Throughout 2021, interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) increased dramatically, with many celebrities and artists releasing their own series of virtual work.
The influx of interest has caused the cost of NFTs to skyrocket, with 2021 becoming a record-setting year in terms of sale prices.
The unique selling point of NFTs is that it tokenises digital art, giving the owner a sellable certificate which confirms the asset as original.
Memes alone can now be sold for over half a million dollars. Some – which at this point could be considered internet classics – sold this year have included the ‘Disaster Girl’, which sold for $473,000 and ‘Nyan Cat’, which sold for $590,000.
In order to see which NFTs have been the most popular during 2021, TRG Datacenters used Google Trends to see which of the most expensive series of artwork has sparked the most interest around the world.
It is important to note that the most popular blockchain used is Ethereum which utilises about 31 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year, equivalent to the whole of Nigeria (TRG Study).
The most searched for NFT in 2021 was ‘the first tweet’. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet published in March 2006 read “just setting up my twttr”.
Dorsey auctioned the tweet for charity in March 2021 to Sina Estavi, a Malaysian-based buyer, who bought it for $2.9 million using the Ether cryptocurrency.
The second most popular NFT was ‘Hashmasks’, a living art collectible put together by more than 70 artists worldwide and made up of 16,384 unique digital portraits.
One of the pieces sold with a 100,000% profit over a period of three days.
The most expensive piece placed only fifth in the ‘most popular’ top 10. The piece, created by Mike Winkelmann (Beeple), was called ‘Everydays: the First 5000 Days’ and is a collage of 5000 images. It sold for $69 million in February 2021.
Grimes, ex-partner of crypto aficionado Elon Musk, also got involved with the NFTs and appeared in the top five most popular list.
The Canadian musician sold a series of 10 pieces with the highest selling piece being a unique video called ‘Death of the Old’ that included cherubs, a cross, a sword and glowing light set to an original Grimes soundtrack.
Two further pieces called ‘Earth’ and ‘Mars’, both with thousands of copies, fetched $7,500 per copy with nearly 700 copies sold before sales closed.
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According to TRG Datacenters, the 10 most searched for NFT art pieces from 2021 were:
- The first tweet, sold for $2.9 million
- Hashmasks, sold for $16 million
- Doge NFT, sold for $4 million
- Grimes NFT, sold for $6 million
- Everydays: the First 5000 Days, sold for $69 million
- Rick and Morty NFT, sold for $1.6 million
- Crossroads NFT, sold for $6.6 million
- CryptoPunks #7804, sold for $7.5 million
- Genesis estate NFT, sold for $1.5 million
- World Wide Web Source Code NFT, sold for $5.4 million
Chris Hinkle, CTO at TRG Datacenters said: “NFTs rely on blockchain technology which has an increasingly damaging effect on the environment with many of these digital assets using the same amount of energy as a small country.
“Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain which has been largely criticised because a single transaction has a carbon footprint equivalent to 140,893 Visa credit card transactions. Ethereum has promised to cut its energy consumption by 99% come early 2022.
“As NFTs evolve and become more commonplace, it’s critical that as NFTs grow in popularity they take steps to safeguard our environment from further negative impact.”
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