It was a tale of two NFT markets in 2022: the speculative madness that defined the first few months of the year, and the steady decline since that has culminated in a dramatic drop in trading action and prices for major collections.
Amid the early-year froth and the brutal aftermath, some projects clearly stood above the rest in terms of trading demand.
We’ve pored through the data collected by analytics platform CryptoSlam to compile a list of the 10 best-performing NFT collections across the nearly-complete year, from January through December 20. The data includes on-chain secondary sales, and for new projects released in 2022, also the funds generated by the initial NFT mint.
Note that CryptoSlam filters out sales that are suspected to be the product of wash trading, or trades done at artificially inflated prices between a user’s own wallets. It’s often done to manipulate a token rewards model, heavily skewing data in the process. The filtered data provides a better sense of organic trading action.
(Data accurate as of December 20, 2022)
10. Axie Infinity – $291.1 million
Last year’s largest NFT project by far barely made the Top 10 this time around, as monster-battling game Axie Infinity limped into 2022 as its play-to-earn economy struggled. Axie racked up billions of dollars’ worth of trading in 2021 as its token rewards convinced millions of players to buy NFTs and jump in, but momentum fell off a cliff in 2022.
Despite launching a new version of the game and making tweaks to turn the economy around, Axie Infinity’s trading action has largely petered out across the year. CryptoSlam reported over $126 million in NFT trades in January, but less than $1.5 million in November. The entire NFT market is suffering, but Axie’s decline has been sharper than most.
9. Sorare – $318.1 million
Even as NFT prices fell, Web3 fantasy soccer game Sorare continued plugging along with relatively steady sales throughout 2021, ultimately tallying about $318 million worth of trading volume so far this year. NBA Top Shot might have led the sports NFT charge into the mainstream in 2021, but it fell off in 2022 while Sorare continued its solid performance.
The $318 million in sales only includes trades via Sorare’s original soccer platform. It launched league-specific NBA and MLB platforms this year, as well, and CryptoSlam displays all of that data under one unified listing on the website. However, a breakdown of the data shows that Sorare’s MLB platform hasn’t gained much traction, while the NBA game only recently launched.
8. Doodles – $391.6 million
Launched last fall, Ethereum profile picture (PFP) project Doodles has major ambitions for its brand, including music and entertainment plays in collaboration with Pharrell Williams, as well as a larger-scale Doodles 2 drop built for the metaverse. And amid those announcements, secondary sales for the original collection kept chugging along in 2022.
Doodles has racked up over $391 million worth of secondary trading volume this year, peaking in January with $122 million. With $54 million in VC funding in its war chest and big plans ahead, we’ll see whether Doodles can maintain momentum in 2023 following steady recent declines in both prices and trading volume.
7. CryptoPunks – $575.2 million
The influential 2017 profile picture project had a relatively eventful 2022. One CryptoPunk was sold for a record-breaking $23.7 million worth of ETH in February, and then creator Larva Labs sold the IP rights to Bored Ape Yacht Club maker Yuga Labs in March.
Yuga has since worked to address some of the complaints from holders, including offering them IP commercialization rights to turn their Punks into derivative artwork and projects, plus working to establish the art world cred of the O.G. NFT collection. Trading wasn’t as fervent as with the Apes this year, but remember: Punks were free to mint at launch. Five years later, they still topped half a billion dollars worth of annual trading.
6. CloneX – $600.5 million
The vibrant, anime-inspired collaboration between the Nike-owned Web3 studio RTFKT and popular artist Takashi Murakami continued to thrive this year following its late 2021 launch, delivering just over $600 million worth of trading volume so far.
Beyond the boldly stylized avatars, part of the value equation has been RTFKT’s continued push to deliver benefits to holders, including airdropped NFTs that gave them Nike’s CryptoKicks digital wearables. Like most projects on this list, prices and demand have fallen in recent months—but RTFKT keeps teasing big plans for its future and its NFT holders.
5. Moonbirds – $613.4 million
Kevin Rose’s Proof startup made a huge splash in April with the launch of Moonbirds, a collection of 10,000 pixel owl avatars that quickly generated $280 million worth of minting and trading within just two days of launch. The feverish momentum eventually subsided, but even so, the project has topped $613 million in total activity so far this year.
Moonbirds followed the late 2021 launch of the buzzy Proof Collective membership NFT, which itself surged in value amid the Moonbirds frenzy. Proof has since raised a bunch of cash and made big plans for next year, although its move to open-source its artwork earned pushback from holders. Will Moonbirds sales keep flying in 2023?
4. Azuki – $849.9 million
Here it is: the highest-ranking new project of 2022 that wasn’t spun off from an existing IP. Azuki rolled out in January and thrived for months until the NFT market crashed in May, ultimately racking up about $850 million worth of trading to date.
The anime-inspired project has also done a better job than most of maintaining value, as measured in ETH, while its Beanz “sidekick” NFTs—airdropped free to holders—have racked up another $233 million worth of trading volume on their own. Azuki’s recent push to pair physical products with NFTs has also given it a unique hook going forward.
3. Otherside – $1.1 billion
The Bored Ape Yacht Club’s metaverse play is easily the largest new NFT launch of 2022, with the initial mint and secondary sales collectively generating some $561 million worth within 24 hours. The huge resale barrage then pushed OpenSea to its best single day of trading volume to date… right before the wider crypto market collapsed. Now the tally between mint and secondary sales tops the billion-dollar mark.
With Otherside, what NFT traders are buying is an Otherdeed, or a plot of land within the forthcoming metaverse game’s world. Yuga held a first interactive test for the game a few months back and plans additional demo experiences as development continues, though it could be quite some time before those Otherdeeds are functional.
2. Mutant Ape Yacht Club – $1.14 billion
The Mutant Apes—the wilder-looking, cheaper counterparts to Bored Apes—grabbed the second spot on the 2022 ranking. There are twice as many Mutant Apes and they trade more frequently than the original Bored Apes, so the collection managed to top $1.1 billion worth of sales this year despite the much lower average prices for this set.
Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFT owners got an allocation of the ApeCoin drop in March, and were also able to claim a free Otherdeed in April, so ownership definitely had benefits in 2022 even if they’re not considered to be as prestigious as the Bored Apes.
1. Bored Ape Yacht Club – $1.57 billion
Even before running the math, there was little doubt over which project would top this list. Bored Ape Yacht Club racked up more than $1.5 billion worth of trades as hype sustained the collection through much of 2022.
No doubt, the buzz around the ApeCoin and Otherside launches helped propel trades and rising prices for the Bored Apes. But so did their rising awareness and cachet across both crypto and mainstream culture, with Apes snagged by celebrities and used to launch brands and products. Prices have fallen sharply since the April peak, but Bored Apes still ruled the year in NFTs.