CryptoPunks is a non-fungible token (NFT) collection on the Ethereum blockchain. The project was launched in June 2017 by the Larva Labs studio, a two-person team consisting of Canadian software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson. The experimental project was inspired by the London punk scenes, the cyberpunk movement and electronic music artists Daft Punk. The crypto art blockchain project was an inspiration for the ERC-721 standard for NFTs and the modern crypto art movement, which has since become a part of the cryptocurrency and decentralized finance ecosystems on multiple blockchains.
CryptoPunks are commonly credited with starting the NFT craze of 2021, along with other early projects including CryptoKitties, Bored Ape Yacht Club and the sale of Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days. There are 10,000 CryptoPunk tokens. Today, due to their rarity and exclusivity, they are often used as a status symbol in cryptocurrency communities, as well as fetching higher prices on the open market and making their way to auction houses like Christie’s.
There are 10,000 unique CryptoPunks (6,039 male and 3,840 female), all of which are made digitally scarce through the use of blockchain technology. Each one was algorithmically generated through computer code and thus no two characters are exactly alike, with some traits being more rare than others. They were originally released for free and could be claimed by anyone with an Ethereum wallet. The only cost to claim a CryptoPunk during their initial release were Ethereum (ETH) “gas fees”, which at the time, were negligible due to little use of both the Ethereum blockchain and little knowledge of the project as well.
Certain traits and types of characters are rarer than others. While many projects of more recent development often sample through hundreds of possible traits, the CryptoPunks project was not as complex. Most of the 10,000 total punks are humans, but there are also three special types: Zombie (88), Ape (24) and Alien (9). Aside from character type, there were a potential of 87 additional attributes.
In October 2021 a single cryptopunk NFT transaction was made for 124,457 Ether ($532 million USD), much higher than all previous NFT sales, leading to speculation on social media that this could have been some kind of scam, security exploit or money laundering. Larva Labs said that the purchase was made with a flash loan where the NFT’s owner bought the item from themselves with borrowed money, taking out and repaying the loan within a single blockchain transaction.
“CryptoPunks” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.