A brief timeline of NFT's
A short history of NFTs and what could be next.
The resurgence of NFTs came back in March when Beeple sold an art piece for $69 million at the highly esteemed Christie’s auction house. The sale saw him become the third highest-paid artist of all time, and it sent shockwaves across both the digital and real world. Some say that what followed was comparable to the art renaissance. The difference is that this time, the art is digital.
NFTs are issued on blockchains, these are public systems that record information, namely transactions that occur between parties. They are non-fungible meaning that they are unique, unlike a fungible token like bitcoin which can be exchanged equally. NFTs can be represented by images, GIFS, videos, and audio, all of which are considered varying forms of art. Initially, NFTs proliferated back in 2012-2013, but they resurged in 2017 and then again for the bull run in 2020.
Slowly over time, many people have begun to realize the massive potential for issuing assets onto blockchains. NFTs help to assert who is the owner of the asset, they prevent plagiarism and present creators and collectors with direct ownership which can be traced via the blockchain through smart contracts.
The NFT market makes digital assets provably scarce, they are recorded and cannot be altered. Effectively, NFTs have solved the issue of provenance. When you purchase an NFT, it has a unique ID and it cannot be replicated meaning that it cannot be copied. Importantly, the transaction is both secure and permanent.
The first-ever NFT was minted by Kevin McCoy in 2014 on the Namecoin blockchain, his art piece was named “quantum”. Fast forward to 2021 and his NFT was sold for $1.4 million at the Sotheby’s Native Digital auction, a piece of art that was initially skepticized is now a piece of history. When Kevin first presented his artwork, it was reported that the audience laughed and jeered at the idea, and we can still somewhat draw similarities to the mainstream conception of NFTs today. Now Kevin and his NFT are highly respected and recognized for being the first experimentation with novel technology.
In 2016 when memes were thriving, they also began to surface on the blockchain. Namely the ‘Rare Pepes’ which are cartoon depictions of frogs created by Matt Furie, and have a rich history in the culture of memes. The frogs were sold via the Rare Pepe Wallet website which features thousands of pepes in different manners and forms. In March 2020, the rarest pepe of them all sold for 205 ETH which equated to $320,000 at the time. This sale was another catalyst in the NFT and crypto world encouraging more and more people to recognize and appreciate the value of digital assets, even if they are memes.
A year later CryptoPunks came around, John Watkinson and Matt Hall created an experiment of 10,000 algorithmically generated, unique characters, on the ethereum blockchain and minted them for free. CryptoPunks are described as a mixture of ERC721 and ERC20. Initially, they saw no traction and the reaction was fairly silent until suddenly they were swiftly sold out within 24 hours. Initially, the CryptoPunks were selling for a couple of dollars, today, Crypto Punks are worth thousands, and in some cases millions. They are the staple NFT collection and one of the most sought-after avatars in the entire space.
Cryptokitties also released in 2017, this NFT game was the earliest to hit the blockchain enabling players to purchase kitties, breed, play, and sell their virtual cats with ether. Since the game launched they have gone on to generate millions in sales from both direct and secondary sales. The game enabled many new users to encounter and engage with NFTs using the ERC721, helping to bring more public acceptance of the growing concept. Moreover, Crypotkitties like CryptoPunks ignited a surge in NFT collections to follow and thereby seeing the market also grow much larger.
Dapper Labs NBA Topshot launch served to introduce thousands of sports fans into the NFT world where they could buy and trade the NFT cards digitally. Each ‘moment’, is captured in a short video of the basketball play and each moment would differ in rarity. However, the token is simply more than a trading card, they also function as membership cards providing access to real-life NBA benefits, products, activities, and experiences. For many, NBA TopShot was and is still one of the main gateways for NFT collectors.
The BAYC certainly ignited the NFT boom, it is a collection of 10,000 randomly generated apes which released in May of 2021. Like Crypto Punks, initially, they struggled to sell out in the week-long presale, until overnight the whole collection sold out. Despite the collection starting with a small group chat, a graffiti board, and a low-fi radio channel, they have now expanded into the biggest NFT collection valued at billions. A number of high profile celebrities have aped in, they have expanded the group via The Bored Ape Kennel Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club, as well as in real-life events such as ape fest. The BAYC provides collectors with a membership pass which offers a wealth of utility as displayed in their roadmap including a game, merch, a DAO, token, and more in real-life events.
Wolf Game is one of the most recent play to earn games and has amassed a volume of over 13,000 ETH since it was released. The game involves the trading of sheep and wolves in the metaverse as well as game theory and staking, both of which have become important dynamics in the NFT space. Following its rapid ascent, several projects have preceded aiming to replicate its success. The interactive nature of this NFT is certainly another step of expansion and innovation in the NFT world, whether it lasts or not.
We are still extremely early in regards to the innovation and opportunity that is capable within the NFT space. All of the projects discussed above are prime examples of the development in NFTs, but there are many more projects that have not been discussed in this article.
The pertinent question on our minds now is what is next. Play-to-earn games and tokens are rapidly growing in popularity with many variations following. As far as NFTs, there is no doubt that they will stick around, there are endless opportunities and we are already seeing mainstream adoption and recognition from major corporate brands, namely Adidas in the past week. A few years ago, NFTs were laughed at, today, they are still somewhat misunderstood. But what we do know is that as time passes, NFTs are also unlocking more potential as a technology important for our everyday life, and this is becoming clearer every day.