Non-fungible tokens, aka NFTs, have become hot commodities in recent weeks. Think of them as unique digital trading cards. If you own an NFT, then you own the original iteration of, say, a song, piece of artwork, or video, which is somewhat confusing considering an NFT is simply a file, but the point is that its originality has been verified on a blockchain. (Still confused? An NFT law expert laid it out for us.)
Despite their intangible nature, NFTs have value—even if it’s just perceived value. The news is full of stories about digital artworks and albums selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars to people with expendable income to burn, and now meme-makers are getting in on the action.
Chris Torres, the creator of the Nyan Cat, says he was attracted to selling his creation as an NFT because NFTs tie the art to the artist, which is rare on the internet, where memes are seldom credited to their creators. His meme, an illustration of a singing gray feline with a Pop Tart for a body flying through space, went viral back in 2011.
“Nobody knew who owned it,” he says. “It was just kind of free-rein on the internet. It didn’t just appear even though memes are kind of thought that way sometimes.”
He sold Nyan Cat as an NFT for roughly $590,000, and now it’s properly attributed to him. Torres has spread the love by buying other NFTs, and helped other meme creators sell their images, hosting an online auction to sell Bad Luck Brian and others.
“It’s digital trading cards, but it’s also a new way for artists to make art. Every artist kind of struggles. They’ll make art and then it sells, but NFTs give you the option where when you sell your art, if it gets sold again, you still get a percentage of that sale.”
Here are five other memes that have sold for big bucks. (Note: the sales were made in a cryptocurrency called ETH, or Ether, which has a value that fluctuates.)
The photo of an 11-month-old baby holding up a fist and giving a “Stick it to ‘em” face to the camera is the perfect meme to convey you did it, way to go, kid, that’s awesome, etc. Now the meme’s owner, Laney Griner, a photographer who took the photo of her son Sam, has sold it as an NFT for roughly $35,000. By the way, Sam is now almost 15.
What was supposed to be a satirical YouTube video about Justin Bieber turned into a meme portraying the kind of obsessed girlfriend who takes videos of you sleeping. Laina Morris was always in on the joke, but now she’s really the last one laughing because she just made half a million dollars on her wide-eyed stare.
The world fell in love with Grumpy Cat the first time we saw her. Tardar Sauce is probably the most famous cat in the world, with her own book, movie, and line of merchandise, and even though the cat died in 2019, her legacy will persist online and in the form of a NFT.
Chris Crocker uploaded his YouTube video “Leave Britney Alone,” in 2007 and it didn’t take long for it to get attention, being parodied and referenced on TV and in movies. Crocker was bullied and mocked for the video at the time, which was probably about 15 years ahead of its time, considering the like-minded #FreeBritney movement is just now gaining steam, but now he’s cashed in on its success and sold the video as a NFT for more than $43,000.
Kyle Craven’s purposely-bad yearbook photo with a smile full of braces and a plaid vest has been the perfect meme to symbolize the guy who just can’t catch a break. Turns out, he’s doing just fine because the meme sold for more than $45,000.