I n 2018, Larva Labs took a unique and never repeated step that would become iconic to the CryptoPunk project. Of the 10,000 original CryptoPunks, John Watkinson and Matt Hall decided to make physical their iconic NFT project - physically printing just 24 Punks as unique lithographs, hand signed by John Watkinson. Each of the 24 physical CryptoPunks was accompanied by a sealed envelope containing the private keys also called ‘’paper wallet’’ that, when unsealed and accessed, would endow ownership of the CryptoPunk asset.
Offering here 5 of these ultra-rare editions, these printed works are exactly as rare as the second rarest Punk: the Ape. All five CryptoPunks to be offered at auction have been brought by Swiss curator and digital art expert, Georg Bak. Bak was the first to exhibit a collection of nine CryptoPunk print editions as part of the group show, ‘Perfect & Priceless: Value Systems on the Blockchain’ at Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich in 2018. CryptoPunks #1819 and #872 were displayed as part of this debut exhibition, while the remaining three have never before been displayed publicly.
Launched on 23 June 2017 by studio Larva Labs, CryptoPunks were originally free to acquire for anyone with an ETH wallet. There are a total of 10,000 Punks, each with their own distinct characteristics – no two are exactly alike. The 24 x 24 pixel, 8-bit-style Punks embody an aesthetic mirroring the nostalgic punk spirit, reflecting the crypto-anarchist philosophy that brought together many of the weird and wonderful misfits that came to build the early crypto infrastructure.
Today, CryptoPunks are considered to be some of the most iconic NFTs ever created and the collection is widely regarded as the catalyst for the modern crypto art movement. Their status in the crypto ecosystem and — more recently — the fine art world has evolved CryptoPunks into a signifier of legitimacy and identity for their holders. Not infrequently, addresses that hold CryptoPunks are airdropped additional assets (a recent example includes Meebits, also created by Larva Labs), signifying the ecosystem’s continued reverence for CryptoPunks and their collectors.
“In the anti-establishment spirit of the early days of the blockchain movement, the CryptoPunks were conceived as a collection of misfits and non-conformists in an ode to the 1970s London punk scene. And, just as the Punks themselves belong to a movement, so too do those who collect them. The appeal of CryptoPunks has transcended beyond the world of Crypto-enthusiasts, to ‘traditional’ art lovers too. Here, in this sale, we have a group of unique Punks, each defined by their own eccentric characteristics, made even more special by their accompanying prints. This is where the digital art world meets the traditional.”