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What Are PFP NFTs And How Do They Work?

Updated: Jan 27

PFP NFTs can either be created through the website of the NFT collection or bought on a second-hand NFT market like OpenSea or Magic Eden.

The rise of digital collectibles in the crypto space has been a trend that has been gaining momentum since 2021, and at the forefront of this movement are profile picture NFTs (PFP NFTs). These NFTs have played a significant role in the success of the broader NFT market as most projects that have seen mainstream adoption are PFP NFT collections. If you are not convinced, Amazon is now jumping into the NFT space, Amazon NFT Initiative Coming Soon: Exclusive.

You may have come across several such NFTs as they are often used as profile pictures on social media accounts by public figures and NFT enthusiasts. Twitter is a particularly popular platform for PFP NFTs, with collections like Yuga Labs' Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Nine Facts You May Not Know About Bored Ape Yacht Club, being a favorite among the crypto community. Other notable PFP NFT projects include CryptoPunks, Meebits, Doodles, and Cool Cats. These collections offer a unique and exciting way to participate in the world of NFTs, and are a great starting point for beginners looking to explore this emerging market.

What are PFP NFTs?

PFP NFTs, or Profile Picture Non-Fungible Tokens, are a type of digital collectible that combines the social media concept of a profile picture with the unique and scarce nature of non-fungible tokens. NFTs are digital assets that exist on a blockchain, typically the Ethereum blockchain, and have a distinct digital identity.

PFP NFTs are mostly static, 2-dimensional images that were originally created to be displayed on social media profiles. However, with the advancements in blockchain technology, developers have now created full-body profile picture NFTs and even animated ones.

The majority of PFP NFTs are generative artworks, which are created by computer algorithms, although hand-drawn PFP NFT collections are also becoming more prevalent. These generative PFP projects often consist of thousands of NFTs, with a character such as an ape, robot, alien, or human. These characters are often shoulder-length or neck-length figures with a variety of traits that differ from piece to piece.

These traits can include things like background color, accessories, hair or fur color, or even changes in the character's expression, all of which help make each piece unique. PFP NFTs typically have rarity rankings, which depend on the traits each token has, and the rarity of a PFP NFT usually drives up its value.

History of PFP NFTs

PFPs, or Profile Picture Non-Fungible Tokens, were among the pioneers in the NFT space. The CryptoPunks project was one of the first to introduce the concept of NFTs as digital avatars and played a crucial role in the growth of the NFT market.

Although NFTs may seem like a recent trend, the founders of Larva Labs, Matt Hall and John Watkinson, had already launched their NFT project back in 2017. They created thousands of pixel art images of stylized humanoid figures, known as punks. The duo initially thought they had discovered a new entry into smartphone apps or games, but their release ended up revolutionizing the digital art industry and re-defining the concept of ownership.

Larva Labs introduced some of the first prototypes of non-fungible tokens as a way to represent ownership of the punks. They began with slightly altered versions of ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, which opened the door for a specialized digital coin, the ERC-721 token standard, created specifically for non-fungible tokens.

Soon after the launch, NFT collectors began using their CryptoPunks characters as profile pictures on Discord and Twitter. It took a while before the punks saw mainstream adoption, but once they did, NFT profile pictures saw a massive surge in popularity as celebrities and other members of the NFT community hopped on board.

The overwhelming popularity of the Crypto Punks ultimately paved the way for many other PFP projects, including the popular Bored Apes, to emerge.

How do PFP NFTs Work?

Acquiring a PFP NFT (Proof of Physical Presence Non-Fungible Token) is a breeze, whether you're a seasoned NFT collector or a newcomer to the scene. You can mint your own tokens directly from the project's website or snag one from a secondary marketplace. Well known NFT marketplaces include Opensea, Rarible, SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, KnownOrigin, and Sorare. It's important to note the digital landscape is rapidly evolving and knew marketplaces are opening all the time. Once you've made your purchase, you can easily view your PFP NFT using a compatible crypto wallet.

Then, like many others in the NFT community, you can show off your new acquisition by using it as your profile picture on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. These platforms support the use of NFTs as profile pictures, allowing you to flaunt your unique PFP NFT to the world.

How to Use PFP NFTs

Sure, the primary purpose of a PFP NFT (Proof of Physical Presence Non-Fungible Token) is to serve as a profile picture, but these digital collectibles offer so much more. In the NFT space and the crypto community at large, prestige and exclusivity are key drivers. PFP NFTs allow collectors to showcase their unique assets and flaunt their ownership status.

However, some PFP NFT projects offer a wider range of utility beyond just being a display item. As artists and developers are often hesitant to give up the intellectual property rights to their works, they must walk a fine line when introducing utility to their projects.

A key feature that can contribute to the popularity of an NFT project is community orientation. NFT owners can be a part of a community where they can vote on important decisions and network with other like-minded individuals. Some PFP NFT projects also offer metaverse utility, as the idea of virtual worlds has grown in popularity alongside NFTs. These virtual worlds have contributed to the avatar craze, as a PFP NFT can also serve as an avatar in a digital world.

In addition, some PFP NFT collections like BAYC provide exclusive access to personalized utility, a feature that extends to its sequel project mutant ape yacht club. PFP NFTs can also allow owners to enjoy perks that exist in the real world. Overall, PFP NFTs offer more than just a profile picture, they offer a chance to be part of a community and access to exclusive perks and experiences.

PFP NFTs vs Other NFTs: What’s the difference?

PFP NFTs (Proof of Physical Presence Non-Fungible Tokens) are a unique subcategory of NFTs that focus on avatars as the central feature of the piece. These avatars can take the form of characters such as apes, robots, aliens, or humans and are often used as profile pictures on social media platforms. Examples of popular PFP NFT projects include CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Meebits, Doodles, and Cool Cats.

In contrast, other NFT projects in the market may feature different forms of art such as digital paintings, sculptures, and even physical artworks like sculptures or photographs that have been tokenized. These NFTs often focus on the art as the main attraction of the piece, rather than the avatar.

Additionally, PFP NFT projects often employ generative art techniques to create their avatars. These techniques involve using computer algorithms to generate thousands of unique pieces, which allows for a high level of rarity and exclusivity. In contrast, many other NFTs are one-off pieces, unique and not repeatable, they are not generative.

Popular PFP NFT Projects

  1. Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC): Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection of 10,000 disgruntled apes, generated from a set of 170 distinct features. Owning an ape grants membership into the club, which offers special members-only events in the real world. Additionally, the ape allows the owner to edit pixels on a virtual board, likened to a graffiti-scrawled club bathroom.

  2. CryptoPunks: What Are Cryptopunks? This is a collection of 10,000 unique pixel art characters created by the artist Larva Labs. Each character is one-of-a-kind and has its own unique attributes and characteristics. How Can I Buy Cryptopunks? Some of the most valuable CryptoPunks have sold for millions of dollars despite having to be reissued in an early controversy in March 2022.

  3. CryptoKitties: This is a collection of digital cats that can be bought, sold, and bred using blockchain technology. Each CryptoKitty is unique and has its own set of attributes and characteristics. Some of the rarest and most sought-after CryptoKitties have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  4. NBA Top Shot: This is a collection of digital trading cards featuring highlights of professional basketball players. Each card is a unique moment that has been verified on the blockchain. Some of the rarest and most sought-after NBA Top Shot moments have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  5. Art Blocks: Art Blocks is an NFT marketplace that allows artists to create and sell unique digital artworks that can be displayed on the Ethereum blockchain. Some of the most valuable Art Blocks have sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

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