By Chris Crawford
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) made a meteoric impact in the first quarter of 2021, and as waves of newly minted digital art continue to crash through online marketplaces, big league brands are taking notice and throwing their weight behind the surge. While old school names like CryptoPunks maintain a hard-fought and well-earned stake in the game, newer players are setting up shop on the blockchain to capitalize on the newest digital craze.
If you’re reading this and thinking, non-fungible what!? What does fungus have to do with any of this? Then hop on over to our article discussing NFTs, their rise to prominence in 2021, and how there might be more going on than meets the eye.
The following NFT projects represent a list of seasoned veterans who’ve had their metal tested and are still circulating as high-value assets on digital marketplaces, alongside fresh blood looking to make a name for themselves in a new crypt-influenced landscape. Each of these projects approached NFTs with a unique idea of what an NFT could be, and some are setting new boundaries for the future of digital art.
Here are five of the top NFT projects we think you should be keeping an eye on in 2021.
In 2017, 10,000 little 24 x 24 pixel portraits wearing hats, smoking cigarettes or pipes, sporting wild hairdos, and rocking shades or piercings, were distributed across the internet for free. In a mere four years (ancient history in the tech world), these NFTs went from a small, passionate underground community to establishing an economy of over $200 million. In March of 2020 alone, two CryptoPunks (#7804 and #6965) were sold for over $13 million combined.
CryptoPunks are unique in that they started as an art project produced by a pixel art generator and distributed for practically free (just the Etherium gas needed to claim the portrait). Dozens of NFTs have taken inspiration from CrytpoPunks aesthetic over the years, but rarely the charitability of their progenitor. Today, the cheapest CryptoPunk on the market will run a buyer around $30,000 worth of Ether, the most expensive scraping nearly $10 million. While there has been some speculation that the new popularity of these NFTs is an indication of an impending crash, other investors cite the historical value of CryptoPunks as NFTs as a reason for confidence in the asset.
NBA Top Shot
At first glance, it can be hard to understand how someone might package and sell an incredibly famous moment that has already been broadcast on live TV, then immortalized on several hundred video channels and platforms across the internet. But when you look at what DapperLabs and the NBA and have done with their collection of digital basketball highlights, things become a bit clearer.
Launched in October of 2020, Top Shot quickly soared to one of the most recognized names in the industry when their “moment” featuring LeBron James dunking on Sacramento Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica sold for $208,000. But their popularity doesn’t just come from high dollar sales and backing by the NBA.
Top Shot has specifically designed its assets for those unfamiliar with cryptocurrency, blockchain, and Non-Fungible Tokens. Buying moments is simple and straightforward, removing much of the uncertainty for those who may be interested, but are reluctant to put in the work required to navigate some of the more technical marketplaces. Additionally, Top Shot “moments,” are modeled after trading cards and released in “drops” similar to trading card booster packs. The familiarity of the design, combined with simple accessibility, makes Top Shot’s one of the most interesting and approachable NFTs on the market.
👑ALL HAIL THE KING👑@YoDough scooped up this Legendary LeBron James Moment from our Cosmic Series 1 set for $208,000‼️ This Moment is from our first Legendary set ever minted 💯— NBA Top Shot (@nbatopshot) February 22, 2021
The top acquisition for any NBA Top Shot Moment … so far.
Congrats on the nice pickup! 👑 pic.twitter.com/rFLMzbwXN7
If you’re a gamer you may have already heard of this decentralized world powered by the Ethereum blockchain. To begin playing Decentraland, first users make a customized avatar to represent themselves in the world (like a Nintendo Mii character). One’s avatar is then linked with a cryptocurrency wallet which enables users to both create and monetize in-game content.
Decentraland uses an in-game currency, MANA, purchased through the user’s crypto-wallet, to buy, sell, and trade LAND, collectibles, and applications in the marketplace build your own neighborhood, and participate in the governance of a virtual world. You may also buy, sell, and trade land in other players’ neighborhoods, or at least visit to decide if you want to live there. Users can purchase rare, non-fungible items in-game that are also supported on NFT marketplaces. At least in Decentraland, you don’t need to worry about wearing a mask.
Funko, TokenWave, TokenHead
This month, toy collectible powerhouse, Funko, became the majority owner in TokenWave LLC, the company that owns TokenHead (the mobile app currently boasting 100,000 visits per day showcasing and tracking NFTs). While their service has yet to launch, their intention is to bring their popular Pop! collectibles product line into the digital realm. With an expected launch date of June 2021, Funko will release one exclusive Pop! NFT per week, starting at $9.99 – offering the rarest tokens with exclusive Pop! vinyl figurines.
This approach, combining both physical AND digital offerings, is a brilliant sales strategy. Not only does it appeal to fans of the original Pop! vinyl toys, but offers a physical collectible for those who aren’t quite sold on the real value of an NFT. Of course, Funko will be utilizing the TokenHead app for its distribution.
Hashmasks are one of the newest and most interesting scarcity-based NFTs to hit the market, with only 16,384 unique offerings minted. Each Hashmask a digital portrait (think – Picasso meets Day of the Dead meets CryptoPunks) with a variety of unique attributes (masks, backgrounds, skin colors, glyphs, eye colors, hairstyles, etc…). Hashmask drops were originally available for initial purchase from January 28, 2021 – Feb 11, 2021, and are now only available through reselling. Since the initial distribution, sales have surpassed $45M.
What separates Hashmasks from the many other CryptoPunks clones is the implementation of Non-Changing Tokens (NCTs). Each Hashmask accumulates 10 NCTs per day. Upon accumulating 1,830 NCTs, the owner has the ability to change the name of their Hashmask, creating a kind of community art project and adding to each Hashmask’s artistic blockchain history and value. Inaugural buyers were given 3660 NCTs upon purchase (equivalent to 2 name changes). NCTs will stop being emitted on Jan 26, 2031 – and changes will be made only by NCTs remaining until they are used up. The rest, they say, will be history.