NFTs in 2021 : A Year in Review

NFTs in 2021 : A Year in Review

January 3, 2022

2021 was the year of the “NFT Revolution” — markets generated over $23 billion in trading volume this year, and it’s expected to increase even more in 2022. But NFTs have been around for quite some time already… so what made this year so special?

When hearing the term NFTs, you’re likely to think of the frequently mentioned Cryptopunks and Bored Apes. Aside from these collections, countless new projects were introduced in 2021 alongside the metaverse and GameFi.

Here are the top NFT collections of 2021:

Cryptopunks (Launched June 2017)

Bored Ape Yacht Club (Launched April 2021)

*On December 22nd, BAYC flipped over the all-time high ranking collection, Cryptopunks, with a floor price of 54ETH

Axie Infinity (Launched March 2018)

The Sandbox LAND (Launched December 2020)

Art Blocks (Launched November 2020)

Note: the above metrics were taken at the time of writing — discrepancies may exist between the above and current metrics.

A Recap

And as the year of NFTs, major events took place helping explain the explosive growth of the industry:

Q1: January — March 2021

  • The Rise of CryptopunksCryptopunks started facing a floor price explosion in Q1. The collection has traded between $480,000 to $1.25M this year (a huge jump from 2019, where it traded between $60-$600). The highest valued Cryptopunk traded to date is #7523, which sold for $11.75M in March.
  • Record-breaking NFT sale — Digital artist Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) sold his NFT The First 5000 Days for $69M at Sotheby’s.
Left: Beeple’s ‘The First 5000 Days’, Right: Cryptopunk #7523

Q2: April — June 2021

  • Release of Bored Ape Yacht Club collection — the collection sold out in a day, now owned by some of the world’s biggest names like Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Curry, Post Malone and Logan Paul.
  • The Age of Profile Picture (PFP) NFTs — pioneered by Cryptopunks, similar projects such as Fame Lady Squad and BAYC, started to enter the NFT space. PFP NFTs (used as social media avatars) began to dominate over the summer of 2021, now coined as the JPEG Summer.

Q3: July — September 2021

  • Fashion Power Houses Officially Entered the Metaverse — with Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana launching their NFT collection and Louis Vuitton releasing an NFT game; the NFT fashion space is predicted to continuously grow.
  • Visa Purchases a Cryptopunk — Cryptopunk #7610 was acquired by credit company giant Visa for $150,000.
  • First-ever NFT Auction in Asia by Christie’s Hong Kong — From their first auction, No Time Like Present, all the way till the end of 2021, the international auction house now stands at $150M revenue generated from NFT sales.
Left: Cryptopunk #7610, Right: Burberry NFT collection

Q4: October — December 2021

  • The Meteoric Rise of GameFi — With the introduction of blockchain gaming & P2E (play-to-earn) models, projects such as Axie Infinity started taking off this quarter. With this concept, players can use their NFTs as playable characters in blockchain games to earn rewards when playing. Axie Infinity, the pioneer of P2E games, now stands at a $6.36B market cap, listed as the most popular game in the field.
  • Surge of the Metaverse (virtual reality worlds) — Following Facebook’s rebranding to “Meta”, metaverse related projects started taking off. Now the market cap of the category stands at $26.6B, with noteworthy projects like The Sandbox and Decentraland experiencing growth rates of 19000%+ this past year.
  • Adidas x Bored Ape Yacht Club — Alongside Punks Comic and Gmoney, Adidas entered the metaverse in a four-way collaboration, releasing a BAYC x Adidas collection. The collection features Bored Apes with Adidas costumes and accessories.
  • Record-breaking NFT sale at $91.8M — Digital artist Pak, sold his artwork The Merge, for $91.8M via Nifty Gateway, recording the most expensive digital artwork sold to date.
Left: BAYC x Adidas collection announcement, Right: Axie Infinity

Looking Forward to 2022

August 2021 marked a record-breaking month in terms of NFT trading volume, reaching a 700% increase to $10.7B. Several analyses have been made to help explain this huge Q3 explosion. A report by Chainalysis pointed to the release of the Mutant Ape Yacht Club collection (created by NFT group Bored Ape Yacht Club) as a large driver for the increased trading activity. DappRadar’s report instead highlighted the influence of mainstream brands and celebrities like Sotheby’s, Nike, Adidas, Atari, Steve Aoki, Shaquille O’Neal and Snoop Dogg entering exclusive NFT communities during this quarter which sparked mainstream awareness and interest. Another significant drive was the introduction of blockchain games, which not only helped increase the utility of NFTs but also provided new passive income opportunities.

This isn’t to say that the industry isn’t facing its fair share of challenges — despite an overall successful year, NFT markets have been seeing a drop-off these past few months in trading volume, liquidity and average market capitalization.

Through it all, the top collections have been managing to fight this prevailing trend by maintaining their value whilst gaming and metaverse projects are gaining more momentum by the day. 2022 seems to be another promising year for NFTs, with the launch of new projects and more big names entering the market — renowned NBA player Stephen Curry announced the launch of his very own collection, Coinbase is launching an NFT marketplace, singer Ozzy Osbourne released his Cryptobatz collection and much more. With anticipation of further market growth, Hex Trust is building new products, services, and partnerships to remain at the forefront of this continuing revolution.

Clare Lee
Clare Lee
Marketing Analyst
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