Sotheby's sells CryptoPunk NFT for $16.4 million to Israeli billionaire

The auction house raised a total of $24.2m for 28 artists in its latest NFT auction.
The auction house raised a total of $24.2m for 28 artists in its latest NFT auction Photo credit: Getty Images

A non-fungible token (NFT) of digital artwork CryptoPunk #7523 has sold for a record NZ$16.4 million at Sotheby's in London.

CryptoPunks are a series of 10,000 pixel-art characters, each one unique, created by artists Matt Hall and John Watkinson in 2017. They were initially released for free but have since become valuable.

Only nine of the alien variety were created, of which #7523 is the only one with a face mask. Two previous alien CryptoPunks fetched more than NZ$9.7 million in previous sales.

The NFT was bought by Israeli entrepreneur Shalom Meckenzie, the largest shareholder of DraftKings, a fantasy sports and betting website. Forbes estimates his net worth at around NZ$2.2 billion.

NFTs are digital assets that have a blockchain-based digital server that allow for verification of ownership. When purchased, the NFT is sent to a buyer's cryptocurrency wallet, meaning no physical artwork changes hands.

Recently the famous 'Charlie bit my finger' YouTube video sold for just over NZ$1 million as an NFT, with the ownership changing hands but the video remaining online for everyone to access.

In total the Sotheby's NFT sale grossed NZ$24.2 million across 28 artists, according to Michael Bouhanna, a contemporary art specialist at the company. 

And the auction house has more CryptoPunk artwork for sale later this month, this time crossing over from the digital realm to the physical world.

When the digital artworks were originally released, 24 signed prints were created with five of those 24 prints to be sold at the end of this month.

Each of these punks has a mix of sought-after characteristics, the auction house says, including "black lipstick", "green eye shadow", "crazy hair", "luxurious beard", "hot lipstick", a "peak spike" and a "police cap".

Each will be accompanied by a wax-sealed envelope, rubber stamped and containing a "paper wallet" - a mnemonic code that provides access to the unique Ethereum-based token, Sotheby's wrote.