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What are CryptoPunks?

CryptoPunks are collectible pieces of crypto-art, represented by NFTs on the Ethereum network. There are 10,000 small, 8-bit style punks, all with unique characteristics. As one of the first NFT-type projects to achieve fame, CryptoPunks would inspire many crypto artists and even the development of the ERC-721 token standard for digital collectibles. The project would become more prevalent in 2021 after some CryptoPunks were sold for millions of dollars - thus becoming one of the highest-priced NFTs.


At first glance, these small pixelated faces in small squares do not seem to be particularly special. Some smoke pipes. Others have hats. Some are even aliens. But looks can be deceiving when it comes to NFTs.

Simply by owning one of these funny-looking punks, you could probably buy yourself anything from a small apartment to a large mansion. With a maximum quantity of 10,000 units, these 8-bit styled CryptoPunks are currently in huge demand. They don't fight, can't be placed in "staking," and do nothing but be what they are: little punks. But it turns out that CryptoPunks is one of the first NFT-type projects in history.

Who created the CryptoPunks?

The CryptoPunks is the brainchild of New York-based Larva Labs, founded by Matt Hall and John Watkinson. The project was launched in 2017 as an experiment in the value of NFTs and art, helping to popularize what we know today as crypto-art ultimately.

They are a type of cryptocurrency but quite different from Bitcoin or BNB. Each of the 10,000 punks is a unique NFT hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. In addition, 3840 are female, while 6039 are male. The set also features a few apes, aliens, and zombies.

The combination and mix of different attributes ensure that each of the 10,000 units is unique.

Initially, punks would be offered and distributed for free. Then, to obtain one, all one had to do was pay the appropriate Ethereum transaction fee.

The popularity of these artworks would skyrocket from then on, along with that of the NFTs in general. Christie's auction house has even auctioned collections starting from estimates of several million.

This pale-looking alien punk with a headband currently holds the record for the CryptoPunk sold for the highest price, fetching 4200 ETH-approximately $7.58 million at the time of sale in March 2021. The second place is occupied by. CryptoPunk #7804which would be sold for the same amount of ETH (approximately $7.57 million at the time of sale). The difference is due to the increase in the price of ETH.

Relative to NFTs as a whole, both rank as the second and third most expensive non-fungible tokens ever sold. Beeple's EVERYDAYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS currently holds the top position, selling for $69,346,250.

How do CryptoPunks work?

When the project was launched, the ERC-721 token standard currently used for NFTs didn't exist. Larva Labs would have to work with what they had on hand: ERC-20. In a somewhat "punk" way, the team would end up modifying the ERC-20 code enough to produce non-fungible elements, which would serve as inspiration for the development of ERC-721 shortly after that. If we look at the token on Etherscan, we see that the maximum total supply is 10,000 units. Although the punks are shown as an ERC-20, they are not identical tokens.

You can verify the authenticity of each CryptoPunk by hashing its reference image and comparing it to the hash of a specific embodiment of the token contract.  Since the photos are too large to be stored on the blockchain, Larva Labs would create a composite image containing 10,000 punks. A hash of it is present in the CryptoPunks token contract.

However, how can you know which one you have? Well, the truth is that each punks token contains metadata that points to its position within the compositional image. So, for example, CryptoPunk #7804 occupies position 7804 within the large compositional image.

A technical challenge

When Cryptopunks were created, there was no ERC-721 token (the one that makes NFTs possible), so they were developed under a modification of an ERC-20 pass, which would later inspire the community to create the Ethereum standard so widely used today for NFTs. If we look at the contract in Etherscan, we can see that it appears as an ERC-20.

What types of Cryptopunks are there?

There are Cryptopunks of different types, and each of them has other attributes. Thus, there are 44 with a cap and 286 with 3D glasses. You can find all the details here. In addition, they are divided into five types in order of rarity.

Men and Women

There are 6039 male and 3840 female crypto punks. They all look different from each other and have additional attributes (lipstick, pigtails, cigars, hats... etc.). These two types are the most common, but they can be more or less rare depending on the attributes.


In the following order of rarity, we have the zombies. There are 88 Cryptopunks of this type, and they are distinguished by green skin and red eyes.


Apes, as the name implies, are Cryptopunks that look like monkeys. There are only 24 in all 10000, so they are rare and highly valued. One of the best known is Cryptopunk #8219, as a person calling himself "G Money" has assumed his identity and is a very active member of the NFT community.


Aliens are very rare and highly valued, as only nine exist. The most valued alien is Cryptopunk #7804 and sold (as of this post) for $7.5 million. In addition to being the most valued Cryptopunk to date, it is also one of the most valued NFTs overall.

Where can I buy CryptoPunks?

In addition to designing the CryptoPunks, Larva Labs would also create its marketplace within the CryptoPunks website. This is where users can bid on, buy and sell CryptoPunks. You can interact with the market by installing and connecting your MetaMask. CryptoPunks would also make their way to OpenSea, one of the leading marketplaces for Ethereum NFTs. However, these pixelated punks are a bit different. They have been wrapped as ERC-721 tokens, which allows them to be tradable on NFT marketplaces. A CryptoPunk of type ERC-721 can be returned to its original ERC-20 format quickly. The wrapping and unwrapping process is carried out at Wrapped PUNKSand can be performed by a MetaMask wallet containing a CryptoPunk.

Why do they cost so much?

Cryptopunks is one of the earliest NFTs in history, both outside and inside the Ethereum network. Therefore, they symbolize the beginning of NFTs and are highly valued by some collectors (especially within the crypto world). Today they have been auctioned in emblematic houses such as Christie's and will become more known in the mainstream and increase their selling prices.

In conclusion

Although NFTs are no longer unique, CryptoPunks were once pioneers of purely artistic value on a blockchain. Unlike the CryptoKittieswhich feature elements of "gamification," each punk is nothing more than a simple image. Still, one gets a sense of their enormous popularity from the hundreds of projects that CryptoPunks have directly inspired.

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