A year ago, nonfungible tokens were written off as jokes. They were sold for confounding prices that made NFTs both scary and confusing. But one year later… NFTs are still scary and confusing. Many still write them off too — fair enough — yet the burgeoning industry has survived longer than many prediced.
Slowly but surely, they’re entering the mainstream. Celebrities with household names use NFTs as profile pictures, seen by the tens of millions who follow them. Brands like Nike and Adidas are striking deals with NFT makers to enter the metaverse.
If you’re peripherally aware of NFTs, you probably know of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Maybe it’s the only one you know about. But though it is the most well known NFT collection, it’s but one of many “blue chip” (which typically refers to a sustained floor price of over 10 ether) sets that, for good or ill, have acted as NFT market pioneers. This is a list of those NFT collections worth knowing.
The most recent addition is a collection of land deeds for Otherside, the upcoming Bored Ape metaverse, which broke Ethereum upon its April 30 launch.
A few notes before we begin. First, this list only includes rundowns of NFT collections, not stand-alone pieces of art and not NFTs 101. The unspoken convention is that most NFT collections span between 5,000 and 10,000 tokens, featuring variations of the same design that make some much rarer than others. This has come into vogue for, among other reasons, the fact that it encourages communities to grow around these collections. As we’ll see, membership into a genuine and helpful community is a big selling point for some big-name NFTs.
Second, the term “floor price” is used frequently: It essentially refers to the cheapest price you can buy an NFT for in any given collection. (I’m using USD for simplicity.) For instance, Bored Ape Yacht Club’s floor price of $340,000 means the lowest price a holder has listed their NFT for sale is $340,000, but sales go far above that.
- Launch price and date: Free, June 2017
- Current floor price: 55 ether ($170,000)
- Highest sale: 8,000 ether ($23.3 million)
CryptoPunks is the OG NFT collection: 10,000 8-bit Punks. It’s often cited as the first NFT set, and it’s definitely the first set to gain significant cultural traction. While future successful collections have become blue chips by offering some kind of utility — whether real or imagined — buying a CryptoPunk is likened to buying a piece of history.
The collection created by Larva Labs launched in 2017 and was a “free mint” at the time: Customers only had to pay a transaction fee, but nothing for the NFT itself. It’s now impossible to buy a CryptoPunk for less than $150,000. CryptoPunks set two trends that would become standard fare in the NFT world. Thanks in large part to CryptoPunks, most (though not all) collections are 10,000 pieces strong.
Second, each CryptoPunk has a series of traits and attributes that rank it on a scale of rarity in the set. This collectable quality is something you now see in practically every NFT set, and CryptoPunks is often cited as the inspiration. The CryptoPunks brand was bought earlier this year by Yuga Labs, creators of the next collection.
Bored Ape Yacht Club
- Launch price and date: 0.08 ether ($250), April 2021
- Current floor price: 116 ether ($341,000)
- Highest sale: 769 ether ($2.3 million)
If the average NFT speculator knows any collection, it’s Bored Ape Yacht Club. That’s because of the celebrities that have bought into the collection and use its apes as profile pictures on social media: Steph Curry, Eminem, Jimmy Fallon… it’s quite the list.
Bored Ape Yacht Club’s creator has aspirations far beyond being an NFT collection, too. Yuga Labs launched cryptocurrency Ape Coin in March 2022, the same month it bought the CryptoPunks and Meebits brands, and is developing a metaverse called Otherside. The team’s ambitions also extend past the blockchain and virtual reality with a movie trilogy in development, partnerships with companies like Adidas and a forthcoming vinyl figurine line.
Bored Ape Yacht Club’s floor price is high because, like everything else on this list, owning one has become a status symbol. But also, many are betting that if any NFT collection can survive and thrive in the mainstream, it’ll be Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Mutant Ape Yacht Club
- Launch price and date: 3 ether ($9,000), August 2021
- Current floor price: 26 ether ($76)
- Highest sale: 350 ether ($1.1 million)
Most NFT projects have road maps that sketch out the months or years that follow initial public sale. The first phase of Yuga Labs’ road map for the Bored Ape Yacht Club was a mysterious airdrop. Every BAYC owner received a free vial of mutant serum that came in one of three varieties: M1, M2 and M3. Owners then had the option of holding on to the serum or pouring it on their Bored Ape. Doing the latter would produce an entirely new NFT for a newer collection: the Mutant Ape Yacht Club.
Alongside the 10,000 Mutants that could be created by BAYC holders, an additional 10,000 were sold in a public sale via Dutch auction. Mutants started at 3 ether ($9,000) and dropped in price every 10 minutes. They sold out almost immediately, even at these high prices. (Most NFTs have a public sale price between $250 and $600.)
MAYC are essentially what they say on the tin: mutated Bored Apes. The premise was to expand the collection and make the brand more accessible to newcomers. BAYC NFTs were already inaccessibly expensive by August 2021, trading for well over 20 ether ($60,000). With 20,000 NFTs in the collection, MAYCs are less scarce and therefore less costly than the original collection. Still, they’ve become blue chips in their own right.
BAYC holders who held onto their Mutant Serum are sitting pretty, too. The M1 and M2 Serums fetch well over $100,000 each. There were only ever eight M3 Serums created, so they sell for much more. The last time one was sold, it was for 1,542 ether… aka $5.9 million. There are two M3 Serums yet to be used on Bored Ape NFTs.
- Launch price and date: 305 Ape Coin ($5,800), April 30, 2022.
- Current floor price: 3.45 ether ($10,100).
- Highest sale: 333 ether ($950,000).
Otherside is the last Bored Ape Yacht Club-related NFT on this list, and also the most recent to launch. It’s a collection of land deeds for Yuga Labs’ upcoming Otherside metaverse, which promises to be a huge MMO-style game with a true digital economy that runs off NFTs, like these land deeds, and Ape Coin. The public sale on April 30 consisted of 55,000 land deed NFTs, with the rest being airdropped to BAYC and MAYC owners. Another 100,000 will be distributed to those who “contribute” to Otherside in the coming months.
The relatively low floor price is deceptive. It’s a huge collection, about 10-times the size of a typical NFT set, and there’s huge disparities within it. Six-figure sales for scarce land, with rare artifacts and attributes, are common. Between the public sale, in which Yuga Labs raised $320 million, and secondary sales on OpenSea, nearly $1 billion has been spent on Otherside land in less than a week.
- Launch price and date: 0.01 ether ($30), March 2021
- Current floor price: 43 ether ($126,000)
- Highest sale: 215 ether ($755,000)
Bored Apes aren’t the only primates of note in the NFT space. They were beaten to the punch two months earlier by CyberKongz, a pixelated batch of gorillas.
CyberKongz is often cited as the first NFT collection with “utility” — that is, art that does more than just be art. Initially, the collection consisted of 1,000 “genesis” Kongz. These generated 10 $BANANA (a cryptocurrency) per day. If you owned two Kongz and 600 $BANANA, you could breed those NFTs to create a BabyKong. (In the trio above, the center NFT is a BabyKong while the left and right NFTs are Genesis Kongz.)
The BabyKongz don’t generate $BANANA tokens, but they sell for around $15,000 each.
It took nearly a week for CyberKongz to sell out, but their popularity is in the fact that owning them generates passive income. At the height of their value (so far), $BANANA tokens were selling for $20 each — and Genesis Kongz produce 10 tokens per day. Even today, the tokens go for $5 each. Assuming that price remains stable, that’s approximately $18,200 in passive income a year. Not bad if you bought a Genesis Kong in 2021 for $30.
- Launch price and date: 1 ether ($3,000) at a Dutch auction, January 2022
- Current floor price: 28.5 ether ($84,000)
- Highest sale: 420 ether ($1.3 million)
Since the NFT boom, many collections have tried to embody the anime aesthetic. A few projects (The Sevens, 0n1 Force and Divine Anarchy) garnered huge amounts of hype and saw big launch price sales, but couldn’t sustain that excitement long term. Azuki is only a few months old, but it seems to have done the trick.
Crafted by former Overwatch art designer Arnold Tsang, Azuki has become one of the few collections to reach a floor price of over 20 ether ($62,069). It may dip from its current perch of 24ish ether, but Azuki’s success is already staggering: With $570 million-worth of Azuki NFTs bought and sold on OpenSea alone, it’s the sixth most successful collection of all time.
There’s also a secondary collection called Beanz, which is… a set of beans. They sell for $17,000, and no one knows what they do.
World of Women
- Launch price and date: 0.08 ether ($260), July 2021
- Current floor price: 6 ether ($17,000)
- Highest sale: 260 ether ($634,000)
In most online circles, WoW refers to World of Warcraft. In NFTs, those three letters mean World of Women. This collection’s appeal is obvious: Crypto communities are notoriously dude-centric, and NFT groups only a bit less so. World of Women is a project created exclusively by women and designed to encourage a more diverse NFT community.
Apart from the Bored Ape Yacht Club, it’s probably the NFT collection that’s caught the most mainstream attention. Owners of WoW NFTs include Dez Bryant, Eva Longoria and Reece Witherspoon. Witherspoon is perhaps the most passionate of the bunch, as her Hello Sunshine media company is producing a TV series and a film to expand the World of Women brand.
WoW’s success has been an inspiration for more woman-centric collections, like Boss Beauties and Sad Girls Bar.
- Launch price and date: 0.123 ether ($380), October 2021
- Current floor price: 20.7 ether ($61,000)
- Highest sale: 296.69 ether ($1.1 million)
There are a few reasons why Doodles has seen huge success. Its founders already have a background in NFTs for one, having worked on the 2017 CryptoKitties collection that crashed the Ethereum blockchain when NFTs were in their infancy. The team also manages the DoodleBank, a treasury with millions of dollars inside where holders can vote on how the funds are invested. Celebrities like Justin Bieber have bought in, too.
But really, Doodles went pop thanks to the art’s pastel colors and squiggly design aesthetic, which have become iconic in NFT circles.
Since launching in October 2021, the team has subsequently released an unusual second collection called Space Doodles. Unlike other secondary collections (like the Mutant Ape Yacht Club), Space Doodles is what’s called “Non-Dilutive.” It uses a blockchain technology called “wrapping” to change the NFT’s appearance without needing to create a new NFT.
Owners can strap their Doodle into a spaceship, but when they do the original Doodle NFT is “docked” in a vault. Take the Doodle out of the spaceship, and the Space Doodle goes into the vault and the original Doodle returns to the holder’s wallet. The idea is to experiment with changing the appearance of existing NFTs without diminishing their overall scarcity by creating a secondary collection.
As more NFT brands expand into movies, games and TV, the ability to change the appearance of existing NFTs is a trend we’re likely to see more of.
- Launch price and date: 2.5 ether ($7,500) at a Dutch auction, May 2021
- Current floor price: 9 ether ($26,000)
- Highest sale: 130 ether ($492,000)
You can’t be in the NFT space for long without chancing across Gary Vaynerchuk, better known as Gary V. Vaynerchuk, who runs VaynerX and is the co-founder of Resy. He’s also a huge NFT proponent and is among the burgeoning industry’s biggest influencers. His first collection, VeeFriends, launched in May 2021 and has retained a floor price near or above 10 ether ($30,000).
The collection harnesses Vaynerchuk’s status as a popular NFT figure: Each token was drawn by Vaynerchuk and grants three years’ access to VeeCon, Vaynerchuk’s annual “Web3” conference. Many also came with special benefits, like gifts from Vaynerchuk and his team or the ability to hang out with the man himself.
A sequel, VeeFriends Season 2, was released in April, and features 50,000 NFTs instead of the original’s 10,000.
- Launch price and date: 2 ether ($6,100), November 2021
- Current floor price: 18 ether ($53,000)
- Highest sale: 450 ether ($1.25 million)
Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist with 2.5 million followers on Instagram, so it makes sense that an NFT collection designed by him would also do well. CloneX is not only the second biggest anime-style collection behind Azuki; it’s also the most popular 3D collection in the NFT world.
CloneX is a 20,000-strong collection about two things: diversity and fashion. Characters feature a wide range of skin tones, hairstyles and more. The developer company, RTFKT, specializes in virtual sneaker design and decked out the characters with hypebeast aesthetic.
CloneX is likely to be around for a while: Nike, in an effort to plant its foot squarely in the metaverse, bought RTFKT in December 2021. That’s already paid dividends for CloneX holders, who earlier this year were airdropped mystery boxes that ended up containing virtual Nike sneakers — some of which have sold for five figures.
- Launch price and date: 0.06 ether ($189), July 2021
- Current floor price: 4.7 ether ($14,000)
- Highest sale: 320 ether ($1.1 million)
If you speak to NFT proponents, one argument they often make is that NFTs are good for artists. Cool Cats and its designer Clon are in many ways the poster child for that position. For over 10 years, Clon drew a character named “Blue Cat” under The Catoonist pseudonym, but it never caught on. His Cool Cats NFT collection, however, did.
Inspired by his Blue Cat, over $312 million has been spent on Cool Cats. One fifth of profits go back to community initiatives, and there’s a secondary collection called Cool Pets but, like Doodles (which it preceded), it’s become a hit thanks to the financially accessible art.
- Launch price and date: 2.5 ether ($10,000), April 2022
- Current floor price: 29.5 ether ($86,000)
- Highest sale: 350 ether ($1.02 million)
Behind Otherside, Moonbirds is the freshest collection on the list, having minted in the middle of April 2022 for the unusually large launch price of about $10,000. Alas, buyers were purchasing more than mere pixelated owls: Moonbirds is a product of Proof Collective, an influential trio that includes Digg founder Kevin Rose.
It’s possibly the best example of an NFT acting as both profile picture art and community membership. Proof Collective has an exclusive Discord frequented by some of the biggest players in crypto and NFTs. (Or at least, I think so; I’m not a big player, so I’m not in the Discord.) Full access to the Discord is only granted by owning 1 of 1,000 Proof Collective NFT passes, which would cost $334,000 right now.
Moonbirds is a step down from that, granting some access to the Discord and creating a secondary community of big players (medium players?).
For more about NFTs, check out my other explainer about nonfungible tokens as a whole. We’ve got a weekly newsletter about NFTs and cryptocurrency, too.