Nyan Cat, an animated flying cat with a poptart body leaving a rainbow trail behind it, recently sold for $580,000.
Welcome to 2021, the first year where an opening sentence like the one above actually makes sense. While you may not remember Nyan Cat, by its name, you’ll probably remember it as the slice of Internet history it is from its visual:
“Ohh, that thing!”
Yes. Nyan Cat selling for nearly $600,000 may come as a surprise to most, but those following the rapidly-growing market for digital art and collectibles may even consider the selling price a steal.
Nyan Cat History
Chris Torres created Nyan Cat about ten years ago; the original video on YouTube has a publish date of April 11th, 2011. The YouTube video has since grown to over 185 million views, and the cat has been shared, re-shared, modified, and re-modified in an endless meme-ification across multiple mediums.
According to Social Blade, the Nyan Cat video could have generated anywhere between $4545 to $72,720 per year for Torres, simply based on the number of views and a wide CPM range. It’s worth noting that this range has no direct relation to the ultimate sale price, but it’s worth including to help bridge the concept of digital art and making money on the Internet.
The Nyan Cat Crypto Art Sale
In February 2021, Torres listed a one-of-a-kind version of Nyan Cat for sale on Foundation, a marketplace for digital collectibles and other goods.
The artwork was initially listed at a modest 3 ETH (a little over $5,000) on February 18th, 2021. The bidding escalated the price to 85 ETH in the first 24-hours. The final 30-minutes of the auction on February 19th was a bidding war between users @zonted, @blackpoolHQ, and an anonymous address, 0x7Eb28B2f14A59789ec4c782A5DD957F9C8F33f6b.
Nyan Cat ultimately sold for 300 ETH, which was valued at roughly $580,000 at the time of the sale to the user solely identified by an address.
What Nyan Cat Means for the Internet
The sale of Nyan Cat was a momentous occasion that linked early Internet culture with the nascent blockchain-based economy of today, particularly with the NFT movement.
As a nonfungible token-based digital asset, the Nyan Cat that sold on Foundation is guaranteed to be an authentic copy of that particular piece of art– a 1/1 NFT of Nyan Cat. It doesn’t mean the new owner owns the copyright, trademark, sole ownership, or a claim to the YouTube advertising revenue– it’s simply blockchain-verified bragging rights of that specific NFT.
For collectors, the Nyan Cat sale is a data point that makes a very strong argument for the value of a solely digital asset. In theory, if you’re into early Internet culture, such as icanhazcheezburger.com, Salad Fingers, and Happy Tree Friends, then the auction of Nyan Cat is likely an eye-opening moment that owning part of your favorite Internet moments is a possibility.
However, arguably more valuable is the ability for creators to directly monetize their creativity and cut out the middlemen.
For example, rather than relying on a centralized platform like YouTube for ad revenue, a creator such as Torres can auction off their creation directly to his or her fans.
“But, how is this NFT valuable at all? Can’t I just copy the video or image to my downloads?”
Sure, there is nothing stopping you from downloading an image or video of Nyan Cat, but there’s also nothing stopping you from buying a replica or poster of the Mona Lisa from Amazon. You wouldn’t “own” the Mona Lisa– you’d own a replica of it, which is significantly less valuable than the original.
Similarly, the copied photo or video of an NFT is worth much less (i.e., worthless) than the original. The 300 ETH paid for the Nyan Cat NFT is simply for “ownership” of that NFT, and that asset can be stored and traded as such.
Final Thoughts: What Nyan Cat’s 300 ETH (~$580,000) Sale Means for You
If this article and the Nyan Cat sale is your first exposure to NFTs, you may find yourself at a somewhat confusing crossroads.
In the grand scheme of things, there are few instances where a digital asset has been sold for anything substantial, and there just isn’t enough time duration to estimate how well they store value.
However, paying seemingly exorbitant amounts of money for things with dubious “brass tacks” value beyond a market-determined price is something human beings have been doing for centuries. For example, in January 2021, a box of unopened Pokemon cards sold for $408,000.
NFTs can be viewed as a progression of collecting into the digital realm. Nyan Cat joins some of the top-selling NFTs of 2021, and at the current rate of NFT sales, it’s unsure how long it will be able to hang onto its “Top Sale” crown.
For instance, digital artist Beeple sold an NFT titled “The First 5000 Days” for a record-breaking $69,346,250 just weeks after the Nyan Cat sale. The buyer was an anonymous Singapore cryptocurrency whale going under the name Metakovan.
.@beeple 's 'The First 5000 Days', the 1st purely digital NFT based artwork offered by a major auction house has sold for $69,346,250, positioning him among the top three most valuable living artists. Major Thanks to @beeple + @makersplaceco. More details to be released shortly
— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 11, 2021
NFTs are getting a ton of attention right now and are certainly worth monitoring, but should be considered very risky investments.