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Bitcoin NFTs are the talk of the Web3 world right now, thanks to a new way to “mint” media and assets on the layer-1 blockchain through the Ordinals project. And, as with many past NFT network launches, cloned versions of Ethereum’s early and influential CryptoPunks are dominating the early buzz around Ordinals.
CryptoPunks, created by Larva Labs in 2017, is a seminal NFT project that set the template for the modern profile picture (PFP) trend. The 10,000 Ethereum assets were initially released via a free mint, well before there was a thriving NFT market, but have gone on to generate almost $2.5 billion worth of trading volume in the years since.
Ordinals just launched on the Bitcoin blockchain in late January, but there are already multiple CryptoPunks-inspired projects gaining steam on the platform.
— DEGEN NEWS 🗞️ (@DegenerateNews) February 9, 2023
The most prominent so far is Ordinal Punks, which spans 100-pixel avatars that have been “inscribed” on Bitcoin through the Ordinals project and can be traded. Unlike some Punks clones seen in the past, however, they're not direct clones of the original CryptoPunks collection.
Some on Crypto Twitter believe that Ordinal Punks is based on a derivative Ethereum collection called Mutant Punks—in other words, a derivative of a derivative. However, a person connected to the project clarified to Decrypt that Ordinal Punks "used an open-source algorithm and CC0 Punk sprite sheet to generate new Punks."
One Ordinal Punk sold for 9.5 BTC late Wednesday, or nearly $215,000. While that’s about double the entry-level price for a real CryptoPunk—about 64 ETH right now, or nearly $106,000—that particular Ordinal Punk is based on the very rare alien CryptoPunks, which have sold for as much as nearly $24 million worth of ETH in the past.
12 years ago I was mining Bitcoin on a gaming PC in my parent's basement.
Today, we just minted out the first 10k NFT collection on Bitcoin.
— Robert Clarke (@robertjfclarke) February 9, 2023
In another example, pseudonymous NFT collector and investor dingaling tweeted that he purchased a bundle of seven Ordinal Punks for 15.2 BTC on Wednesday—about $349,000 worth at the time.
However, because Ordinals just launched and they function differently than typical NFTs on other platforms (like Ethereum and Solana), there isn’t much infrastructure to support buying and selling the assets once they’ve been described. In other words, there aren’t Bitcoin NFT marketplaces for Ordinals just yet.
In fact, such trades are currently taking place over the counter (OTC) directly between users or through escrow services, with asking prices and bids being tracked via online spreadsheets. It’s all being facilitated through Twitter and Discord as collectors vie for these Punk clones, as some expect these early Bitcoin “inscriptions” to prove more and more valuable over time.
“There's [a] real moment behind Ordinals and things are still very very early. There are opportunities everywhere,” dingaling tweeted. “Orderbooks are currently updated on shared spreadsheets and sales are only done via OTC/escrow. But there's lots of building being done behind the scenes.”
However, the lack of infrastructure means that the current trading model is susceptible to scams, and some Crypto Twitter users have raised the alarm. One viral thread from pseudonymous NFT collector TheNorwegian called out various perceived issues with the collection, and asked whether it's the "biggest NFT scam of all time."
Another notable Ordinals project is Bitcoin Punks, which puts replicas of all 10,000 original CryptoPunks on Bitcoin. It’s billed as the first 10,000-piece NFT project launched through Ordinals, and all of the assets have already been minted for free by collectors.
It’s not yet clear how much trading demand there is for the larger Bitcoin Punks collection at this point, however, and a moderator on the project’s official Discord server warned holders today to “be careful trading” before a code audit can be completed.
Ordinals use has surged over the last few days, with data platform Dune showing over 17,000 mints on the platform already today—double yesterday’s total, continuing a trend that has exploded over the last week-plus. More than 39,000 assets have now been inscribed as Ordinals, including other knockoffs and a playable clone of the classic video game Doom.
However, the project has proven controversial with some Bitcoin maximalists and enthusiasts, some of whom have argued that it’s a waste of network space or that it goes against Bitcoin’s original focus on financial assets. Bitcoin transaction fees have surged over the last week and a half since Ordinals started gaining steam.
CryptoPunks clones are common on NFT protocols that have emerged after Ethereum, and you can find them all over the place—on Solana, Polygon, Cardano, Algorand, and even Stacks, a “layer 1.5” network built on top of Bitcoin.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to clarify the origins of the Ordinal Punks designs.