This week, half-giddy, half-cautious optimism spread across crypto circles as Bitcoin surged past $37,000 for the first time in 18 months on excitement regarding the approval a spot Bitcoin ETF, and Ethereum pumped past $2,100 on similar news of a pending ETH ETF application from BlackRock.

There’s clearly an emergent hope within crypto that the bottom—finally—is in. But to those who protest that it could never be a true bull market without obscenely expensive, seemingly pointless JPEGs trading hands: there’s now reason to rejoice on that front as well. 

On Friday, two separate on-chain images of illustrated rocks—one hosted on Ethereum as an NFT, the other inscribed on Bitcoin as an Ordinal—sold for six-figure respective sums on secondary markets.  

An NFT from the EtherRocks collection, EtherRock #95, traded hands this morning for 100 ETH, or just over $209,000. Just hours prior, an Ordinal from the visually identical Bitcoin Rock collection sold for 2.99 BTC, worth just over $111,000 at writing. 


The JPEGs do not come with any affiliated memberships or perks, or anything that doesn’t meet the eye. They are, quite simply, lightly illustrated images of nearly indistinguishable gray boulders that don’t even feature backgrounds. 

Dumb as rocks?

EtherRocks first launched in 2017 to little fanfare. Only during the height of the NFT bull run, in late 2021, did the 100-piece collection catch fire—largely as a means to poke fun at the absurdity of value and the crypto market. Individual EtherRocks regularly sold at the time for hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece; one sold for the equivalent of $1.3 million


Monetary value of art is all an illusion,” an EtherRocks buyer wrote at the time. “The pet rocks present the perfect shock value, it’s so stupid that it’s perfect. Fate loves irony.”

In January, an apparently unaffiliated Ordinals user inscribed a set of 100 images almost identical to the EtherRocks onto small denominations of Bitcoin, creating a new collection: Bitcoin Rocks. While that Ordinals collection has not enjoyed the same success as its Ethereum predecessor, it has generated five-figure secondary market sales in recent months. 

In the context of recent market trends, though, Friday’s sales appear to be hitting differently. Numerous Twitter users saw the news as a harbinger of the return of the type of obscenity, absurdity, and flagrant financial foolishness that defined the previous crypto bull run. 

Members of the crypto community appear divided about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

But despite the return of bull market antics, crypto activity is nowhere close to the levels enjoyed when EtherRocks were last ascendent. Though Bitcoin Ordinals trading did indeed hit a six-month high earlier this week, and NFT trading volume posted its best numbers since August, those numbers still pale in comparison to the type of volume witnessed during the 2021/2022 NFT bull run. 

Last week’s apparently encouraging NFT figures, for example, marked a 93% decrease in trading volume from the market’s peak in April 2022. But these pricey digital rock purchases point to at least a desire for the same kind of frothy, frenzied excitement that defined that earlier era.


Edited by Andrew Hayward

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