NFTs: A Brief History

A Brief History

Although NFTs, have been around since 2014, 2021 was the first year they started to break through into the mainstream and began disrupting the art world. Cartoon apes, pixelated punks and childlike doodles of well, Doodles. You've probably seen these images, or "avatars" being used as profile pictures on Twitter, Instagram and even Linkedin.

Here's a very brief timeline of the most notable moments of NFT history.

2014 - The First NFT

The first official 'NFT' was minted by Kevin McCoy on May 3rd, 2014. He minted his non-fungible token “Quantum" - this was way before the crypto market exploded.

Quantum is a pixelated image of a pulsating, hypnotic octagon in fluorescent hues. As of today, the one of a kind “Quantum” art piece is on sale for seven million dollars.

Kevin McCoy, “Quantum” (2014-21), non-fungible token (image courtesy of Sotheby’s

2017 - The First Randomly Generated Collection

John Watkinson and Matt Hall, are the creators of Larva Labs.
The duo created a collection of uniquely generated characters on the Ethereum blockchain. No two characters would be the same and they would be limited to 10,000. The project name is Cryptopunks. Since going live, the project has traded over 783,000 Ethereum ($2,489,595,480) and the collection of 10,000 avatars are currently owned by 3,300 unique owners.

Cryptopunks by Larva Labs

2021 - The Breakthrough

When Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, sold his NFT Everydays: The First 5,000 Days (2021) for $69 million at Christie’s, everything changed.

The astronomical price made him the third-most expensive living artist in the world. While NFTs had started generating up impressive prices on NFT marketplaces, this was the first time a prestigious auction house offered an NFT. This staggering sale effectively opened the flood gates, signifying that NFTs were not just a passing trend. Many people who have entered this risky market credit this sale as the moment they decided to dedicate themselves to the emerging medium, whether that meant buying their first NFT or clocking up sleepless nights working on their own collection to mint and sell.

Beeple, "Everydays: The First 5,000 Days", 2021 (Photo : Courtesy Christie's)

2021 - The Rise of the PFP

Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10,000 cartoon apes sporting an array of different accessories, hairstyles, clothes and facial expressions. This collection of NFTs have not only come to dominate the space, they've fundamentally shaped it by adding a community element. A private Discord community where owners could network and chat, using their Ape as their online identity. As the collection gained popularity, 'BAYC' began offering real life parties at NFT.NYC and Art Basel Miami, as well as other meet ups and real life utility (uses) or 'perks'.

In the wake of its success, the BAYC project spurred a wave of similar projects to launch. These projects have since been coined 'Profile Pic NFTs' (PFP NFTs), because they are used by the owners as their online avatar, or profile pictures on Twitter. The PFP NFT space has become saturated with projects depicting any animal you can think of, offering their own community benefits and perks. We're not sure how long the PFP phase will last, whether it's a forever trend or a bubble that's about to burst. But one thing I am sure of is it's a seriously risky investment and one that I would steer clear of if you are new to the space.

Photo : Courtesy Christie's

Where do we go from here?

I believe there is a promising future in this exciting new space. I believe that any creator can and should research and tap into the power of Web 3 technology. With the boom of PFP NFT projects aside, and being truly creator first, I foresee a world where artists can extend their creative liberties and reach new audiences excited to collect and appreciate their work.

While the history of the space is interesting, the future of NFTs and digital collectibles has infinite possibilities. As the space transitions from niche and experimental to exceedingly more useful and mainstream, creators will discover new ways to value their content through collaboration, royalties, and more direct connections between themselves and their fans. NFTs may soon be a technology vital to everyday life, so creators should at least be tinkering with the incorporation of it in their work. It's difficult to predict the future, and with new technology comes new obstacles and confusion, but one thing is for sure; we are yet to imagine the extent of what will come from digital collectibles in years to come.

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