What are CryptoPunks?
Summary of CryptoPunks
- CryptoPunks are Ethereum-based NFTs created by Larva Labs in 2017, making them some of the earliest examples of crypto collectibles.
- Prices of CryptoPunks skyrocketed with the boom of the wider NFT market in 2021, leading to several sales in excess of $1 million for each Punk.
- CryptoPunks have a fixed supply of 10,000 unique Punks whose proof of ownership is stored on the Ethereum blockchain.
CryptoPunks are a set of 10,000 unique digital collectible characters stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Each item in the collection is a 24x24 pixel, 8-bit-style portrait with a unique set of attributes and traits.
CryptoPunks was one of the first non-fungible token projects and has since paved the way for other successful NFT collections such as CryptoKitties, Bored Ape Yacht Club and CrypToadz.
Launched in June 2017, CryptoPunks cost nothing for anyone with an Ethereum wallet, as long as they were willing to cover the nominal minting fee. Four years later, during the 2021 NFT explosion, CryptoPunks saw a significant increase in market value.
Some CryptoPunks have been sold for tens of millions of dollars. This created a brand new breed of millionaires out of some of the very first CryptoPunks owners — who acquired one for free. The rarest pieces in the collection, such as the limited number of alien images, are also among the most valuable pieces of digital art ever sold. They have helped to legitimize the significance of NFTs as an artistic movement and technology.
CryptoPunks can most broadly be categorized into five different types of increasing rarity: male, female, zombie, ape and alien, respectively. Each pixelated CryptoPunk is randomly generated with a unique set of accessories like hats, facial hair, glasses, earrings and more.
Unlike the many other NFT collections it went on to inspire, CryptoPunks were created using the ERC-20 token standard, the same used by cryptocurrencies such as MANA and ENJ. The ERC-721 standard, which the collection helped inspire, is used by the majority of other Ethereum-based collections today.
Who created CryptoPunks?
CryptoPunks was launched on June 23, 2017 by the New York-based firm Larva Labs, founded by cryptocurrency veterans Matt Hall and John Watkinson. They started the CryptoPunks project as an experiment on the Ethereum blockchain.
Hall and Watkinson created 10,000 CryptoPunks in total, with 9,000 Punks being released to the public for free, plus a nominal minting fee. Larva Labs held on to the remaining 1,000 Punks.
Following the success of CryptoPunks, Larva Labs released other popular NFT projects including the 3D voxel avatar collection Meebits.
In March 2022, Yuga Labs, the team behind the wildly popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection (and its many spin-off collections) acquired the intellectual property (IP) rights for both CryptoPunks and Meebits from the Larva Labs team.
What makes CryptoPunks unique?
CryptoPunks were among the first NFT collections to make the leap from online forums to prestigious auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. They have since grown famous among esteemed art critics who see the collection as an important cultural artifact from the early days of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. To many NFT enthusiasts, the collection represents the true start of the broader NFT movement and a shift in the wider perception of digital ownership.
As one of the earliest NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain, CryptoPunks paved the way for newer collections to emerge onto the scene. Hall and Watkinson developed the punk concept behind the NFT collection as an homage to the cypherpunk movement that drove the earliest stages of cryptocurrency adoption. Each Punk is a blend of attributes that draw inspiration from the cypherpunk subculture and its diverse members.
CryptoPunks were initially conceptualized for use in games and apps, but their artistic approach to portrait images have since inspired many other profile picture (PFP) NFT collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club, World of Women and Cool Cats (to name a few).
The distinctive artistic direction of CryptoPunks is derived from the unique attributes that they possess. No two Punks look alike, and some have traits that are rarer than others. The pixel art aesthetic direction of the collection has become immediately recognizable thanks to its creative simplicity and diversity.
Watkinson and Hall also chose to created CryptoPunks on the Ethereum blockchain prior to the development of the ERC-721 standard, meaning CryptoPunks do not follow the same technical framework used by the majority of other NFTs on the market today. Thanks to the small data size of each image, CryptoPunks is one of the few NFT collections to be stored fully “on-chain” today — meaning both the NFT and the images themselves are kept on the Ethereum blockchain. On-chain media storage is a rarity among NFT collections, which often host the media (such as a jpeg or gif file) associated with each NFT in a non-blockchain based repository.
Why buy CryptoPunks?
Those looking to claim a piece of what many perceive to be a groundbreaking digital art form may consider purchasing a CryptoPunk. With major art auctioneers expressing their interest in CryptoPunks, the collection has been a lucrative investment for many that recognized their aesthetic appeal and cultural significance early on.
Others looking to flex their affiliation with the CryptoPunk community may buy a CryptoPunk NFT to display as their social media PFP.
NFT enthusiasts interested in how CryptoPunks' on-screen appeal translates into real-world events and spin-off projects may want to purchase an NFT from the CryptoPunks collection.
What makes CryptoPunks valuable?
Equipped with a first-mover advantage, CryptoPunks have passed through the halls of fabled auction houses and set numerous sales records along the way. They continue to attract the attention of fine art collectors from around the world who appreciate them both for their aesthetic simplicity as well as their cultural significance within the crypto and art markets.
With a fixed supply of 10,000 unique NFTs, owners can be sure there will be no additions to the collection and that their Punk is verifiably different from every other piece.
Certain traits have emerged as more desirable, and therefore more valuable within the collection. This scarcity of specific traits has been a driver of collectibility. For example, there are only 44 Punks wearing a beanie, 48 wearing a choker and 78 with buck teeth. Punks that have multiple rare traits are generally more sought after in the market and often command higher prices.
CryptoPunks owners include high-profile celebrities, influencers and companies. Jay-Z, Gary Vaynerchuk and even Visa have bought CryptoPunks NFTs, with Visa buying Punk #7610 to add to its “collection of historic commerce artifacts."
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