Christie’s to Sell Some of the Earliest NFTs – And Only for ETH

A full set of 31 Curio Cards – including a misprint – is expected to fetch between $870,000 and $1.3 million.

AccessTimeIconSep 17, 2021 at 9:36 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 4:13 p.m. UTC

Christie’s is listing a set of 31 Curio Cards and several other prominent non-fungible token (NFT) projects in a live auction on Oct. 1, furthering its foray into digital art sales.

The 254-year-old auction house made history in March when it auctioned a Beeple NFT for $69 million. Christie’s Asia branch is now taking bids for several rare CryptoPunks and Bored Ape NFTs as recent buyer appetite for NFTs approaches manic levels.

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  • Launched in May 2017, Curio Cards is commonly viewed as the first digital art collectible on the Ethereum blockchain, predating both CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties. The set depicts images ranging from mundane objects (#1 Apples) to reimagined corporate logos (#15 DigitalCash) to intricate black-and-white geometric drawings (#26 Education).

    “A true full set of Curio Cards is one of the few holy grails as far as art projects on Ethereum go,” said Noah Davis, head of digital art at Christie’s. “It’s the first of its kind, predating Punks, even.”

    The set of 31 numbered cards – including the misprinted #17b – is estimated to fetch between 250 and 350 ETH, or between $870,000 and $1.3 million based on current prices of ether.

    The rarest of the batch is card #26, according to the Curio Cards website.

    “There are only 111 of them. Five have been lost,” Curio Cards co-founder Travis Uhrig told CoinDesk. That puts the number of feasible full sets at 106 – one of which will be up for grabs at Christie’s.

    As for the misprinted card, Uhrig chalked it up to a technical error.

    “Cards 17, 18 and 19 were all initially misprinted, but there was a mistake that made 18 and 19 unsellable,” explained Uhrig. “Back in 2017, nobody cared that you had test code on Ethereum. We just re-deployed all three after fixing [the error]. People eventually found [card #17b] because it lives on the blockchain. The market has definitely spoken, people think of it as an essential in a full set.”

    The Oct. 1 auction also marks the first time Christie’s live bidding will be denominated in cryptocurrency instead of the usual local currency. The bids, which must be placed in ETH, point to a new milestone as Christie’s descends down the crypto rabbit hole.

    “I’ve been bidding in auctions on behalf of clients for almost a decade,” said Davis, the Christie’s digital art lead. “I’ve placed bids in USD, GBP and EUR – always fiat. To think I’m going to hear the auctioneer calling out my bids in ETH, that’s just incredible. It doesn’t happen.”

    In addition to the set of Curio Cards, the auction will feature a second lot of three complete sets of 31 NFTs from the Art Blocks Curated collection. Art Blocks, a blockchain startup that helps artists create algorithmically generated art, handpicks releases for the popular collection.

    On NFT marketplace OpenSea, the current floor price of an Art Blocks Curated piece is 1.7 ETH, or about $5,900.

    “Both Art Blocks and the artists involved are incredibly humbled to be receiving this level of recognition,” Erick Calderon, co-founder and CEO of Art Blocks, told CoinDesk.

    The first batch of NFT works will be part of Christie’s broader “POST-WAR TO PRESENT” live auction in New York, which will also feature more traditional artists and pieces.

    As part of the same auction, Christie’s will also list five of entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s original doodles of his VeeFriends NFT collection, Davis confirmed to CoinDesk.

    Just five days later, Christie’s is set to auction its first NFT photograph as part of its “PHOTOGRAPHS” series on Oct. 6. The auction will include the NFT Twin Flames #83, which will be accompanied by the full 100 physical photos in the collection.

    “This can be a bridge between the traditional art collectors and new crypto art collectors,” said Justin Aversano, the photographer behind the Twin Flames project, which is estimated to fetch between $100,000 and $150,000 at auction.

    The international auction house appears to be sprinkling NFTs into its traditional live auctions as part of a cross-pollination marketing strategy. The auctions from Christie’s will be mixing digital and real-life art, which would introduce traditional art collectors to NFTs and draw in crypto-native collectors who were not previously clients of the auction house.

    “It’s amazing to see so many incredible artists succeed in the NFT space; that was always the dream,” said Curio Cards co-founder Uhrig.

    “In 2017, Curio Cards was focused on explaining what NFTs were and why they had value. Now it has become this well-known ecosystem, with artists being showcased at big auction houses like Christie’s.”


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    Tracy Wang

    Tracy was the deputy managing editor at CoinDesk. She owns BTC, ETH, MINA, ENS and some NFTs.