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Via Twitter/@0x650d

‘Nvm, decided to hodl’: how an NFT trader trolled Sotheby’s at a $30m sale

A recent CryptoPunk auction was billed as a landmark sale for the auction house, until the enigmatic consignor pulled the rug out from under its feet

Last year, historic art auction house Sotheby’s announced that it had achieved the highest sales figure in its 277-year history. In total, it said, it brought in $7.3 billion, partly attributed to a fresh demographic of collectors enticed by new categories such as streetwear and NFTs – the latter accounting for almost $100 million in sales.

This $100 million may only be a fraction of Sotheby’s total auction figures in 2021, but it marks a meteoric rise in demand for nonfungible tokens, partly propelled by the success of individual artists such as Beeple and Pak, or crypto collectives such as Bored Ape Yacht Club. It also signals the desperation of the auction house to jump on the bandwagon, and presumably extract as much profit as it can before the NFT bubble bursts.

This often leads to some pretty big “how do you do, fellow kids” energy. This week, though, Sotheby’s looks particularly out-of-touch, after generating hype around an eye-watering CryptoPunks sale (ironically titled “Punk It!”) only for it to fall through at the last minute.

Set to go live yesterday (February 23) with a landmark estimate of $30 million, the sale revolved around a single lot of 104 CryptoPunk NFTs – algorithmically-produced, pixellated avatars – currently held by an anonymous consignor, known as 0x650d. 25 minutes after the sale was set to go live at Sotheby’s in New York, however, the full collection was withdrawn at the seller’s request.

Apparently, 0x650d didn’t immediately provide further information on their decision to withdraw. Sotheby’s Metaverse – the institution’s “first-of-its-kind dedicated Web3 enabled NFT marketplace” – simply tweeted: “Following discussions with the consignor, tonight's Punk It sale has been withdrawn. Thank you to our panelists, guests and viewers for joining us.”

Similar last-minute steps are usually only taken when there’s no interest in the lots, to preserve their reputation in the event that they don’t sell. This time, however, the auction room was packed (as reported by the New York Times), with the opening bid set at $14 million. According to several reports, the collection was purchased by 0x650d for $7 million in summer last year, making for a pretty profitable short-term flip.

Really, all we have by way of an explanation is 0x650d’s blasé reply to their original February 8 tweet about the “highest profile NFT sale of all time”. In the new statement, posted shortly after the Sotheby’s announcement, they write: “Nvm, decided to hodl.”

In case you’re not caught up on your crypto jargon, that’s not a typo (though it may have started out that way). “HODL” has become a popular term that refers to holding onto your crypto assets instead of selling them off, in the (often misguided) hope that their value continues to rise. Some investors also suggest it’s an acronym for “hold on for dear life”.

Other than the short statement, 0x650d has posted a couple of memes about the non-sale, mocking potential buyers and the auction house itself. One Drake reaction meme suggests that instead of “taking punks mainstream by selling on Sotheby’s”, they chose to “[take] punks mainstream by rugging [AKA scamming] Sotheby’s”.

Obviously, it’s difficult to tell whether 0x650d was actually intent on trolling the auction house all along, in an effort to boost the price of their little cartoon men, or if they were influenced to pull the lot by external factors such as stock market volatility and the falling price of crypto

Either way, it would be nice to think that the art establishment can learn something from its latest foray into the anarchic NFT market, but of course not. At the end of the day, Sotheby’s still went ahead and hosted its post-sale party with a DJ and free drinks, as if nothing had ever happened.