT was sold for $91.8 million.
  • Most recently, the CryptoPunk #3100 NFT was sold for 4,500 Ether, worth over $16 million in March 2024.

The Diversity of the NFT Market

The real boom of the NFT market emerged at the end of 2017 with the launch of Ethereum-based blockchain games such as CryptoKitties and, later on, Axie Infinity, which have acted as stepping stones for many new investors who could now step into a niche market for digital collectibles while also playing a fun game.

However, over the past seven years, the NFT space has seen a great deal of change with virtual real estate and the music industry also joining in on the hype.

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“A significant trend is the integration of NFTs with metaverse platforms, where they’re used for avatars, property ownership, and access to exclusive events. Another notable trend is the focus on community building and utility; NFTs that offer real-world benefits or membership in exclusive groups are increasingly popular,” Tyler Adams, the CEO and co-founder of COZ, told Techopedia.

Adams added that the emergence of the non-fungible item (NFI) technology allowed more people to enter the industry by enabling them to link the physical and digital realms.

“NFI technology is the door for Web3 mass adoption, enabling individuals to prove ownership of a physical item and authorizing specific actions on-chain or off-chain. It broadens the horizons for real-life applications, even to those with little to no familiarity in the blockchain sphere.”

However, the NFT market space continues to be highly dominated by art, celebrity, and athlete involvement as well as the gaming industry, Anndy Lian, the author of NFT: From Zero to Hero, added.

So, what is the most expensive NFT?

10 Most Expensive NFTs of All Time

COZ’s Adams explained that the most valuable NFTs often “share several commonalities.” One such similarity is that they are created by prominent artists or involve famous brands, such as Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days, sold for over $69 million.

“These NFTs often hold unique or historic significance, marking key moments in digital or artistic history. They also tend to receive high media attention, which drives up demand and value. Moreover, many of these groundbreaking NFTs introduce innovative concepts or employ technology in novel ways, setting them apart from more conventional offerings,” Adams said.

1. The Merge – $91 Million

Digital artist Pak's work, The Merge
Source: Nifty Gateway

The most expensive NFT sold is The Merge, the NFT collection created by digital artist PAK that was sold for $91,806,516 within just 48 hours following its release on December 3, 2021, on the NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway.

While being the most expensive NFT art, The Merge had also managed to break several other milestones, including becoming the largest-ever art sale by a living artist, be it a digital or physical copy.

2. Everydays: The First 5000 Days – $69 Million

Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days
Source: Christie’s

Next on our list of most expensive NFTs sold is a digital artwork by Beeple, also known as Michael Winkelmann. Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days was actioned by Christie’s in March 2021 and was sold for $69,346,250.

The artwork was bought by Vignesh Sundaresan (Metakovan), a cryptocurrency investor and the founder of Metapurse.

3. Clock – $52 Million

lock NFT counting how many days the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has spent in prison
Censored.art

Clock is a single NFT that counts how many days the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has spent in prison.

The NFT is a collaboration between Assange and Pak and was sold for $52,740,000 on February 9, 2022. It was created to help fund Assange’s legal defense during court proceedings.

4. Human One – $28 Million

Beeple's Human One: the artist’ first-ever dynamic physical artwork + video NFT
Source: Christie’s

Another NFT by Beeple, Human One, is a hybrid digital and physical artwork that was auctioned for $28,985,000 on November 9, 2021.

A seemingly unique artwork, Human One, is said to be “the story of the first human born in the metaverse.” The NFT will continue to evolve throughout Beeple’s life.

5. CryptoPunk #5822 – $23 Million

CryptoPunk 5822. One of 9 Alien Punks.
Source: Cryptopunks.app

CryptoPunks is a series of 10,000 unique pixel art characters created as NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain by Larva Labs. Each CryptoPunk NFT has a set of unique characteristics. Most CryptoPunks are human; however, some of the rarest pieces depict zombies, apes, and aliens.

CryptoPunk #5822 is one of nine alien punks in the collection, making it rare and valuable. The Chain CEO, Deepak Thapliyal, bought the NFT on February 13, 2022, for $23,700,000.

6. CryptoPunk #3100 – $16 Million

Source: Cryptopunks.app

The second on our biggest NFTs list among the CryptoPunks series is CryptoPunk #3100, sold for 4,500 Ether, worth over $16 million in March 2024.

Previously, a headband-wearing alien punk was sold on March 11, 2021, for $7.58 million.

Some crypto X users reacted to the purchase of CryptoPunk 3100 as a sign that the NFTs’ bull market has returned.

 7. CryptoPunk #7523 – $11 Million

CryptoPunk 7523. One of 9 Alien Punks.
Source: Cryptopunks.app

The CryptoPunks collections have seen some of the most major NFT sales on the market, with CryptoPunk #7523 scoring number seven on our most expensive NFTs list.

This is the only punk in the collection that wears a surgical mask and is another one of nine aliens. It was sold for $11,800,000 and is currently owned by Sillytuna, according to its listing on Sotheby’s.

8. TPunk #3442 – $10 Million

Inspired by the CryptoPunks collection, TPunk #3442 was bought for $10,500,000 on August 31, 2021, by Justin Sun, the CEO of Tron.

9. CryptoPunk #4156 – $10 Million

Source: Cryptopunks.app

CryptoPunk #4156 is one of 24 apes in the CryptoPunk collection and was sold for $10,350,000.

This Punk is currently owned by address 0x67954a. The owner hasn’t listed it for sale.

10. CryptoPunk # 5577 – $7 Million

Source: Cryptopunks.app

Another one of 24 apes from the CryptoPunks collection, CryptoPunk #5577, was bought for $7,700,000 by Compound Finance CEO Robert Leshner.

Leshner believes in CryptoPunks practical use cases for their owners. He said:

“The best NFT is better, if you ask me.”

This piece, featuring the “Cowboy Hat” attribute, closes the list of the world’s most expensive NFTs as of April 2024.

What Goes Into Valuing NFTs?

Adams explained that valuing an NFT’s price can be a subjective, as well as objective case. While an artist’s reputation may come in handy (as seen with NFTs created by Beeple), other factors may also come into play when identifying the most expensive NFT ever sold.

“Much like commercial goods, scarcity and uniqueness are also crucial; limited edition NFTs or those with unique features often have higher values. The provenance or ownership history can add to an NFT’s allure, especially if previously owned by a celebrity or a notable figure in the tech world,” he said.

Lian added that an NFT’s supply and demand could also affect its future price and utility. Moreover, celebrity endorsements can also be crucial in establishing an NFT’s value.

“Celebrities can use their large and loyal fan bases to promote NFTs to a wider and more diverse audience. This can increase the awareness and interest in the project, as well as the potential buyers and collectors. Celebrities can also lend their reputation and influence to NFTs, making them more appealing and trustworthy to investors,” Lian said.

The Future of NFTs: Metaverse Integration & Enhanced Interoperability

Lian explained that metaverse integration is one trend that could drive the future of NFTs, enabling cross-platform interoperability, accessibility, and immersion. In addition, decentralized finance (DeFi) collaborations can further enhance the value of NFTs by providing new means of financing, investing, and trading them, further driving adoption.

Adams added that enhanced interoperability across blockchain platforms could further increase the utility and appeal of NFTs in the near future. He said:

“As regulatory frameworks around NFTs develop, the market might see increased stability and trust, attracting more institutional investors. Technological advancements, such as Layer 2 solutions, could lower transaction costs and improve sustainability, making NFTs more accessible and appealing. The integration of NFTs with AI, AR, and VR technologies is also anticipated, potentially leading to new forms of interactive digital art.”

The Bottom Line

As the NFT marketplace anticipates robust growth in 2024, the value of the most expensive NFTs ever sold remains subjective, influenced by factors like scarcity, uniqueness, provenance, and celebrity endorsements.

With Pak’s The Merge taking the first place as the most valuable NFT at $91 million, other unique projects have also come forth, including a number of CryptoPunk pieces and Beeple’s works.

In the future, the NFT market is expected to embrace metaverse integration and enhanced interoperability, with the future of NFTs holding high promises.

FAQs

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Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist
Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist

Iliana is an experienced crypto/tech journalist reporting on blockchain, regulation, DeFi, and Web3 industries. Before joining Techopedia, she contributed to a number of online publications, including Capital.com, Cryptonews, and Business2Community, among others. In addition to working in journalism, she also has experience in tech and crypto PR.  Iliana graduated from the City University of London with a degree in Journalism in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Communication.