How Profitable are NFTs?

Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD
10 Min Read

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have exploded onto the digital asset scene in recent years, creating major opportunities for artists, collectors, investors, and blockchain projects. With record-breaking NFT sales happening regularly, many are wondering just how profitable NFTs can be. While the market is still evolving, NFTs have already proven to be extremely lucrative for some. Let’s examine the profit potential of NFTs, how they make money, and whether NFTs present a smart investment opportunity. For a comprehensive introduction to NFTs, check HERE.

NFT Sales Growth is Surging

The total market value for NFT sales surpassed $40 million in 2021 according to Bloomberg. Between 2021 and 2023 the market saw a decline probably due to the collapse of some cryptocurrency exchanges and a general negative sentiment about blockchain. That notwithstanding, experts are predicting a much more sustainable rally for NFTs and the entire blockchain industry going into 2024 and beyond.

Monthly NFT trading volume on OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, reached as high as $5 billion in January 2022. Major brands, celebrities, artists, and athletes are increasingly launching NFT drops to capitalize on the hype. While concrete data is still limited in the rapidly evolving space, early indicators point to NFTs representing a multi-billion dollar market opportunity. As adoption spreads, profit possibilities rise.

Million Dollar NFT Sales Make Headlines 

Stories of individual NFTs selling for millions of dollars abound in media headlines. The most expensive NFT sale to date The Merge which sold for 91.8 million US dollars in December 2021; followed by Beeple’s collage artwork “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” which sold at Christie’s auction for over $69 million.

A rare Alien CryptoPunk NFT fetched $11.7 million at Sotheby’s, while others have sold for several million. Even meme NFTs like Doge proved lucrative, with a Shiba Inu NFT selling for $4 million in June 2021. These examples display the extreme profit heights possible for standout works by prominent digital artists or projects. However, even lesser-known artists and designers are making thousands selling NFT art and collectibles more accessible to everyday collectors. 

How Much Do Average NFTs Make?

For a more balanced perspective beyond headline-grabbing sales, examining average NFT prices and seller incomes provides a clearer profitability picture. According to Fintech, the average NFT sold for around $290 in late 2023 . However, averages vary widely between different NFT genres:

Collectibles like CryptoPunks ($125k+ average) and Bored Apes ($305k+ average) command the highest prices.

Gaming NFTs for assets like Axie Infinity or The Sandbox sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars on average.

Art NFTs on platforms like SuperRare or Foundation average a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Music and sports NFTs average $100-$300 on sites like Nifty Gateway and NBA Top Shot.

So while the market is still taking shape, average selling prices for specialized or exclusive NFTs run from hundreds to tens of thousands. Even mainstream brands like Nike and McDonald’s have sold basic branded NFTs for over $10,000. Limited supply for in-demand projects creates lucrative profit opportunities.

For creators minting and selling their own unique NFT art and collectibles, average earnings can reach up to 6 figures annually. Reports indicate the top 10% of NFT creators earned an average of $200k per month in 2021. Though this figure has declined alongside the general fall in the NFT market value, NFTs still prove to be a profitable endeavor, with future promise. With the right project and marketing, profits in the hundreds of thousands or more are achievable for skilled NFT artists and developers.

Factors Impacting NFT Profitability

What transforms an NFT into a highly profitable work comes down to several key factors:

Scarcity – Limited quantities or rare properties make NFTs more exclusive.

Demand – Popular themes, characters, creators, brands, etc. drive up desire.

Utility – NFTs that offer additional benefits like VIP access tend to command higher sales.

Community – Collectible projects or metaverse worlds with an engaged community develop more value.

Visual Appeal – High quality, visually striking art and designs attract collectors.

The more an NFT leverages these profitability drivers, the greater its earning potential in the marketplace.

How do NFTs Actually Make Money?

NFTs create profits through two primary revenue streams:

 Initial Sales & Trading

– This includes the initial sale price when minted, as well as any profits when sold to a new owner at a higher market value later.

– Top projects frequently see NFTs resell for double, triple or more their original sales price.

– Sites like OpenSea allow creators to earn a percentage fee on secondary sales.

Royalties

– NFT smart contracts can be programmed to pay the creator an ongoing royalty of 2-10% each time their work is sold to a new owner.

– Royalties provide creators with passive income as their work appreciates over time with the market.

– Secondary marketplaces like Foundation and Zora enable royalty earning opportunities.

The combination of speculative trading profits and long-term royalties offer significant profit upside for successful NFT creators and collectors.

Evaluating NFTs as an Investment

With so much profit potential, many view NFTs as not just artworks, but also investment assets. But as with any speculative investment, risks exist:

Upside

– Early ownership in a successful project can lead to massive returns.

– Demand for provably scarce digital works continues rising.

– NFTs can gain value from increased adoption and acceptance over time.

– The asset class is still new with much room left to grow.

Risks

– NFT market highly volatile and driven by hype cycles.

– Downside if speculative bubble bursts and demand declines industry-wide.

– Inadequate regulation leaves investors vulnerable to fraud and manipulation.

– Technology still evolving; standards may change over time.

– Ongoing liquidity challenges in smaller marketplaces.

While the right NFT investments could deliver outsized returns, investors should carefully assess risks and perform due diligence before purchasing. Long-term value has yet to be established for many newer projects.

Who is Profiting from NFTs?

NFTs offer profit opportunities across a wide spectrum of creators, businesses and investors:

Artists – By tokenizing digital art, illustrations, 3D models, photography, music and more.

Celebrities – Leveraging celebrity brands and fanbases, from athletes like Rob Gronkowski to musicians like Grimes.

Gamers – Selling skins, characters, currency, land, and other virtual gaming assets as NFTs.

Collectors – Reselling rare and appreciated NFTs at a large profit, like select CryptoPunks.

Developers – Building games and applications that integrate profitable NFT mechanics.

Speculators – Buying emerging NFTs early before hype and prices surge.

Brands – Promoting products and boosting engagement through branded collectible NFTs.

A new digitally native generation views NFT ownership as the future of value, identity and self-expression online. Meanwhile, legacy industries like sports, entertainment, and the arts are just starting to tap into the medium’s commercial potential. The result is highly profitable opportunities for pioneers creating value and staking claims early in this emerging digital landscape.

Future Outlook for NFTs

While impossible to predict given the market’s nascency and volatility, NFT profits appear likely to grow as adoption spreads across industries and the underlying tech matures. NFTs are at the intersection of several mega-trends: digital assets, cryptocurrencies, blockchain gaming, virtual worlds, and user-owned internet. Most experts agree NFTs are not a passing fad, but rather the vanguard of a new paradigm for digital ownership and commerce.

Innovations like interoperability protocols and DAO governance will expand what NFTs are capable of. Major brands have yet to truly tap NFTs at scale, suggesting ample mainstream growth ahead. However, regulatory uncertainty and security risks remain challenges. The long-term trajectory will depend on infrastructure improving to better capture value while preventing the exploitation of overzealous speculators.

Conclusion

Based on the sales, traction and influx of interest so far, the profit potential of NFTs appears substantiated but also inflated by hype. For digital creators and collectors willing to embrace the risks of a nascent industry, the rewards can be great. But be wary of lotto thinking. Establishing long-term value will require more infrastructure scaling, business model maturation and regulatory clarity over fast cash grabs. The profits today for average NFTs are strong, with breakout hits making lucky owners instant millionaires.

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Josiah Nang-Bayi, MD is a medical doctor by profession, an author, a financial literacy and digital assets enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a growing philanthropist.
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