Digital ownership is the name of the game in Web3 — a decentralized, blockchain-backed iteration of the internet. In tandem with cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens are the vehicles making it happen.
In case you missed it, NFTs are unique digital tokens that cannot be copied or replicated — hence, “non-fungible.” They’re encrypted with blockchain technology, which keeps a live, running record of ownership in the event of a sale.
Top NFT Collections
- Axie Infinity
- Bored Ape Yacht Club
- Cool Cats
- NBA Topshot
- Pudgy Penguins
- World of Women
For background, digital artist Kevin McCoy minted the first NFT entitled “Quantum,” an octagonal “seed” with linework and gradients, on crypto platform Namecoin in 2014. It was sold via Sotheby’s auction house for $1.47 million in 2021.
Since then, it’s become a common trend to algorithmically generate these pixel-art images as 10,000-piece collections. Some of the first widely distributed collections include Rare Pepe, CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties.
But how do these seasoned NFT originals fare in the ever-changing digital market today? Here’s a list of top-ranking NFT collections (selected by highest amount of all-time sales) to find out.
What Is an NFT Collection?
An NFT collection is a limited-edition digital art collection made up of unique, cryptographic tokens, each with their own individual traits, issued by an artist or group of artists.
21 Popular Collections to Know
The 0N1 Force is a generative art collection featuring 7,777 hand-drawn, anime-esque side-profile characters. Despite its vibrant color story — ranging from bright vermillion, lemon yellow and matte teal — the collection’s lore is set in an oppressive dystopia, where the humanoid characters, known as “0N1,” fight for survival. Token holders are granted worldwide commercial licensing of the artwork tied to their NFT, access to a collaborative role-playing game found on the platform as well as virtual land in the metaverse. Last year, a new line of “nano suits” was released for further customization.
Art Blocks is a sort of collection of collections. This generative art project includes multiple art drops from various contemporary artists who paint in code. While some feature meticulous linework, others explore digital cubism or mimic ink on paper. Interestingly enough, these art-based NFTs are purchased sight unseen. How it works: Buyers pick their NFT based on a collection’s cover art. Once purchased, the algorithm generates a completely unique piece on demand, which shares cohesive elements with the original, based on the script embedded in the newly minted token.
Axie Infinity is a turn-based, play-to-earn online game where players collect, breed and battle axolotl-inspired digital pets, called Axies. These cute, Pokémon-adjacent creatures are purchased as NFTs. Other in-game assets include Smooth Love Potion, the project’s native cryptocurrency, which is awarded to victorious competitors. According to NFT marketplace OpenSea, Axie Infinity is “the most played NFT game of all time,” counting more than 1.5 million daily active players.
Developed by Los Angeles-based startup Chiru Labs, Azuki is a 10,000 character collection that features anime-styled NFTs. They are most commonly used as profile picture NFTs, or PFP NFTs, which helps a user establish how they want to be represented in Web3. Additionally, acquisition of an Azuki renders access to “The Garden,” an exclusive virtual collective where artists, builders and metaverse-minded folks can collaborate on Web3 projects.
Another Chiru Labs creation, Beanz is a 20,000 piece collection of digital art that depicts small, bean-like characters that serve as sidekicks to Azuki characters. Each contains a set of unique features, spanning background color, clothing, eyes, face, headgear, shoe and type. For example, red “Toshi” types are known for their rebellious nature, according to online publication Beanztalk.io.
Bored Ape Yacht Club
Bored Ape Yacht Club is an NFT collection of 10,000 vibrant, funky primates that serve as an NFT PFP and passkey to exclusive benefits. It holds a total sales volume of $2.7 billion, according to NFT data aggregator CryptoSlam. The most expensive simian, golden ape #3749, sporting a sailor cap and laser-beamed eyes, sold for $2.9 million two years ago. Online crypto publication Decrypt has dubbed Bored Ape as the “Celebrity NFT of Choice” as more collectibles land in the hands of holders such as Madonna, Shaq, Eminem and Snoop Dogg.
Bored Ape Kennel Club
A companion series to Bored Ape Yacht Club, Bored Ape Kennel Club is a collectible set of dogs each with a set of unique traits. Some four-legged friends come with top hats or tennis balls, while others are wearing basketball hoop attachments or have cyclops features. YugaLabs offered these collectibles at no cost to owners of Bored Ape tokens during an “adoption drive” in June 2021. Second market sales began shortly thereafter.
Cool Cats started as a sole blue, hand-drawn cartoon feline that blew up into a 9,999 piece NFT collection. NFT holders belong to a virtual community named “Cooltopia,” and each collectible is ranked on a “coolness scale,” ranging from cool (least points, more common) to exotic (most points, rarer). There are just 66 super rare and totally unique tokens with no shared traits.
Another art NFT, CrypToadz is a 6,969-piece project made up of pixelated amphibious avatars with unique traits. The anonymous indie artist and creator of CrypToadz, Gremplin, is also behind the “infinite” generative art project, Nouns DAO. Both NFT collections have been placed in public domain, all copyrights waived. As cryptocurrency exchange Kraken explained it, this “allows anyone to build off of these NFTs, potentially developing new products and ecosystems based on the original artwork.”
Recognized as one of the first NFT collections, CryptoPunks is a 24x24 pixel-art image project that set the template many NFT outfits still follow today. CryptoPunks were created by a duo of Canadian software technologists out of New York City-based Larva Labs in 2017 and acquired by Bored Ape Yacht Club creator YugaLabs in 2021. It has sold over $2 billion in lifetime sales. As NFT PFPs, they predominantly serve as a digital status symbol.
Brought to the metaverse by Nike and digital fashion and collectible company RTFKT, CloneX NFT is a collection of 20,000 three-dimensional avatars that share eight different DNA types. Their makeup is formulated from human, alien, reptile, robot, undead, angel, demon or Murakami, a special skin that was added following a collaboration with Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami. Users are encouraged to personalize their characters with digital wearables pulled from the platform’s Clone inventory, like streetwear or socks. RTFKT has been known to drop “phygital” fashion collections, where new items unlocked virtually become available in real life.
Two Dapper Labs and CryptoKitties alumni, Evan Keast and Jordan Castro, teamed with pastel-palette illustrator Scott Martin, more popularly known by his alias Burnt Toast, to create Doodles. This NFT PFP collection consists of 10,000 whimsical tokens featuring sherbet-colored cartoons of cats, humans, pickles, flowers and aliens. As society members, token holders can vote for experiences and activations paid for by the Doodles Community Treasury.
Marketed for the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, Loot is a text-based NFT collection. In it, there are 8,000 tokens simply featuring white serif font on a black background. These randomized lists specify gear suited for gameplay in a fantasy world, like dragonskin gloves and a “bronze ring of fury.” Token holders are left to their own devices, as stats, images and other functionality “are intentionally omitted for others to interpret.”
The same creators behind CryptoPunks dropped another algorithmically generated avatar project with Meebits. Except this time, the 20,000 collection is intentionally designed in low-poly and voxel 3D graphics — the kind made famous by Minecraft — for the purpose of exploring virtual worlds, games and virtual reality.
Moonbirds is a 10,000-piece collection of pixelated owl NFT PFPs, each with their own unique set of randomized traits. The longer a token holder stakes, or locks up, an asset without listing or selling it — known as “nesting” in Moonbird terms — the more rewards they reap. Moonbirds co-founder Kevin Rose is also the co-founder and CEO of the PROOF Collective, an exclusive group of 1,000 NFT collectors and artists. Moonbirds holders may dip into projects from both pools.
Mutant Ape Yacht Club
The Mutant Ape Yacht Club is YugaLabs’ spin-off NFT collection. These 20,000 collectibles can only be created when Bored Ape Yacht Club tokens holders expose their apes to one of the three mutant serums (read: sending their NFT through a smart contract integration), which was airdropped to their wallets upon launch. Each serum holds its own level of severity, creating a deformed reimagining of the original NFT without overwriting it.
NBA Top Shot
Dapper Labs partnered with the National Basketball Association to develop NBA Top Shot, a video-based NFT collection that showcases in-game highlights as clips to be bought, sold and collected by the sport’s biggest fans. Total sales volume to date is nearly $982 million.
Otherdeed is an NFT collection of digital land plots in the Bored Ape Yacht Club metaverse known as Otherside. Each piece in this 100,000 number collection comes with its own mix of sediments, environment, otherworldly artifacts and natural resources. Otherdeed serves as the setting for YugaLabs’ interoperable project, enabling up to 10,000 users to move between metaverses at once.
Pudgy Penguins is an 8,888-piece PFP NFT collection featuring an assortment of hand-drawn, flightless, arctic birds. Its online community of token holders is called “the Huddle.” Like Cryptopunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, token holders own the commercial rights to their Pudgy Penguin.
More than a set of digital collector’s cards, Sorare merges football, basketball and baseball fandoms onto one platform, where users can wage their NFT collection in fantasy league competition. Points are calibrated by real-world performance of the players and rarity of NFTs. If a user’s all-star roster comes out on top, they may reap rewards spanning merchandise, match tickets, Ether or even an opportunity to meet the players.
World of Women
World of Women is a 10,000-piece NFT collection as much as it is a female-centric network. According to its website, the collectibles are tech-art fronts “to increase diversity in the NFT space … [and] create opportunities for anyone around the world to be owners, creators and contributors in this new era of the web.” Members enjoy monthly art drops, curated presales, raffles, discounts and annual galas.