Energy was high at last night’s Sotheby’s auction “Punk It!,” the first evening sale dedicated exclusively to NFTs at the storied auction house. The lot was composed of 104 “CryptoPunks,” a historic and popular PFP NFT collection designed by Larva Labs in 2017. The estimate for the lot was $20 million–$30 million, but in the end, the lot didn’t sell at all. “nvm, decided to hodl,” tweeted its seller, a user who goes by the name 0x650d.
Following cocktails and a panel, the crowd mingled while waiting for the auction to begin when it was suddenly announced that the seller had withdrawn the lot. The attendees were welcome to stay, however, and to enjoy the afterparty, which included a performance from DJ Seedphrase.
While it is not uncommon for a lot to be withdrawn, it is slightly more unusual at a single-lot sale. Rumors began to abound as to the cause of the dramatic move.
Nabyl Charania was one of the few attendees with an auction paddle in his hand. He and his fellow managing partner Brandon Buchanan were there to represent Meta4 Capital, an NFT-focused investment fund with backing from Andreessen Horowitz. “We’re not disappointed,” said Charania. “We want the seller to get the price they want—we don’t want an antagonistic relationship.”
Some speculated that the seller had gotten an enticing cash offer while the online twitter NFT community celebrated what they thought was the seller’s decision to “hodl.” It seemed, some believed, that the seller had chosen to believe in the long-term value of these assets as opposed to selling out. The theory that the whole thing was a PR stunt was waved off—it just wasn’t big enough news to justify the cost of pulling out of the sale. (A representative for Sotheby’s declined to comment.)
Other attendees mentioned that, while valuable, the bundle of “CryptoPunks” wasn’t particularly enticing, and so it was no surprise that bidders didn’t rally with competitive bids. The bundle was compromised of what is known as “floor Punks”—that is, “Punks” from the collection that don’t display any special or rare attributes and thus represent the cheapest of those in the collection. Cheap for a “CryptoPunk” isn’t really all that cheap, though. The least expensive “Punk,” #7456, featuring a black female with green eyeshadow, sold just yesterday for 59 ETH, or $150,000.
In the end, it could’ve just been bad timing, given that the crypto market is simply not where it used to be. Of course, the auction house team could not have predicted the incredible value drop for crypto that followed the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine.
News of war hardly seemed to reach the room as top NFT collectors, however, and influencers like Colborn Bell, Ja Rule, and Farok Sarmad chatted and networked happily. Anoop Kansupada, an executive at the NFT platform Nifty Gateway, commented before the sale began that while the auction would be “historic,” the real draw of the night was the attendee list. “It’s about the people,” Kansupada told ARTnews. “You couldn’t meet these people at the typical Sotheby’s sale.” When the lot was withdrawn, that didn’t change.