Agents at a Christie's auction
Agents at a Christie's auction
Don Emmert/Getty Images

Christie's auctioned a set of nine CryptoPunk NTFs for almost $17 million late on Tuesday at their 21st Century sale held in New York. When the auction house announced the sale, it expected the CryptoPunks to sell for between $7 million and $9 million.

The realized price of the CryptoPunk NFT set was $16,962,500, the second highest sale of the night. They exceeded artworks by more traditionally popular artists like Banksy, Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst.

CryptoPunks, which were created by the software company Larva Labs in 2017, are a series of 10,000 virtual characters in 8-bit 24×24 pixel format that were inspired by London's punk scene. Larva Labs launched them in 2017, making them some of the first NFTs and leaders of the crypto art scene.

The CryptoPunks were offered to the public for free at the time, but creators Matt Hall and John Watkinson kept 1,000 NFTs for themselves. The set of characters auctioned by Christie's was part of their private collection.

"Taken together, the set represents both the rarest possible CryptoPunks and highlights from the variety of attributes that are the signature of the project.", Hall and Watkinson said when the Christie's auction was announced.

Rare CryptoPunks have sold for over $7.5 million per character. Based on CoinMarketCap data, the full set of 10,000 CryptoPunk NFTs is worth almost $325 million. 9,250 sales have been made over the past year at an average price of $80,259.09.

Alongside the sale, Christie's and Larva Labs collaborated with non-profit organisation SaveArtSpace, which creates art exhibitions in urban spaces. 193 CryptoPunks will be shown on New York's bus shelters, phone booths and billboards over the next month.

"By bringing these pixelated versions of our online lives to the real world, we hope to show to the world the very human side of this technological revolution.", SaveArtSpace said in the announcement.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital items such as images, audio or videos that are based on blockchain technology, which also registers ownership. As is the case with CryptoPunks, NFTs can often be viewed by anyone online – but only one person can own them.

The sale comes at a time where the NFT and especially art NFT markets appeared to be cooling off. In April, the sales volume and prices for art NFTs had dropped by over 40% and talks about NFTs being in a bubble have been rife.

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