NFTs Saw More Than $2 Billion in Q1 Sales. Here’s Where You Can Buy Them. – Built In

On Valuables, an online marketplace for signed tweets recorded and verified on the Ethereum blockchain, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has standing offers of $10,000 or more for several of his Twitter musings, including the evergreen observation: “Was super fun tbh haha.” 

If that strikes you as surprising, or if you’re baffled by the exploding NFT market, which has seen a digital collage by crypto artist Beeple sell for $69 million at the auction house Christies, you’re not the only one scratching your head. 

What Is an NFT?

NFT stands for non-fungible token. It’s a type of digital contract that gets recorded and verified on encrypted ledgers that undergird blockchain networks, such as Ethereum and Solana. The idea is to create a unique and immutable record of ownership for virtual items. 

A dollar is interchangeable with any other dollar. But an NFT works differently. As with a rare postage stamp, a diary or a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle, its worth is tied to scarcity and proof of origin.

Almost anything can be minted as an NFT — CryptoPunks blockheads, short films, domain names, virtual cannabis farms  —  but most of the recent excitement among investors has centered on digital art, sports collectibles and video games where users build and govern alternate worlds or “metaverses.” Today, most NFTs are purchased with ether (ETH), the native currency of the Ethereum network, which is easily converted to U.S. dollars on exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken and Gemini

Unlike Bitcoin, which functions mainly as a payment network and cryptocurrency, blockchain networks such as Ethereum and Solana let users build apps that can store personal data and set rules for complex financial transactions, like the smart contracts that govern NFT ownership and sales. 

For artists, NFTs offer a new market where they can sell their work, and create an automated way to recoup a percentage of resales through royalty agreements. Investors who are bullish about the technology — generally the same group who are bullish about cryptocurrencies — see NFTs as a way to financially support artists, flex their digital art collections and speculate in a market that is experiencing staggering growth.

In March, Fortune reported that the online marketplace OpenSea has seen a 100-fold sales increase in the past six months, including $95 million in digital objects sold in February, up from $8 million in January. And with venture capital pouring into the NFT economy from investors like Mark Cuban; Salesforce CEO Marc Benoif; and A16z Crypto, a subset of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, there’s reason to believe the NFT economy may be more than a fad. 

Still, there have been multiple reports of theft and fraud. Fees and commissions vary widely, and the electricity needed to run the Ethereum network is a source of massive carbon emissions. Those entering the market should do so with eyes wide open, understanding that it’s important to assess marketplaces, including FAQs and service terms, with scrutiny.   

Keeping all that in mind, if you’re wondering where to get started, here’s a look at 17 marketplaces and what they offer buyers and sellers.

Gold Armour-AI Renaissance Painting #3 on Superrare NFT marketplace.
Image: wallyPDF. Site: Superrare. 

SuperRare

SuperRare is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling single-edition digital artwork. A tile of windows similar to an Instagram profile showcases art, list prices, sale prices and timed auctions. With top sellers such as a Time Magazine cover going for $300,000, the site is well-trafficked and home to a curated selection of artists and brands. Features like an active social feed, a calendar of upcoming exhibitions and a high-touch editorial page with profiles and artist statements give the site the feel of an online magazine. All transactions are made using ether, the native cryptocurrency to the Ethereum network. 

Location: Newark, Delaware

Category: Digital art

Foundation 

Launched in February 2021, Foundation has hosted NFT sales of the viral internet meme Nyan Cat, Pak’s Finite record and work by creators such as Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, Aphex Twin and Edward Snowden. Creators’ work is arranged in a grid of cards, with trending auctions at the top of the page followed by featured artists. Works are listed at a reserve price and bids can be placed for 24 hours, with a 15-minute extension if bids are placed in the last 15 minutes. Users must set up a MetaMask wallet with ether before they can create an artist profile and mint an NFT or purchase artwork from the site.

Location: Los Angeles

Category: Digital art


 

Mintable

Backed by Marc Benioff-owned Time Ventures and billionaire investor Mark Cuban, Mintable is a two-sided marketplace for buying and selling NFTs that resembles eBay. Built on the Ethereum and Zilliqa blockchains, the site is integrated with MetaMask, where buyers can set up crypto wallets. Creators have options to mint free “gasless” NFTs, short-run printable series or traditional transaction-based items. Once they’ve set up profiles and loaded their wallets, buyers can purchase listed items or bid on auction items, with winners notified by email. 

Location: Singapore 

Categories: Digital art, photography, videos, games, templates, domain names

OpenSea is a marketplace to sell NFTS. The homepage image Blossoming Souls, pt 2. was created by cielmot.
Image: cielmot. Site: OpenSea. 

OpenSea 

Founded in 2017 by the software development team of Devin Finzer and Alex Atallah, OpenSea claims on its website to be “the first and largest marketplace for user-owned digital goods.” With 113,000 users, 15.5 million NFTs and a trade volume of $354 million, the startup raised $23 million in its latest round of venture capital funding led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. In the marketplace, which is filterable by price and sales status, you can find everything from virtual real estate to sound loops from The Weeknd. A stats tab — almost like a stock ticker — ranks sellers by volume, average sale price and the number of assets sold. Buyers with wallets loaded with ether, USD Coin (USDC) or Dai (DAI), as well as more than 150 other payment tokens, can buy fixed-priced NFTs directly from sellers, or bid on them in auctions, with an offer record stored in the user’s profile. 

Location: New York

Categories: Digital art, music, games, domain names, virtual worlds, sports, collectibles

NBA Top Shot 

Launched as a beta by DapperLabs in early 2020, the NBA-licensed game lets fans collect and trade digital “moments”of NBA players. Released in limited-edition sets ranging from $9 to $230, or available through open trade on the broader marketplace, moments feature video highlights, player stats and box scores. Collectors can display curated collections, follow their favorite teams and trade assets secured on the company’s own blockchain. Through March, the platform has hosted two million purchases totalling more than $300 million.

Location: Vancouver

Category: Sports collectibles


Axie Infinity 

Designed by the Vietnamese startup Sky Mavis, Axie Infinity is a Pokemon-inspired video game, where players collect cartoon pets, battle other players and build farming kingdoms. With more than 10,000 monthly active users in 2020, according to CoinDesk, it’s also the most popular game on the Ethereum network. Characters and land plots are encrypted as NFTs. Collectors and gamers can buy them on an online marketplace, with animals selling for hundreds of dollars and some virtual land plots fetching more than $20,000.  

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Category: Video game

Sorare

Sorare is a cryptocurrency-based fantasy soccer league where users can collect player cards as NFTs and then use them in online competitions. The site has 140 licensed clubs, including those in Major League Soccer, and all transactions are done in Ethereum. Though players can participate in the fantasy league by purchasing low-cost digital players, exclusive NFT collectibles outcompete others through scoring multipliers. The online soccer magazine Goal reported that $13 million in Ethereum was spent on the platform in February, and a rare card of Kylian Mbappe, a forward for the Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain, was sold for $65,000 in December. 

Location: Paris

Category: Sports collectibles


Arkane Network

With a user base of more than 100,000 gamers, Arkane Network’s peer-to-peer NFT marketplace, now in beta, allows logged-in users to create, buy and sell game characters, weapons and collectibles without needing to worry about getting cryptocurrency first. Users can link their accounts to digital wallets to buy and sell game assets from blockchain games, such as The Sandbox, Ethermon and Vulcan Verse. Through a partnership with Polygon, a development framework for connecting Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks and cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance, the marketplace allows for fiat payments in U.S. dollars.

Location: Antwerpen, Belgium 

Category: Video games, metaverse

Nifty Gateway 

Nifty Gateway is a centralized U.S. dollar marketplace that works with artists and brands to create Nifties — a branded term for NFTs. Sales are structured around “drops,” in which collections are made available for a limited time — typically three-week increments. After a drop ends or an artwork sells out, Nifties can be resold through the site’s peer-to-peer marketplace. Featuring work by artists and brands like Beeple, BD White, Cam Hicks, Forbes and Playboy, the site operates at high volume and includes a discovery page, a detailed stats dashboard showing sales and appreciation figures, and a log of sitewide activity.  

Location: New York

Category: Digital art


Zora 

Zora is a decentralized auction house with an overtly activist manifesto: to help artists recapture value that labels, galleries and big brands have traditionally taken as a commission for service and distribution. Buyers can find music, video, images, GIFs and text NFTs for sale through linked Ethereum wallets like MetaMask, WalletConnect and Coinbase. In addition to serving as a marketplace, Zora is an open-source protocol, built on the most common standard for NFTS, called ERC-721. Creators can buy and resell NFTs anywhere that integrates with the protocol and specify royalty percentages for secondary sales.

Location: Los Angeles

Category: Digital art


Decentraland

Self-branded on its homepage as “the first ever virtual world owned by users,” Decentraland takes the concept of the metaverse to its logical conclusion, allowing users to explore casinos, underwater kingdoms and visions of space, while using a builder tool to develop land holdings and amass power and influence. Playable with a VR headset or from a web browser, the game functions as a self-contained marketplace where users can buy and sell land, estates, avatar clothing and names registered on the Ethereum ledger. Over the past week, the site saw 306 sales totalling $1.2 million, according to the NFT sales database NonFungible.

Location: Beijing

Category: Video games, metaverse


Rarible

Rarible is an NFT marketplace where users can mint, buy and sell digital collectibles ranging from gummy bear GIFs to animated videos commemorating sports milestones such as boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s undefeated 50-0 record. The layout is similar to Spotify’s, with a scrollable stack of columns featuring top sellers, hot collections and live auctions. In the midst of a shift to become a decentralized autonomous organization, Rarible will soon be governed by the rules of the Ethereum blockchain, which allows for public, permissionless use. A governance token known as RARI allows the most active buyers and sellers to vote for platform upgrades and participate in moderation decisions. 

Location: Wilmington, Delaware 

Categories: Digital art, photography, music, games, metaverse, memes


The Sandbox

With an expressed aim to “disrupt the existing game makers like Minecraft and Roblox by providing creators true ownership of their creations as non-fungible tokens,”  according to a project whitepaper, The Sandbox is a video game where players can monetize experiences through the Ethereum blockchain. A cryptocurrency known as SAND functions as the game’s usage fee and utility token. A web-based marketplace lets users upload, publish and sell creations made in VoxEdit, a 3D voxel modelling package, as NFTs. Creations purchased or developed using the editor can be placed on  land parcels, thereby altering the game mechanics through scripted behaviors. 

Location: San Francisco

Category: Video games, metaverse


MakersPlace

MakersPlace is a gallery of digital artwork stylized around creator collections and profiles. The homepage features short films, heady motion graphics, and images of lunar landscapes, reimagined statues and mythic gods. Each piece is issued and signed by the creator and permanently recorded and verified through the blockchain. Detailed artist profiles, easily tracked ownership records and searchable tags make the site informative and easy to navigate. Work can be purchased through digital auctions or fixed price sales, using ether or a standard credit card. Over the past week, the site has seen 147 sales totalling $400,000, according to the NFT sales database NonFungible.

Location: San Francisco

Category: Digital art, virtual reality, short film, motion animation


GROW.HOUSE

GROW.HOUSE described itself in a recent briefing shared with Built In as the “first-ever digital metaverse for lovers of cannabis, crypto and decentralized finance.” Think Farmville and Roblox, but with weed as the main digital cash crop, traded in crypto. Led by brand maven Branden Hampton, who famously created a fake David Chappelle Twitter account, the game is built on the Polygon network, and allows users to grow digital cannabis, earn $GROW tokens, purchase NFTs and learn about yield farming. The company, which launched its initial dex offering (IDO) on June 1, has raised funding from Polygon, Aave, Soulja Boy, Juicy Fields and others. Once live, the GROW.HOUSE marketplace will allow users to buy cannabis flower NFTs and other assets. 

Location: Miami

Category: Video games, metaverse


Zeptagram

Founded in Stockholm by Christina Löwenström and Johan Forsman Löwenström, Zeptagram allows musicians to tokenize tracks as NFTs and sell a portion of the ownership rights to fans and investors. Through smart contracts, musicians and their supporters receive royalties on secondary sales. The company has developed its own currency, Zeptacoin, which is used for payment of royalties and trading of music rights on the platform. Through a crowdsale campaign now underway, offerings by artists such as Melisha Linnell, Wylie Ligomeka and Taurai Mudamburi are being sold as ownership shares in the marketplace.

Location: Stockholm

Category: Music, art, games, photography, video


Valuables

A platform engineered by Cent, Valuables lets people auction off their tweets for payment in ether. Buyers can place bids by entering the tweet’s URL or the user’s handle in a search bar. Minimum offers start at $1 unless the seller has set a reserve price. After they place a bid, the buyer is directed to the seller’s tweet, where they can let the user know they have made an offer. This is the site where Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey famously sold his autographed first tweet for $2.9 million

Location: San Francisco

Category: tweets