CryptoPunks are an NFT collection of 10,000 pixelated characters on the Ethereum blockchain, released by Larva Labs in 2017. Originally an experiment, they have become some of the most expensive and sought-after NFTs, and have been described by Sotheby's as the catalyst for the modern crypto art movement. No two punks are alike, and each punk can be officially owned by a single person on the blockchain.
Since their launch, CryptoPunks have generated more than $100 million in NFT sales. In June last year, Sotheby's sold CryptoPunk #7523 for $11.8 million. On 23 February, Sotheby's planned for a further big sale, with an auction of 104 CryptoPunks. This is believed to be the largest single wallet holding of CryptoPunks and was estimated to generate between $20-30 million. The sale was scheduled for 7pm on 23 February from Sotheby's New York headquarters.
Prior to the auction, the owner of the 104 CryptoPunks tweeted 'Today, I'm excited to announce my partnership with Sotheby's to create the highest profile NFT sale of all time'. However, minutes before the auction was scheduled to launch, Sotheby's called the sale off. The consignor tweeted 'nvm, decided to hodl'. Sotheby's made the announcement both to the crowded auction room and online, explaining that following a discussion with the consignor, the work had been withdrawn, and declined to comment further.
Shortly afterwards, the consignor posted further tweets which suggested they were 'taking punks mainstream by rugging Sotheby's', referencing the term 'rug pull' used to describe a situation where a crypto developer abandons a project and runs away with investors' funds - although no investor funds were lost in this case. Another explanation might be lack of interest - auction lots are sometimes withdrawn before the sale if it is feared the asking price won't be achieved. In this instance, the exact reason why the lot was pulled at the last minute remains unclear.