It’s a bizarre troop of apes. Ten thousand strong, each named by number, born on blockchain, and anthropomorphized with miscellaneous accessories. Some sport neon sunglasses, others don fez hats, most all bare expressions of utmost lethargy. 

These are Bored Apes, NFTs created earlier this year by a relatively mysterious group called Yuga Labs. The reason for interest? A set of 107 recently fetched $24.4 million at Sotheby’s Ape In! online auction.  

What happened?

A two-lot sale at Sotheby’s on September 9 generated $26.2 million. The first included 101 of the aforementioned apes along with six “mutant serums” (NFTs in their own right), which allow the owner to inject their apes and generate new ones. The second included 101 canine companions, known as Bored Ape Kennel Club NFTs, and raked in $1.8 million. It marks a crypto art record for the auction house, one well above its $12 million to $19 million estimate.  

What are Bored Apes?

Designed and minted on blockchain by Delaware-based company Yuga Labs, they belong to the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a set of 10,000 primates randomly created from 172 characteristics that live on the Ethereum blockchain. They follow on from CryptoPunks and Art Blocks as NFT projects that have rapidly gained collecting popularity (Sotheby’s drew 23 bidders, many new to the auction house, from North America, Europe, and Asia).

Why it matters

Bored Ape

Accompanying the sale were 101 Dogs from the Bored Ape Kennel Club, which collectively achieved $1.84 million in sales. Image: Sotheby’s

First off, despite early cynicism, the presence of art NFTs in the auction market is not a fad — it’s a new collecting category. The auction followed on from Sotheby’s successful Digitally Native auction endeavor in June, and Christie’s is due to include Bored Ape NFTs in its No Time Like Present sale in Hong Kong later this month.

Next, there’s the Bored Ape project itself, which differs from other NFT ventures in three key ways. First, buyers of Bored Apes not only receive ownership of the digital asset but the intellectual property rights for the images themselves, which is, to date, a highly unusual practice in the realm of crypto art. Second, there’s the interactive element introduced by the “mutant serums” (there are three tiers of serums, each of increasing scarcity), through which the owner becomes something of a creator — such playful interactivity is likely fertile ground for NFTs moving forward. Third is the community aspect, with owners of Bored Ape NFTs granted access to a members-only digital club. The apes may well be heralding an evolution in NFT art.

What Sotheby’s said

“The Bored Ape Yacht Club project is one of the most exciting and creative NFT collectibles since the launch of CryptoPunks, and has become a major force in pop culture.” — Michael Bouhanna, Contemporary Art Specialist, Sotheby’s

What Bored Ape Yacht Club said

“What an historic moment for the club: the Sotheby’s auction of 101 Bored Apes has closed at over $24m. Congratulations and thank you to the whole ape community. To the buyer, I think we speak for everybody when we say: welcome to the club.” — Bored Ape Yacht Club on Twitter


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