NFTs ballooned to a $41 billion market in 2021 and are catching up to the total size of the global fine art market

NFTs ballooned to a $41 billion market in 2021 and are catching up to the total size of the global fine art market
  • The market for non-fungible tokens surged to $41 billion in 2021, according to the newest metric.
  • By comparison, sales in the conventional art market were about $50 billion in 2020.
  • Traditional art auction houses like Christie's have begun selling NFTs to get in on the hype.
  • The market size for digital collectibles known as NFTs is catching up to that of the traditional art market.

    By the end of 2021, the marketplace for non-fungible tokens, which are digital pieces of art tied to blockchain technology, reached a $41 billion value, according blockchain data company Chainalysis, which updated a previous report.

    And according to the Financial Times, which first reported the new metric, total NFT sales would be even higher if digital collectibles minted on blockchains other than ethereum were also included.

    NFTs are now inching closer and closer in value to the traditional art market, where people buy and sell physical works. The latest estimate from a 2021 report showed sales of conventional art and antiques reached $50 billion in 2020. That number was a decline from the year prior, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market report found.

    To be sure, other estimates on NFTs differ, with separate data from DappRadar showing the market hit $22 billion in 2021. But the explosive trend upward is still clear as DappRadar also put digital collectible sales at just $100 million in 2020.

    And art-industry stalwarts have taken notice. Centuries-old auction houses like and have sold millions of dollars worth of NFTs as they capitalize on the burgeoning market.

    Heading into 2022, the NFT market appears to be staying strong. In the past week alone, sales of NFTs hit half a billion dollars, according to the latest data from NonFungible.com. The iconic Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks NFT collections led the sales, followed by Doodles, the Sandbox, and Art Blocks, .

    Many have debated the merits of the digital collectibles. Enthusiasts have said they're the the next phase of the internet, often called the metaverse or Web3. Naysayers, , say there's little to no value in the digital tokens.

    , one of the twins behind NFT exchange Nifty Gateway, told Insider previously that the long-term picture for the market is "very strong," and it's likely naysayers will eventually become participants.

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