2021: The year of the NFT

·3 min read

Seemingly coming out of nowhere in 2021, NFTs took the cryptocurrency industry by storm in the form of dazzling artwork, animal-based collectables and ground-breaking brand partnerships.

The evolution of the space from the beginning of the year has been remarkable, with global brands, celebrities and companies purchasing NFTs and launching their own non-fungible token collections.

Coin Rivet looks at the year through the scope of NFTs and provides a market recap of everything NFT-related in 2021…

Slow until August

The year started slowly for NFTs, with data from leading marketplace OpenSea showing an estimated $800m in NFT sales up until the end of July.

Then, out of nowhere, August volume erupted – reaching a peak of $3.4bn in total trading volume and sales throughout the month.

OpenSea trading volume Coin Rivet
OpenSea trading volume Coin Rivet

Data sourced from Dune.xyz

What caused the spike in volume at the end of August? It’s not entirely clear even now, but many have speculated the first early ‘hype cycle‘ for the space was just beginning.

Reportedly fuelled by popular PFP (profile picture) based projects including Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and Cool Cats, the NFT craze reached fever pitch as collectors swooped to snap up their favourite animal-based NFTs and adorn them as their profile picture on Twitter or Discord.

The resurgence of CryptoPunks and the rise of Axie Infinity also played a vital role in pushing the space forward.

What really made PFP NFTs popular was instant access to thriving online communities, being able to ‘flex’ a form of digital status in the form of a scarce collectable and the novel ownership that comes with an NFT.

Mainstream attention

From there, the space really took off and hit the mainstream. First, auctions houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s got in on the act and debuted their landmark auctions.

That was followed closely by some of the world’s most recognisable brands – including Visa, Time Magazine, Adidas Originals, Pepsi, McDonald’s and Macy’s – venturing into the NFT space via partnerships and collaborations.

BAYC Adidas partnership Coin Rivet
BAYC Adidas partnership Coin Rivet

Adidas partnered with BAYC, PUNKS Comic and NFT collector GMoney for their landmark NFT collection

The fun didn’t stop there either – leading cryptocurrency exchanges FTX, Coinbase and Gemini all proposed plans to launch their own NFT marketplaces.

Record sales and incredible purchases soon followed from the likes of now-famous NFT artist Beeple, artwork from the ‘Art Blocks Curated‘ collection and a number of multi-million dollar sales from BAYC.

The metaverse appears

Towards the end of the year, the metaverse became the latest trend to hit the NFT space through digital collectables and wearables for avatars in virtual environments.

Prompted by the emergence of ‘digital land‘ on The Sandbox and Decentraland, musical icons Snoop Dogg and Steve Aoki made their first ventures into the metaverse – which was proclaimed as a $1tn industry by Grayscale.

Now, with NFTs seemingly everywhere, it’s anticipated that the space will continue to grow heading into 2022 on the back of a record year for the weird and wacky world of non-fungible tokens.