In brief

  • The prices of some non-fungible tokens have surged to over $1.5 million over the past month.
  • CryptoPunks and Hashmasks are still the most expensive NFTs in terms of per-item prices.

Over the past month, the top five biggest non-fungible token (NFTs) projects generated over $366 million in sales, with NBA Top Shots being responsible for the lion’s share of that figure, according to metrics platform CryptoSlam. But while Top Shots took the majority of the volume, its biggest sales were dwarfed by one of Ethereum's earliest NFT projects.

The biggest crypto collectible sale last month (excluding one-off NFT sales), was $1.545 million—paid in cryptocurrency—for the CryptoPunk called “ape in a fedora.” CryptoPunks are an NFT collection of “pixel-art” avatars, which have retained their status as some of the most expensive digital collectibles. They are mostly human faces but also include apes and zombies.

In fact, the majority of the biggest sales were for CryptoPunks. Investors paid $1.199 million for the CryptoPunk “ape in a bandana” and $1.069 million for the “ape wearing a knitted cap and small shades.”


Non-fungible tokens are unique digital assets that cannot be copied or replicated, which, in turn, can result in scarcity and increased value. NFTs can contain artworks, music, some in-game items, or other data—anything digital, essentially.

Several of the Ethereum-based art project Hashmasks were also sold for record amounts. Over the past month, Hashmask 6718 was sold for nearly half a million dollars. Others, like Hashmask 16251, were sold for just shy of $300,000.

Surging volumes for NFT collectibles

NBA Top Shots is a collection of NFT collectibles based on the Flow blockchain that contain various highlights of basketball matches. They saw a record trading volume of over $237 million over the past 30 days. During this period, the sales of Top Shots have increased by more than 434%, with over 85,000 users making 1.25 million transactions. 

While NBA Top Shots has high trading volumes, the majority of sales are for much lower amounts. Depending on its rarity, a card can be purchased anywhere between $15-20 and hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Some of the most expensive Top Shots, such as “2019-20 LeBron James” from the “Cosmic” set, were sold for more than $200,000. NBA fans also paid between $100,000 and $125,000 for the same NFT (but from different sets), and $100,000 each for "2019-20 Zion Williamson" and "2019-20 Ja Morant."


Why NFTs are so expensive

But what prompts users to spend literally millions of dollars on digital curiosities? For starters, NFTs are more than just art; they are actually an emerging method of storing and sharing value, Pedro Febrero, an analyst at crypto-focused analytics outfit Quantum Economics, told Decrypt.

“In our opinion, NFTs are an interesting way to collect and share value. Not only for digital art pieces and collections but also because you can essentially create non-fungibility with digital assets. This enables all sorts of incentive mechanics where projects can award contributors with unique items,” said Febrero.

He added that NFTs are an “amazing technology” that, when deployed at scale—especially for in-game items—could change how value gets accrued.

“Essentially, the end-user can rip the greatest yield by selling or lending the NFT in a marketplace,” Febrero explained, adding, “We think that once there is a simpler way to pool NFTs together and sell them as ERC-20 tokens, the adoption of these assets will skyrocket.”

Although so far, NFTs have been turning a lot of heads mostly thanks to the outrageous prices some people are prepared to pay for a pixelated ape avatar.

Update (March 3, 17:00 UTC): The sale amount for a Hashmask has been corrected.

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