How to get exposure to CryptoPunks
Dear Bankless Nation,
CryptoPunks are one of the OG NFTs on Ethereum.
While it may not have been the first, it was the one that became widespread and gained popularity.
This past spring, something historical happened. Christie’s, one of the world’s biggest traditional auction houses, announced the sale of 8 CryptoPunks.
The lot sold for $17M. 🤯
While those are some of the most expensive on the market, Punks aren’t cheap. Period. The current floor price for a CryptoPunk is 17.5 ETH—around $40k at today’s prices!
But these are just pixelated jpegs. Why would anyone spend tens of thousands of dollars (or millions) on one?
As we discussed on the podcast this week, it comes down to mimetic desires. CryptoPunks have historical relevance—they’re an artifact of internet and crypto culture—which makes people want them, which makes more people want them, and so on.
(Here’s the part where I talk about how much I want one)
So you want one?
Is there a way to own upside on CryptoPunks without forking out $40k?
Yes, there is.
Here’s how to get exposure to a piece of crypto culture.
How to get exposure to CryptoPunks
CryptoPunks are among the most exciting and storied Non-Fungible Token (NFT) projects in crypto. As one of the OG NFT projects on Ethereum, CryptoPunks have also grown to become some of the most expensive in the ecosystem. For many, owning their own Punk is out of reach. Luckily, there are ways around it.
This Bankless tactic will demonstrate a few ways to get exposure to CryptoPunks without having to buy one outright.
- Goal: Learn how to get portfolio exposure to CryptoPunks, even if indirectly
- Skill: Intermediate
- Effort: Varies depending on the dapp used
- ROI: Upside on the value of CryptoPunks, a historically significant project in the Ethereum ecosystem
Why CryptoPunks matter
Pictured below is CryptoPunk #2. She’s not only a beaut, she’s also the third CryptoPunk ever created. Her and 8 other CryptoPunks sold for $16.9 million earlier this year through Christie’s, one of the world’s leading auction houses.
How’s that for going mainstream?
Three years ago Christie’s couldn’t be bothered by NFTs. So the fact that the auction house and its biggest competitor Sotheby’s are CryptoPunks-crazy lately shows you just how fast the landscape has changed in and around the NFT ecosystem.
In other words, CryptoPunks didn’t just inspire the ERC721 NFT standard—it’s leading the way. The project’s now gone on to become a leading NFT effort not just in the Ethereum space, but also in the wider Roaring 2020s cultural milieu.
All that said, CryptoPunks aren’t cheap these days. Everyone wants one. According to the Larva Labs marketplace, the cheapest Punk on sale right now is priced at ~17.5 ETH (~$38,500 as of writing).
That sort of sum is out of reach for most folks, yet the good news is you can get exposure to CryptoPunks without having to buy one directly. In this tactic, we’ll be focusing on the main ways to capitalize on Punks without having to buy one straight up!
Valuing CryptoPunks 101
Etheria was arguably the first proper NFT project on Ethereum. However, it was CryptoPunks that popularized the ERC721 standard and went on to become the consensus “OG” NFT project.
That’s why we have superstars like Jay-Z getting into CryptoPunks lately. Why? Because Ethereum is interesting and holds opportunity, and one of the most profound and interesting things you can do on Ethereum is buy a CryptoPunk.
It’s a piece of internet and crypto culture!
So punk up or shut up, right?
It doesn’t have to be so black and white. There are ways to capitalize on Punks even if you’re a casual investor. Before we get into those kinds of strategies, it’s best to cover the fundamentals so we know what we’re dealing with.
When it comes to valuing Punks, some key things to keep in mind include:
- Subjectivity, subjectivity, subjectivity — Many people just want a Punk that looks somewhat like themselves, so orthogonal to price they’re on the lookout for looks. So remember to a certain extent that aesthetics reign supreme, regardless of the details.
- Type rarity — Out of 10k CryptoPunks, there are 9 Aliens, 24 Apes, 88 Zombies, 3,840 Females, and 6,039 Males. So Aliens are rarer than Apes, Apes are rarer than Zombies, etc., and people trade down the line accordingly. So for example, if you see an exotic looking Zombie sell for 100s of ETH more than a regular-looking “floor” Male, there’s indeed a rhyme and reason to that.
- Attribute number — CryptoPunks can have between 0 and 7 attributes, e.g. beanies, tiaras, top hats, or no accessories at all. For instance, 0-attribute Punks are really rare, as are 7-attribute Punks, so these are considered uniquely valuable.
- Attribute Uniqueness — Just like some CryptoPunks types are rarer than others, CryptoPunks attributes have varying rarity levels. The rarest attributes are Beanies, Chokers, and Pilot Helmets, which have 44, 48, and 54 bearers respectively. Punks with these items fetch premiums accordingly!
Strategies to get exposure to CryptoPunks
If you don’t have the nearly ~20 ETH needed to purchase a CryptoPunk, you can still get exposure to these signature NFTs in various different ways. Below, we’ll outline the three easiest avenues to get such exposure for your consideration.
1. NFTX PUNK vault tokens
NFTX is an NFT index fund project centered around NFT vaults and their associated liquidity provider (LP) tokens. The project’s flagship offering, $PUNK-BASIC, is an ERC20 representation of floor-priced CryptoPunks in the NFTX CryptoPunks vault, such that ~1 $PUNK = ~1 CryptoPunk and can be redeemed accordingly.
As such, let’s say you just want to buy a little bit of a CryptoPunk every week until you’ve paid for a whole one outright.
One easy way to do that is by buying bits of $PUNK on Sushi here and there until you have 1 $PUNK-BASIC. In this sense, NFTX allows casual investors to invest in CryptoPunks at their desired pace, not unlike how Coinbase does the same with BTC.
2. CryptoPunks shards
One vertical in the NFT ecosystem that’s gained considerable traction over the last year is NFT fractionalization plays. By fractionalization, I mean the splitting of NFTs into hundreds or thousands of shards via ERC20 tokens.
One of the big upsides of these shards is they allow wider swaths of people to invest in choice NFTs, since a handful of shards are much more affordable than that same NFT outright!
Therefore, another easy way to gain exposure to CryptoPunks is to buy shards of CryptoPunks. For platforms to consider in this arena, checkout NIFTEX and Unicly. These dapps have their idiosyncrasies, but both allow users to fractionalize their CryptoPunks into shards.
3. Yam DAO uPUNKS synth
Another compelling way to trade around the value of CryptoPunks right now is the new uPUNKs collaboration between UMA Protocol and Yam Finance’s Yam DAO.
Simply put, uPUNKs lets traders short or long the median price of CryptoPunks over the previous 30 days.
“With uPUNKS it's possible to gain exposure to the entire Crypto Punks market, including high value pieces, without needing to purchase an entire NFT or brave the questionable liquidity of NFT markets,” the Yam Synths team has noted.
If you’re interested in this opportunity, keep in mind that you’ll need to first provide Wrapped Ether (WETH) collateral to mint uPUNKs. Also remember that the UMA and Yam teams are providing liquidity mining rewards to uPUNKs participants, so right now you can long or short Punks and earn UMA and YAM in the process.
Being one of Ethereum’s most hallmark projects, CryptoPunks are here to stay as cultural artifacts. But it doesn’t have to be the case that only wealthy crypto OGs can capitalize on CryptoPunks.
Through the three methods described above, virtually any class of users in the crypto economy can enjoy upside on Punks!
So not unlike how some folks trade things like corn and oil in TradFi, now we in crypto can trade CryptoPunks with similar ease 😎