Digital NFT apes sell for $24 million at auction

Rutgers Business School financial technology professor Dr. Merav Ozair expressed neither shock nor outrage nor confusion over Sotheby's auctioning off a lot of 101 JPEGs of cartoonish apes for $24.4 million.

"It's a historical moment," she said. "Probably this particular NFT will increase in value because it was the first."

Or at least one of the first of these collections of profile-pic-style NFTs. The creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club used an algorithmic program mixing and matching images of apes, different fur colors and fur patterns, outfits and accessories to create 10,000 unique images varying in rarity. 

When it launched in the spring, users could mint one of those digital images by spending — as of Tuesday evening's prices — around $270 worth of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, then gaining entry into a room of a very active Discord chat for only Bored Ape owners. Since that minting, the NFT secondary marketplace OpenSea reports nearly $543 million in Bored Ape Sales.

"I think the Bored Ape Yacht Club came into existence at a very kind of fruitful time in the NFT timeline," said Nick Emmons, CEO and co-founder of the NFT appraisal company UpShot.

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Emmons saw his platform's analytics product predict the sale price of that lot of apes within $900,000 — a far more accurate estimate than Sotheby's, which saw the apes sell for more than $6 million above the auction house's estimated ceiling.

"The ones that will copy it and create after probably will not be as unique," Ozair said.

And many have tried and will continue to, using the same kinds of algorithmic programs to create collections of all kinds of animals, characters and objects. Emmons expects many of those to fade away into worthlessness but others to at least approach the valuations we now see for the Bored Apes, as we increasingly seek out profile-picture NFTs like the Apes as part of the identities we leverage in the digital world where we spend more and more of our time.

"And as the metaverse itself grows, so will the value of these [profile picture] projects," he said.

"It's a new generation," Ozair said, "a new innovation."

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