Visa Bought a $150,000 Crypto Punk for Its Corporate Collection—and Immediately Triggered an NFT Market Rush

The company says it made the purchase to get firsthand experience in a field it soon hopes to advise its clients in.

Larva Labs, CryptoPunk #7610 (2017). Courtesy of Visa, via Twitter.

Visa is officially getting into the NFT game. 

Last week, the financial services company purchased a CryptoPunk—one of 10,000 highly sought-after digital characters on the Ethereum blockchain—for 49.5 ETH, or roughly $150,000. 

For NFT aficionados, the news arrived as yet another indication of cryptoart’s increasing acceptance in mainstream culture. Within an hour of Visa’s purchase, 90 other CryptoPunks sold on the market, representing about $20 million in combined sales, according to CoinDesk. The blitzkrieg didn’t stop there.

Yesterday, August 23, combined CryptoPunk sales topped $86 million—a single-day record for the series. Average prices for Punks now hover around $199,000 a pop, more than double last month’s figure.

In a FAQ-style blog post shared on the Visa website, the company’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, explained that the impetus behind the purchase was to learn more about the still-nascent market for digital art. 

“We think NFTs will play an important role in the future of retail, social media, entertainment, and commerce,” he wrote. “To help our clients and partners participate, we need a firsthand understanding of the infrastructure requirements for a global brand to purchase, store, and leverage an NFT.” 

“With our CryptoPunk purchase, we’re jumping in feet first,” Sheffield, an avid NFT collector, added. “This is just the beginning of our work in this space.” 

Considered one the first major NFT projects, CryptoPunks was designed by software developers Matt Hall and John Watkinson through their company, Larva Labs. Each avatar is distinguished by a different set of algorithmically assigned characteristics. Visa’s punk, for instance, has a mohawk and green eyeshadow. 

Sheffield said the series has become a “cultural icon for the crypto community.” 

It’s proven to be a major crossover hit in the art world, too. In May, a set of nine CryptoPunks sold at the Christie’s for $16.9 million, doubling its pre-sale estimate of $7 million to $9 million. An example from the series will also be included in the auction house’s first NFT sale in Asia next month.

In his blog post, Sheffield suggested that with its growing popularity, the NFT market might eventually need banks to help regulate sales. 

“Enabling secure commerce is what we do… and that extends to new forms of digital commerce that unlock access,” he wrote. “So, it’s not surprising that we’re thinking deeply about this space and how we can apply our expertise in enabling seamless and secure digital payments to make NFT-commerce accessible and useable for buyers and sellers.”

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