The History of NFTs

A timeline of the biggest

moments in NFT history

The world of NFTs is fast moving and rapidly changing. In just a few short years, NFTs have gone from merely a concept of what can be achieved with blockchain technology to a multi-billion dollar industry that has captured the imagination of tech and art enthusiasts across the globe.

However, with so much development in such a short period of time, many people outside of the core NFT community don’t know what to make of this new digital commodity. While common questions can range from “how are NFTs unique” to “where can I buy NFTs”, the best way to introduce people to this new technology is to show them how NFTs got to where they are today.

To help shed some light on this, we’ve created a timeline of some of the biggest and most important events in the history of NFTs. By combining these events with monthly market data going back as far as 2017, it is now easier than ever to learn about where NFTs came from, and how they got to where they are today.

Tracking the market for NFTs

While NFTs can trace their origins back as far as 2012, it took another five years for them to develop into the busy marketplace place we have come to know. Here we can track the interest in NFTs over time by looking at the number of monthly sales, the total monthly value of sales, and average value of each NFT sale for every month.

NFT Sales Activity

In December 2017, the number of monthly NFT sales skyrocketed, surpassing one million transactions for the first time and going on to reach more than 15 million sales by the end of the month representing a monthly increase of over 14000%.

2018 saw interest in NFTs grow at a modest but steady rate, with the number of sales gradually increasing from month to month. March saw the largest monthly increase of 2018 with the number of sales rising by 28.88%, while October and December saw monthly increases of 12.70% and 12.44% respectively.

A steady rate of growth was sustained for around two years until late 2020 when, like the calm before the storm, people seemed to be losing interest and the monthly sales began to level off, while an 8.15% decrease in sales in February 2021 saw just under 150 million NFTs being sold that month. This dip preceded the soaring interest in NFTs seen in the second half of 2021, with the number of monthly sales increasing from 192 million in June to almost 581 million in December!

NFT Monthly Sales Value

The change in the monthly value of NFT sales follows a similar trajectory as the number of sales, with the sales value generally increasing as they become more popular. The more NFTs that are sold, the greater the value of sold NFTs for that month.

However, there are two clear differences between the monthly sales numbers and values, the first of which is the scale of the increase in value in the latter half of 2021. Here we can see that the total monthly value of NFTs sales increased by 882.17%, rising from around $43 billion in June to well over $422 billion in December. This huge increase in value indicates just how much more interest there was in NFTs, which ultimately drove up their price to record highs.

The second difference is that unlike the leveling-off of sales volume seen earlier in 2021, the total value of sales continued to increase over the same period. This suggests that while the growing market interest in NFTs increased their value, these higher prices caused NFT sceptics to back away from getting involved until they had some greater assurance that the popularity of NFTs would become more widespread.

This increase in popularity can be seen in the last months of 2021 when high prices combined with high sales volumes to create an NFT market worth in excess of $422 billion.

Average NFT Sale Value per Month

The average sale value per NFT clearly follows the same general trajectory as the total monthly value of NFT sales, although with a few interesting divergences. The average value of each NFT sold in 2021 seems to have increased in two separate growth spurts. The first of these began in January and dragged the average price of an NFT up to approximately $200 by May, with prices remaining in that ballpark for several months before increasing again later in the year, peaking at over $1000 in November.

Another interesting difference that we can see when looking at the average cost of NFTs is that they were originally more expensive than they have been for the majority of their existence. The first few months of data available, from July to October 2017, shows that the average NFT price was between $120 and $130

This is likely explained by the initial enthusiasm for NFTs from the core community setting the value of what was a much more limited commodity at the time. However, it has taken several years for this enthusiasm to permeate throughout the crypto community and wider society, hence the very low valuations that last from November 2017 to the end of 2020.

Lastly, there appears to be a sizable dip in the average value of NFTs in December 2021, with prices falling by 28.99%, though it may be too early to speculate on what the reason for this could be.

The Biggest Moments in NFT History

Having looked at how the NFT market has fluctuated and developed over the years in terms of sales figures, we can now add context to the numbers by looking at some of the key events in the growth of NFTs.

NFT Timeline Events

The most expensive NFTs of all time

These are the most expensive NFTs ever sold. Here you can see the top 15 most expensive NFTs, along with their sale price and date when they were sold.


Everydays: The First 5000 Days

$69.3 million sale price

The most expensive NFT ever sold was Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple, which sold for a monumental $69.3 million. This NFT is a compilation of images from the Everyday series by Beeple, in which he created a new artwork every day.

The most-searched NFT collections

Here we take a look at the NFT collections that received the most Google searches in 2021. The higher the number of searches, the greater the public interest in the collection.



3,617,600 2021 search volume

CryptoPunks was the most searched-for NFT collection of 2021, with around 3.62 million searches from January to December. This is almost 100,000 more than the next most popular collection, The Sandbox, which received 2.68 million searches in the same period.

NFT FAQs: A quick guide to NFTs

NFT stands for “non-fungible token” which means they are a unique digital asset with no two being the same. NFTs are often digital artworks or other media, such as video clips, that are placed on the blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata.

As NFTs are a form of digital art, their value is often subjective, and much like traditional art, can be affected by popular trends and the name of the creator. The biggest selling point for NFTs is that they are unique digital assets that cannot be reproduced. However, while some NFTs sell for millions of dollars, many others hold little to no value.

While NFTs and cryptocurrencies are very different things, they do both share the use of blockchain technology. The ownership of NFTs is verified on the blockchain, as is each NFT’s unique identity. This is what makes them “non-fungible”, as the public ledger proves that the NFT is unique.

The great thing about NFTs is anyone can make their own. All you need is an idea and a small amount of Ethereum to “mint” your NFT. “Minting” refers to the act of creating an NFT, which can be done on many websites including the popular OpenSea NFT trading platform.

There are many places to buy and sell NFTs, but some of the main marketplaces are websites such as OpenSea, Rarible, Axie Infinity, Decentraland and Super Rare.

Traditional art is going nowhere fast, but NFTs do seem to be growing ever more popular and have begun attracting big names from the art world such as Damien Hirst, who has launched his own collection of NFTs called “The Currency”. NFTs have also made their way into traditional art auction houses such as the prestigious Sotheby's, which sold $100 million worth of NFTs in 2021. With all this in mind, NFTs have carved out their own space in the art world, though how much and how quickly it will grow is anyone’s guess.

If you’re looking to buy NFTs as an investment, with the intention of watching your NFT grow in value before selling it on, then this is possible in theory. However, buying an NFT does not guarantee an increase in its value, which could stay the same or even fall since you purchased it. It is true that some people have made huge amounts of money from trading NFTs, but it is considered a highly risky practice compared with traditional investment options.

Many people might look at NFTs and think it’s some sort of elaborate digital scam, with pixelated digital images being sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. For the vast majority of NFTs, they are legitimate digital assets being sold by artists and creators to online enthusiasts, although you should still be cautious when exchanging currency as the market is still very young and there have been a few high profile instances where scams have taken place.

The NFT questions with the biggest increase in searches

Summer of 2021 saw NFTs finally break into the mainstream consciousness, gaining widespread media attention in many top-tier publications. Since the end of summer, NFTs have boomed in popularity with the public eager to find out more and get in on the non-fungible action. Here are the questions that people are asking more than ever.