On a frigid New York evening late this past February, NFT fans gathered at Sotheby’s. Young collectors in hypebeast fits mingled as they plucked champagne flutes from silver platters, while others listened attentively to rapper Ja Rule as Seedphrase, a noted NFT collector, deejayed. Everyone took the opportunity to network before the main event, that is, the auction house’s first-ever evening sale devoted to NFTs: a bundle of 104 CryptoPunks estimated to sell for $20 million to $30 million. Just a year earlier, Christie’s had sold a Beeple NFT for $69 million, starting a frenzy that hadn’t yet let up.

Now another historic sale was around the corner, and those at Sotheby’s that night were hoping to witness it. But the start time passed, and then, moments later, a rep announced to a collective gasp that the sale had been canceled: the seller had pulled out. It was like a Rolling Stones concert where Mick and Keith never got on stage.


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