The most successful NFT projects of all time

What are the most successful NFT projects of all time? What do they have in common? And how are they faring during the so-called crypto winter?

We spent some time sorting through scores of posts, podcasts and punditry from top NFT collectors and came to a rough consensus about the top NFT projects that rise above the rest.

Back in March I wrote about three foundational NFT projects: CryptoPunks, AutoGlyphs and Chromie Squiggles. Two of them made it onto this top 12 list, based on the historical significance and their continued resonance. (The fact that they’ve maintained their popularity suggests a certain stability to the NFT market, even as cryptocurrencies continue to churn through choppy waters.) I also wrote about Top NFT projects to get involved with, including several modeled after World of Women.

Now keep in mind, this roundup isn’t a list of the most successful NFT drops. Many individual artists have done astonishingly well with creating their own limited drops — artists like Beeple, Pak, Hackatao, FEWOCiOUS and Grimes. Nor is this a roundup of the most successful NFT collections in the marketplace. (For that list, check out CryptoSlam.)

Instead, we’re focused on the top NFT community projects. Buying an NFT from one of these drops entitles you to become a part of something bigger.

Here, then, is our ranking of the top 12 NFT community projects of all time. (Know of others that deserve to be listed? Point them out in the comments!)

1. CryptoPunks

punks
Cryptopunks are generally regarded as the most iconic NFT collection of all time.

CryptoPunks led the way in setting the standard for PFPs (profile pictures) in the blockchain world, and they’re considered the gold standard of NFT collections. In fact, punks were inspiration for the ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. And while other projects like Bored Apes have a higher floor price, we think this project will stand the test of time.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: PFP
  • Price floor: 68.68 eth ($116,800 USD)
  • Highest-priced: CryptoPunk #5822 sold for roughly $24 million in ether in February 2022.

 


 

2. Bored Ape Yacht Club

bored-apes
A collage from Sotheby’s featuring a selection of the Bored Apes offered in Lot one.

The Bored Apes have come down to earth a bit from their all-time highs, but this collection demonstrated full stop the power of community – when that community is forming around scarce digital assets.  One savvy move that added rocket fuel to the collection’s continued ascension: owners get the commercial rights to the digital asset. Meantime, Yuga Labs, parent company of the Bored Apes, launched a new metaverse project in May called Otherside. For the project, the company sold 55,000 plots of digital lands for the total equivalent of $320 million, making it the largest known mint of an NFT project to date.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the aesthetic or of the Apes’ domination of the NFT mindspace over the past year. The Apes’ buying up Times Square billboards should not be what the general public associates with NFTs. (Someone said to me yesterday, “NFTs? Oh, you mean those weird monkeys.”) But hats off to the community they’ve built.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: PFP + utility/governance
  • Lowest-priced: 85.5 eth ($145,500 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Bored Ape #8817 sold for $3.4 million in October 2021.

 


 

3. Moonbirds

moonbirds
From the Moonbirds collection.

I’m still bummed that I missed out on the drawing for the opportunity to bid on Moonbirds when they launched in April 2022 from Kevin Rose and the folks at the Proof Collective. It was instantly apparent that Moonbirds had all the qualities for a successful launch: a tech celebrity founder with a wide reach (now primarily the Proof podcast), an active Discord, a community focus, an emphasis on quality, and a team dedicated to building cool Web3 stuff. The mint raised a reported $66 million for the community out of a total raise of about $340 million, according to Planet Crypto.

While the mother ship Proof Collective’s NFTs are more valuable, we like the fact that Rose and company sought to make Moonbirds more accessible to the masses by releasing 10,000 of them in a Dutch auction. Moonbirders are intensely loyal — the Proof social events at NFT NYC were packed.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: utility + PFP
  • Lowest-priced: 19.73 eth (about $33,000 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Moonbirds #7205 sold for 265 wrapped eth, or roughly $804,600, shortly after launch.

 


 

4. Doodles

doodles
Some of the diverse characters or avatars in the Doodles collection.

Created by three professional animators, Doodles is a collection of 10,000 generative NFTs launched in October 2021. Within the Doodles ecosystem live humans, cats, pickles, apes, sentient flames, skeletons, aliens and more.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: PHP + governance
  • Lowest-priced: 10 eth ($17,000 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Doodle #6914 sold for 296 eth ($1.1 million at the time) in January 2022.

 


 

5. Azuki

Some of the anime-style NFTs in the Azuki collection.
Some of the anime-style NFTs in the Azuki collection.

Azuki is a high-concept collection of anime-style avatars that is aiming to become a community-driven metaverse brand. Owning an Azuki gives you membership access to The Garden, offering exclusive streetwear collabs, NFT drops, live events and more. The collection was designed by Chiru Labs, a start-up launched by artists and technologists in Los Angeles.

The initial drop of 8,700 NFTs in January 2022 sold out in three minutes, raking in over $29 million. Another $2 million worth were sold in a private offering a few days later. Over the following month, the collection saw nearly $300 million in resale transaction volume across several major NFT marketplaces, Forbes reported.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: PHP + utility/governance
  • Lowest-priced: 9.4 eth ($17,000 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Azuki #9605 sold for 420.7 eth (then $1.4 million USD) in March 2022.

 


 

6. Chromie Squiggles

The Chromie Squiggles exhibit at the New York City gallery Venus Over Manhattan.

The seminal generative art project Chromie Squiggles was the first project released on ArtBlocks, considered one of the highest-quality generative art marketplaces. Founder-artist Snowfro’s influence on the NFT artworld extends far beyond his own work — several other ArtBlocks projects could have made this list. Some Squiggles owners formed their own DAO as a community sprung up organically around the colorful works. Chromie Squiggles even squiggled their way into Manhattan’s Upper East Side art gallery Venus Over Manhattan earlier this year. 

  • # of NFTs in collection: 9,700
  • Type of NFT: art
  • Lowest-priced: 9.27 eth ($15,800 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Chromie Squiggle #3784 sold for 750 eth (then $2.44 million, now $1.28 million USD) in August 2021

 


 

7. CloneX

clone-x
NFTs in the CloneX collection by Takashi Murakami.

 

CloneX, a collaboration between design studio RTFKT and Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, is a collection of 20,000 anime-style digital avatars. Each clone consists of one of eight DNA types and is drawn from more than 300 traits. Holders get special access to events and early releases of RTFKT drops.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 19,326
  • Type of NFT: avatars + utility
  • Lowest-priced: 8.3 eth ($15,800 USD)
  • Highest-priced: CloneX #4594 sold for 450 eth ($1.25 million at the time) in February 2022.

 


 

8. VeeFriends

VeeFriends

I wrote about the launch of the VeeFriends collection back in May 2021 with admiration for Gary Vaynerchuk’s unswerving dedication to support his community — to support his supporters — with NFTs  that offered real-world value, including admittance to a series of conferences Vaynerchuk was organizing (VeeCon). With crudely drawn imagery, this was decidedly not a generative art project. Instead, what made it special was the thought he put into customizing NFTs for different experiences, like the Gift Goat that gets you surprise gifts from epic brands, or the Courtside Cat that entitled you to sit courtside with Gary at a New York Knicks game. Crazy cool, right?

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,300
  • Type of NFT: Utility
  • Lowest-priced: 6.96 eth ($11,800 USD)
  • Highest-priced: VeeFriends’ Patient Panda sold for 70 eth (now $119,300 USD) in June 2021

 


 

9. Gutter Cat Gang

gutter-cat
NFTs in the Gutter Cat Gang collection.

 

Gutter Cat Gang is a markedly successful NFT project with more than 3,000 one-of-a-kind NFTs backed by an avid community. The initial drop sold out in less than 10 minutes. The project contains a solid utility element with a focus on building a metaverse centered on the Gutter Cats. Each Gutter Cat is randomly generated from 117 different traits with nine different categories. Cousins include Gutter Rats, Gutter Dogs and Gutter Pigeons.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 3,000
  • Type of NFT: PFP + utility/governance
  • Lowest-priced: 6 eth ($10,200 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Gutter Cat #1579 sold for $18,300 in June 2022.

 


 

10. World of Women

world-of-women
The World of Women collection is all about celebrating powerful women.

World of Women is a  community celebrating representation, inclusivity and equal opportunities for all, created by Yam Karkai. World of Women has inspired several copycat NFT collections since its launch (on my birthday!) in July 2021.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: generative art
  • Lowest-priced: 3.3 eth ($5,600 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Woman #416 sold for $15,400 in June 2022.

 


 

11. Cool Cats

cool-cats

Cool Cats is a collection of randomly generated NFTs with a variety of outfits, faces and colors. Each Cool Cat consists of a distinctive toon-like body, hat, face and outfit. The Cool Cats are building Cooltopia, a gamified ecosystem built on interactivity and utility, community rewards and brand partnerships.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 10,000
  • Type of NFT: PFP + utility/governance
  • Lowest-priced: 3 eth ($5,100 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Cool Cat #1490 sold for $1.4 million in October 2021.

 


 

12. Meebits

meebits
Some of the avatars in the 20,000-NFT Meebits collectioin.

Meebits — like CryptoPunks, a collection from Larva Labs — launched in May 2021 (on OpenSea) and generated $75 million in sales almost immediately. The algorithmically generated 3D-voxel characters are inspired by Minecraft characters. They can be broken down into seven basic types, including humans, pigs and skeletons.

  • # of NFTs in collection: 20,000
  • Type of NFT: avatar
  • Lowest-priced: 4.75 eth ($7,700 USD)
  • Highest-priced: Meebits #17522 sold for 1,000 eth (then $2.1 million USD) in July 2021.

So what do all of these projects have in common? The communities formed around an idea of theme that resonated with thousands of people rather than as a get-rich-quick scheme to benefit only a handful of insiders.

They took time to prepare, with high-quality digital assets created by skilled designers, artists or animators in most cases.

And increasingly, they have been taking on additional attributes around utililty and group decision-making (without the need for a DAO) rather than focusing on the underlying digital asset alone.

Sounds like a continued recipe for success.

Honorable mentions

Certainly there’s been community interest around other NFT releases, ranging from Dmitri Cherniak’s 1,000-NFT Ringers to the aforementioned AutoGlyphs. But for true community-based NFT projects, you’ll also want to check out:

Pudgy Penguins on OpenSea

CyberBrokers (and on OpenSea)

CrypToadz (and on OpenSea)

GoblinTown (and on OpenSea)

FLUF World (and on OpenSea)

Invisible Friends (and on OpenSea)

8sian (and on OpenSea)

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