Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs: Everything you need to know

They're on the blockchain, they're on Twitter and they're even on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

What do Eminem and Paris Hilton have in common? Very little -- other than the fact that they're both members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of NFTs that's transforming from an internet curiosity to an influential brand. There are 10,000 Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, each with different traits and outfits. You can see three above. That middle one with the captain's hat? It's Jimmy Fallon's. He paid over $200,000 for it.

You may already know it's Fallon's if you're a viewer of Fallon's Tonight Show, since he flaunted his ape on Monday's episode with guest Paris Hilton. Moments prior, Hilton revealed that she'd recently bought a Bored Ape of her own, which Fallon showed to a baffled audience. 

What makes BAYC such a big deal? Well, for starters the minimum cost of entry is 94 ether, or about $288,000. And again, there are only 10,000 of them. As more famous people buy in, that fixed supply is perceived as becoming more and more valuable.

If you spend any amount of time online, particularly Twitter, you've probably already seen a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT. Steph Curry, Eminem and even the Adidas brand has used Bored Ape NFTs as profile pictures. They act as both avatars and tickets to an online social club. Having launched in April for 0.08 ether each (about $190), owners of BAYC are either crypto-savvy enough to be early to the NFT boom or wealthy enough to buy in now that the collection has acquired cultural weight. 

Beyond the celebrities buying in, Bored Ape Yacht Club is increasingly becoming an off-chain brand. Adidas partnered with BAYC for its first NFT project, a BAYC mobile game launched in January and an ape from the Club last year graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Like everything else to do with NFTs, the Bored Ape Yacht Club is contentious. Apes inspire jealousy among those who own and trade NFT art but confusion and suspicion among people who don't. Like cryptocurrency, NFTs are highly volatile. That leads detractors to predict the eventual collapse of what they call is a bubble. 

Here's what you need to know about the collection.

There are 10,000?

Broadly speaking, there are two types of NFT art. First, you have one-off visuals that are sold as non-fungible tokens, just like paintings in real life. Think the Beeple NFTs that were sold at Christie's for as high as $69 million. Second, you have NFT collections or "projects," like the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Kind of like Pokemon cards, these take a template and produce hundreds or thousands of variations, each ranked in terms of rarity. In the case of BAYC, there are 10,000 apes, each with different "properties" -- varying fur types, facial expressions, clothing, accessories and more. 

These properties are displayed on OpenSea, the main platform where NFTs are traded. On any given NFT's page, its properties will be listed as well as the percentage of NFTs in the collection that share the property. Usually, anything under 1% is considered rare. For example, take a look at the trio of apes at the top of this article. On the right you'll see one with a rare "Solid Gold" fur trait. Of 10,000 apes, only 46 have this property, making these 46 particularly valuable. 

As noted, the "floor price" for the project -- what you'll pay for an ape with common traits -- is 94 ether. Apes with the golden fur trait are rare, and so sell for much more. One sold in January for $1.3 million. Another with gold fur and laser eyes, two sub-1% traits, went for $3 million.

BAYC is the biggest NFT project of this kind, recently eclipsing CryptoPunks. CryptoPunks is a collection of 10,000 8-bit avatars created in 2017 and gets much of its value for being the OG NFT collection. Other notable sets include CyberKongz, Doodles and Cool Cats.

What makes Bored Ape Yacht Club valuable?

This is a complicated question. The short answer is that, as with real-world art, value is very much in the eye of the beholder. 

Let's start at the beginning. Bored Ape Yacht Club was launched in late April by a team of four pseudonymous developers: Gargamel, Gordon Goner, Emperor Tomato Ketchup and No Sass. It took 12 hours for all 10,000 to sell out at a price of 0.08 ether, or around $190. As you can see in the price chart below (the price on the Y axis is in ether), the price grew steadily from April to July before rocketing upward in August. 

What makes BAYC or any other NFT collection valuable is highly subjective. Broadly, it's a mix of three things: Influencer or celebrity involvement, community strength and utilities for members.

The first is obvious. When famous people own an NFT, it makes others want to own one too. An example is Jimmy Fallon. The Tonight Show host bought a BAYC on Nov. 8 (for a cool $145,000) and for weeks after he used it as a profile picture on Twitter, where he has 50 million followers. That brought a flurry of hype and sales, which is reflected in the sales volume and price rise you can see on the right of the above chart. 

Second, utility. Most NFT projects claim to offer a utility of some sort, be it access to play-to-earn games or the option to stake an NFT in exchange for an associated cryptocurrency. Another high-value collection, CyberKongz, earned notoriety for allowing owners of two Kongs to breed a BabyKong NFT. 

Bored Ape Yacht Club has done a few things to keep owners interested. First, it created the Bored Ape Kennel Club, offering owners the opportunity to "adopt" a dog NFT with traits that mimic those of the Bored Apes. Another freebie came in August: digital vials of mutant serum. Owners could mix their Bored Ape with the serum to create a Mutant Ape NFT. Both Kennel Club and Mutant Ape NFTs sell for a lot. In recent weeks, the Mutant Ape Yacht Club collection has blown up, with the floor price rising from around 4 ether in November to 20 ether ($60,000) now. 

Last and most important is the community that's built around a collection. Bored Ape Yacht Club has organized meetups in New York and California and there have been Bored Ape get-togethers in Hong Kong and the UK, too. In November a weekend of festivities for owners was held in New York, featuring an actual yacht party and a concert that featured appearances from Chris Rock, Aziz Ansari and The Strokes. 

There's a business aspect to developing a community. Art of any kind is worth only as much as people are willing to pay for it. In an NFT collection, the floor price is essentially equal to what the least-invested members are willing to sell for. People believing they're holding a token into a community results in fewer people listing their apes for sale. Selling your ape isn't just selling an NFT, but a community pass too.

Plus, once a collection reaches a certain level of value, it becomes a status symbol. People in the cryptocurrency and NFT space use profile pictures for Twitter, Discord and other platforms like chief executives wear Rolexes. You can download a JPG of a Bored Ape just like you can wear a $10 Rolex knockoff. In both cases, though, people will know. 

Who's behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club?

The Bored Ape Yacht Club was developed by Yuga Labs. At the time, Yuga Labs consisted of four people, all of whom went by pseudonyms. There's Gordon Goner and Gargamel, who are the two co-founders, and two friends who helped on the development side, No Sass and Emperor Tomato Ketchup.

All four went exclusively by their pseudonyms until February 2022, when BuzzFeed reported the identities of Gordon Goner and Gargamel. Gargamel is Greg Solano, a writer and book critic, and Gordon Goner is 35-year-old Wylie Aronow. Both went on to post pictures of themselves on Twitter alongside their Bored Apes. Following that, Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Sass both "doxxed" themselves -- that is, revealed their identity -- by doing the same. 

The actual art was created by freelance artist Seneca, who's not part of Yuga Labs. 

What's next?

The Bored Ape Yacht Club is slowly expanding out of NFTs and becoming an "offchain" brand -- that is, one that exists outside of the blockchain. 

The Bored Apes are integrating themselves into fashion. Adidas launched its first NFT project, Into The Metaverse, in collaboration with several NFT brands, Bored Ape Yacht Club chief among them. Adidas also bought a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, which now adorns its Twitter page. 

In January, a mobile game, Apes vs. Mutants, launched on both the App Store and Google's Play Store. (Reviews have been unkind.) 

More unusual, though, is what people are doing with their apes. Owning a Bored Ape NFT gives you full commercial rights to it, and holders are taking advantage of that in some creative ways. One Bored Ape owner set up a Twitter account for his ape where he created a backstory, turning him into Jenkins, a valet that works for the Yacht Club. In September, Jenkins was signed to an actual real-world agency. He's getting his own biography, written in part by New York Times bestseller Neil Strauss. Universal Music Group has invested by signing a band consisting of three Bored Apes and one Mutant Ape. 

You might think NFTs are silly -- and terrible for the environment -- but don't expect the Bored Apes to disappear anytime soon.

First published on Nov. 18, 2021 at 9:02 p.m. PT.


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