The OG: Crypto Punks by Larva Labs

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Crypto punks were created and released for free at the height of the 2017 crypto boom by John Watkinson and Matt Hall who also go by the name Larva Labs. As one of the earliest NFT projects, they were originally released as an anti-establishment art experiment. They were released for free as Ethereum’s ERC-71 non fungible token standard didn’t even exist at that point. The 10,000 digital images were given away in what was widely considered the first no-business use of an NFT. (Jakobson, 2021)During its release, Ethereum wallet owners were allowed to snatch up 9000 crypto punks released to the public, while larva labs held onto the rest. (Hayward, 2021)

Crypto punks are a series of 10,000 randomly generated pixel-based avatars tokenized as NFTs in the Ethereum blockchain. (Hayward, 2021) Each Crypto Punk was created on a picture generator Watkinson and Hall were playing with, they were generated as 24×24,8 bit style pixel art images. Furthermore, each Crypto Punk was randomly generated from a list of attributes – meaning there are 10,000 Crypto Punks with their own unique combination of distinctive, randomly generated features. (Christie’s, 2021)

No two Crypto punks are alike, this means there’s an array of designs from people, zombies, apes and last but not least- Aliens. Base heads of various sexes and skin colours are adorned with random combinations of different attributes such as: beanies, hand rolled cigarettes, earrings, bucktoothed and many more.

Overall, there are 6,039 male punks and 3,840 female punks. (Watkinson & Hall, 2017) But as a nod to popular culture archetypes, Larva Labs tweaked their software algorithm to generate a scarcer number of non-human punks which include 88 green skinned zombies, 24 apes and 9 light blue skinned aliens.

Some features are kept rarer than others: just 44 are wearing a beanie, while 115 have a top hat, 272 have a vape, 414 have crazy hair and 2459 have an earring – the most common attribute by far. (Watkinson & Hall, 2017)Each head also has a set number of attributes: only eight have no attributes while the most common with 4501 punks are 3 attributes. There’s even one which people would say is the cream of the crop: Crypto Punk 8348 a big bearded, bucktoothed cigarette smoking punk with an earring and mole, wearing a top hat and classic shades – a total of seven attributes. (Christie’s, 2021)

Different combinations of attributes also determine the price of a Crypto Punk, for example, aliens and zombies are among the most popular avatars with absurdly large sale prices – one even recently sold for $532 million. 

One of the biggest drivers for demand for Crypto Punks is that they are one of the first NFT projects. They also happen to be the first set of randomly generated profile images to resonate well with the crypto community. There is also a rising tide of profile picture NFT sets such as the Bored Ape Yacht club which go on to reinforce the legacy and influence of the source project. What Hall and Watkinson first perceived as the makings of a smartphone app turned into a paradigm changing model for the digital art market and NFT’s – forever cementing their names into history. (Christie’s, 2021)


Hayward, A. (2021, September 1). What are Crypto Punks? The Ethereum NFT sensation. Retrieved from Decrypt :

Christie’s. (2021, April 8). 10 things to know about Crypto Punks, the original NFT’s. Retrieved from Christie’s:

Jakobson, L. (2021, October 25). Crypto Punks: A history . Retrieved from Alexandria :

Watkinson, J., & Hall, M. (2017). Types and attributes. Retrieved from Larva labs:

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