The best NFT projects are driven by thriving communities.
There are plenty of ways to measure the vitality of a community: the number of members in a Discord server, the amount of Twitter followers, or more qualitative indicators like insight and connection. Community is the driving force, but any discussion of NFTs that leaves out the topic of money feels incomplete.
So how are the two connected?
In many cases, the marketplace value of an NFT collection is more than just a financial measure – it is a clear and powerful signal that the community behind it is strong. The most culturally relevant, recognizable projects will generally command the greatest value – after all, the value of a collection is ultimately decided by the people.
When it comes to NFT projects, where there are large sums of money, there are bound to be bustling communities.
Let’s take a look at some of the top NFT projects, and how their financial value demonstrates the quality of their communities.
You couldn’t make a list of the “Top NFT Communities” without the collection that started it all. Without the CryptoPunks, there would be no NFT scene as we know it today – and their long-running record speaks to the permanence and cultural significance of both the Punks and its community of first-movers.
The 10,000 CryptoPunks were released by Larva Labs on June 23, 2017 – and free for the taking. The two-member team behind the algorithmically-generated characters did not sell their collection, but offered them up for free. That meant it was “first come, first serve” to pick one up.
Not all Punks were created equal, though – some were generated to have rarer traits than others. Most have a “punky” aesthetic about them, defined by mohawks, sunglasses, or hats. However, there are some rarer ones – the Apes, Zombies, and Aliens – which retail at generous premiums over the “generic punks.”
However, in retrospect, any Punk would’ve done just fine. Those once-free digital collectables are a lot more expensive than “free” nowadays. As of February 2022, the price floor – or the lowest price that somebody was willing to sell their Punk for – was 67.4 ETH ($209,479). Even that figure is a far cry from what the rarer ones have sold for, though. The most expensive sale of a Punk was one of the aliens, which went for 4,200 ETH ($7.57 million) on Mar. 11, 2022.
Based on those hefty figures, Punks are the most valuable collection in NFT history. More than $2.03 billion worth of sales have taken place since it got its start in 2017. And on any given day, the Punks trade more in volume than the next three collections combined.
While it’s an exclusive crowd, and owning one almost certainly means celebrity status in the Ethereum ecosystem, it has perhaps set the mold for what NFT communities aspire to be.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club
The CryptoPunks might have been the first, but The Bored Ape Yacht Club has given it a run for its money in terms of modern relevance. This fast-growing NFT community might even have the ingredients and hype necessary to eclipse the value of the CryptoPunks.
The Bored Apes, which launched on April 22, 2021, are one of the most “zeitgeisty” collections of the moment. However, it wasn’t always that way. The collection sold for just 0.08 ETH at launch. Today, the 10,000 algorithmically generated apes and their 170 possible traits – that’s expressions, clothing, and accessories – boast a price floor of 92 ETH ($294,400)
. The most expensive Ape
was sold for 769 ETH ($2.3 million)
on September 30, 2021.
Not only are the Bored Apes valuable, but the Yacht Club has many distinguished members
. Among them are Mark Cuban
, Steve Aoki
, Stephen Curry
, Justin Bieber
, Serena Williams
, Shaquille O’Neal
, and Post Malone
The company it keeps is one reason for its generous valuation (and its hype.) However, the BAYC also has a number of other “benefits”
that come with membership in the club. Among them are access to a “member’s-only graffiti board”, exclusive parties, more forthcoming benefits, and the Bored Ape’s spinoff collection.
The Bored Ape’s spinoff collection, The Mutant Ape Yacht Club, was launched on August 29, 2021. This spinoff collection includes 20,000 unique NFTs which were airdropped to existing BAYC holders or minted in a public sale. These collectables aren’t as expensive, or exclusive, as their predecessor. However, they command interest given their proximity to the core collection.
A skeptic might roll their eyes when they hear, “NFTs are the future”, and will be used for “everything.” However, beyond the conventions of high-value collections, NFTs are increasingly being used to represent ownership over other digital assets – including assets in video games.
might be one of the most famous, and popular, implementations of NFT technology. It rose to prominence shortly after the launch of CryptoKitties
, one of the first “blockchain games”, which pioneered the ERC-721 NFT standard
that nearly all Ethereum-based NFT projects now use. The Kitties launched in November 2017 and Axie launched months later in March 2018.
However, what set Axie apart from the Kitties was its strong Play-To-Earn (P2E) lean. Its ascent to stardom was also aided by another huge factor – it elicited comparisons to cult favorite franchise and video game series Pokemon. To get started, users would buy three Axies, which are in-game creatures represented by NFTs. Users can then use these Axies to play the game, generating an in-game cryptocurrency called Smooth Love Potion (SLP) in the process.
Though it has caught flack from people who have described it as “pay-to-play-to-earn”, its digital economy has become a leading example for other blockchain-based games. Axie Infinity is the most successful NFT collection of all-time based on sales volume, with more than $3.9 billion in NFT sales
as of February 2022. The game’s “market token”
, which can be used to buy Axies and other resources such as land on its marketplace, has a market capitalization of over $4 billion
now. The game’s in-game token, $SLP
, sits just under a $100 million
NBA Top Shot & NFL All Day
have come a long way since their formative days as first-movers and innovators. They created the ERC-721 standard
which is now commonplace in most Ethereum projects and one of the blockchain’s first video games in CryptoKitties
. These are both notable achievements, but Dapper’s star has risen even higher in the years since it revolutionized the NFT space on Ethereum.
In fact, their star has risen so high that they no longer need the world’s second biggest blockchain – nor the cryptocurrency that backs it. Instead, Dapper has created two evolving collections on their own proprietary blockchain, Flow. Those collections – NBA Top Shot and NFL All Day – are NFT’d moments from highlight-worthy plays in the National Basketball Association and National Football League.
The popularity of American football and basketball is one factor which has turned the Top Shot franchise into a monster. Its success is also an exception to an informal rule in this list: almost every major NFT community in the public conversation is based on the Ethereum blockchain. That’s why Top Shot’s presence on Flow is distinct and important.
NBA Top Shot
, the first of these two collections, launched in May 2020. NBA Top Shot
was reported to have generated over $700 million
in sales within its first year. Though its initial hype has worn off a little, it still sits inside the Top 5 NFT Collections ranked by All-Time Volume
NFL All Day is a little newer. It launched in early 2021, just in time for the Super Bowl. Given its “newness”, it’s hard to speak to how successful it is. However, it has already amassed a small – albeit significant – following on Twitter.
Ethereum Name Service
Unlike the aforementioned collections, the Ethereum Name Service (ENS) isn’t renowned for its hefty valuations or collectability. Instead, it’s known for its sheer impact – and utility – in the Ethereum ecosystem. It’s not a collection, but rather a really smart application of NFT technology.
If you’ve spent some time on the blockchain, you probably know full and well that wallet addresses are long and unmemorable. ENS is one solution for that. Users can use ENS to register .eth domains
, which can be used in lieu of a wallet address. Domain owners can also add metadata – including connections with other top-level domains such as .com or .xyz domains – to their registration. The registration, and ownership, of the domain is represented as an NFT.
They’re also pretty affordable. An ENS domain costs just $5.00 per year to register as of February 2022. That means that even if you register for multiple years, you’re likely to pay more in transaction fees than registration fees.
Much like the Apes, the ENS community has found famous company, too. Among the most popular .eth owners
are Paris Hilton
, Trey Songz
, and Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin
Most impressively, ownership over the ENS “domainspace” belongs to its users. The Ethereum Name Service is directed and managed by a DAO, or Decentralized Autonomous Organization, which is allowed to vote on matters affecting the entire name service and its future. Ownership in the protocol is represented by ownership of $ENS, the governance token of ENS. It was famously airdropped to early adopters in November 2021.
If the success of these NFT projects tell us anything, it is that the importance of community cannot be understated. Whether they are collectibles, video game assets, or utility-driven tokens, the people of the web3 ecosystem continue to drive its relevance. NFTs are about more than just money, but it is clear that cash can be a leading indicator of quality.
Written by the Late Checkout team.