Would you pay US$590,000 for a meme? Nyan Cat just sold for six figures worth of cryptocurrency, opening the door to even more expensive online NFT art sales

Nyan Cat, a meme that sold for more than half a million dollars. Photo: Nyan Cat/YouTube

A one-of-a-kind digital rendition of the Nyan Cat meme from 2011 sold for about US$590,000 in an online auction last Friday, February 19. 

Over the past few weeks, online sales of non-fungible tokens more commonly known as NFTs have taken off, as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin boomed. 

NFT art products – which operate as a type of digital asset or token – have in some instances sold for over US$3.5 million a piece, contributing to a crypto art market that is currently valued at over US$100 million.

For Chris Torres, the creator of Nyan Cat, the NFT sale represented his first foray into crypto art.

“I’m very surprised with the success, but I think I’m most glad knowing that I’ve basically opened the door to a whole new meme economy in the crypto world,” Torres told Nasdaq.

Torres remastered the original animated GIF for its 10 year anniversary and ran a 24-hour auction on the crypto art platform Foundation on February 18. 

The platform itself had only just launched two weeks prior and allows artists like Torres to continue to profit off their work if a buyer resells the piece later on for further profit.

I think I’m most glad knowing that I’ve basically opened the door to a whole new meme economy in the crypto world
Chris Torres, the creator of Nyan Cat

Bids for Nyan Cat started at 3 Ether (ETH), or about US$1,544.38, and closed at 300 ETH, about US$590,000, at the time of the sale. 

Most crypto art platforms use Ethereum as means of payment. ETH is the second largest cryptocurrency by market value after bitcoin.

The buyer was anonymous, appearing only as “oxy7eb2 … 3f6b” on Foundation’s site. The account is likely to be the sole owner of the digital meme, as Torres told The Verge he has no plans to sell additional copies of the image in the future.

Despite the sale, the existing Nyan Cat GIF and video will still be available for distribution online. The crypto art sale simply allows the buyer to operate as a collector of sorts – as the owner of a digital piece of art based on a popular meme.

The Nyan Cat meme originated on YouTube and quickly became an internet sensation. The video depicts an animated cartoon cat that has a Pop-Tart toaster pastry for a torso. The video follows the cat as it flies through space, leaving a rainbow trail. The sequence is set to Japanese pop music and currently has over 185 million views on YouTube. 

Nyan Cat. Photo: @Nyan Cat/YouTube

For the sale, Torres remastered the Nyan Cat through minor touch-ups, including removing a star from the animated sequence.

Nyan Cat Auction Livestream on Twitch. Photo: @withFND/Twitter

“The creator originally owns it, and then they can sell it and directly monetise and have recognition for their work,” Torres told The Verge.

Nyan Cat is not the first crypto art to sell for a large sum of money. On February 21, a group of 34 digital collectible pieces of art, called CryptoPunks, sold for over US$1 million in ETH. In December 2020, the digital artist Beeple sold an NFT art collection for over US$3.5 million. 

Investors have gambled on digital products like Nyan Cat in the past too. In 2018, 1.5 million people put over US$40 million into the digital equivalent of Beanie Babies, CryptoKitties. 

Torres, Foundation, and did not respond in time to comment.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

  • Chris Torres created the quirky flying space cat with a Pop-Tart for a body, released on YouTube in 2011
  • To celebrate the viral GIF’s 10th anniversary, Torres did a one-of-a-kind remastered version – that just sold for 300 Ether on crypto art platform Foundation