How do you represent yourself on social media? For most people it’s a selfie, a photo with their friends, or a picture of their pet—but what about a digitally-created character?
As Visual Capitalist's Marcus Lu details below, profile picture NFTs are pieces of digital artwork that people use to express themselves online. Each item is a depiction of a character’s face, and has a unique mix of attributes that gives it a sense of collectability.
Like other NFTs, they’re secured on a blockchain and can be bought and sold for cryptocurrency. And while there’s nothing to stop you from screenshotting an NFT and using it for your own profile, the market for these items continues to grow.
To learn more, this infographic explains how three well-known profile picture NFT collections were created.
CryptoPunks are commonly regarded as one of the first examples of NFTs. The collection consists of 10,000 unique “punks” and was released in 2017 by Larva Labs.
One interesting fact is that these NFTs were originally given out for free—today, they are worth thousands or millions of dollars each. According to OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces, CryptoPunk #3100 was sold for 4,200 Ethereum (roughly $7.6 million) in March 2021.
A large component of #3100’s perceived value is its blue alien skin, which only eight other punks have. In other words, it’s incredibly rare. The following table shows the species distribution of the CryptoPunks collection.
Bored Ape Yacht Club
Next is the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), another collection of 10,000 unique profile picture NFTs. Unlike CryptoPunks, BAYC NFTs show both the head and torso of a character (in this case, an ape).
This opens up many combinations of clothing items, facial features, and accessories. Altogether, there are seven categories of attributes: Background color, Clothes, Earring, Eyes, Fur, Hat, and Mouth.
The following table lists some examples of BAYC attributes, and their % rarity. To explore further, visit the BAYC gallery.
BAYC NFTs also grant access to members-only benefits. This includes access to a collaborative graffiti board, as well as other NFTs from spin-off collections like the Bored Ape Kennel Club (BAKC). As its name suggests, the BAKC is a collection of dogs, rather than apes.
Cool Cats NFT
The last collection is Cool Cats NFT, which again amounts to 10,000 images. Cool Cats were minted at a cost of 0.06 Ethereum each, or roughly $200. The act of “minting” an NFT is similar to when metal coins are entered into circulation.
Each Cool Cat NFT is a depiction of a cartoon cat with a varying number of facial features, hats, and shirts. Altogether, there are over 300,000 possible options that could be included.
Building Your Identity in the Metaverse
A criticism of today’s social media is that there’s little room to express yourself.
Think back, for a moment, to the days of MySpace. Users could spend hours customizing their profile page, adding music, art, and whatever else they felt was an expression of themselves. As the platform’s name implied, it was a space that belonged to you.
The metaverse offers something similar. To take part in a virtual universe, you need an avatar—a digital manifestation of yourself. Avatars will be highly customizable and far less constrained by the limitations of the real world.
If you’re having trouble imagining this, check out VR Chat, a virtual reality game where players socialize as aliens, monsters, and other “interesting” beings.
This may help to explain the recent craze around profile picture NFTs. When the metaverse arrives, these NFTs could become a user’s avatar. After all, who wouldn’t want to have blue alien skin?