A beginning collector’s guide to Cryptopunks

6 min readJan 8, 2021
Cryptopunk #3178

Cryptopunks are amazing and as they grow in popularity new collectors could benefit from a beginner’s guide, so I decided to make one. Please note this is meant to be read after reading their site and then please join their discord. There they have a brief FAQ:

Q: How were the images of the punks generated?
A: We wrote some code to generate the characters, then ran it once to create the set of 10,000 you see on the site.

Q: How were they originally distributed?
A: The developers kept the first 1000, and the remaining 9000 were given away for free.

Q: Will there ever be more than 10,000 punks?
A: No. The initial set was created and locked in place when the code that controls ownership was deployed to the Ethereum blockchain. We no longer have any control over the creation or ownership of punks.

Q: Are they an ERC-721?
A: No. They were created before the ERC-721 standard existed, and in fact provided part of the inspiration for the creation of the standard. The contract code is a modified ERC-20 contract to support uniqueness and to provide the marketplace functions.

Q: Could they be converted to ERC-721?
A: Not without significant downsides. We’ve investigated several options from wrapper contracts to a complete migration to a new contract and in all cases the downsides seem to outweigh any benefits.

Q: Can I buy them on OpenSea or another exchange?
A: No, not really. Exchanges would need to support the contract as an exception to their ERC-721 based code. It’s possible, but none do currently.

Q: What wallets do you support?
A: Metamask is the most common choice, but many people also use mobile wallets. We’re working on better supporting mobile browsers and wallets, but it does work.

Q: How do I buy a punk?
A: You can view the punks that are listed for sale here: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks/forsale or you can place a bid on any punk.

Q: How does bidding work? Does the owner get notified?
A: Bidding is done via escrow, you put the amount of the bid into the contract. The owner might get notified, depending on whether they signed up to receive an email on new bids or not, or if they follow the discord chat.

Punks are considered the first significant NFT created- so OG that they predate the ERC-721standard as mentioned above. This article aims to expand from that basic knowledge into the more nuanced things, but you can go way down that rabbit hole so we won’t get into pixel color codes or v1 punks here.

get ready to go down the rabbit hole


Lets dive into what being a cp collector is all about- the attributes

As you can see above, there are 4 species of punk. Do the non-humans have a sex? Well that’s debatable (we’ll get into that a little later). The attributes can further be broken down into the non-searchable trait of skin tone:

The other traits are clearly outlined on the CP site as linked above. There are some subtleties however as it is not all just about rarity. Some traits tend to command a premium despite being less rare than others. These include Hoodie and 3D glasses. Other traits have less appeal despite their rarity such as Spots. Some people find stringy hair downright hideous.

Trait combinations

the rarest combinations are 7 trait (1) and zero trait (8) the latter making up 2/6 of the largest sales ever at the time this was written:

Generally speaking after that 6 trait punks (11) and then single trait (333) are probably most desirable. However this depends on the trait for single traits. Certainly some 5 traits are more valued than some single traits. There are a max of 8 single traits per trait, sometimes much less (some traits are sex-specific). “Floor punks” (the least valued punks occupying the first row of the for sale section) tend to be 2–4 trait punks. An added mole or earring may make what would have been a clean 1 or 2 trait punk less desirable. However other traits can be hidden, and some people find these to be more valuable. For example punk #998 has hidden buckteeth. 1 punk has 3 hidden traits!.

Sex-specific traits:

Certain traits are male only, like Hoodie or Beanie. Others are female only like Orange side or red mohawk. Others are shared and identical (medical mask and clown nose for example) while some are different between males and females. A striking example being clown hair green male and female:

others have more subtle differences like gold chain:

You may notice after a while you can subconsciously identify a male v.s. female just by the thumbnail. why is that? look closely:

females have a break in the line from ear to neck

So is an Ape a male? what about an Alien. I wouldn’t dare to speculate here…

Trading punks:

There are 2 main places to trade Cryptopunks. The marketplace on larvalabs and opensea. Because opensea recognizes ERC 721 and not ERC 20 they must first be “wrapped.” Rarible also has wrapped cryptopunks but is not policed well and you are likely to buy a fake punk so best to avoid trading there.

What is wrapping?

You can wrap your cryptopunks here. What happens is you send your punk to the wrapped contract where it sits in Escrow in their contract. In exchange you are given an ERC 721 token that represents this Cryptopunk and can be traded like any other NFT. The owner of this token can “unwrap” it anytime in the future and then receive the same cryptopunk in exchange for the wrapped token which is then burned. This also allows for other “Defi” activities such as NFTX which attempts to commoditize punks for better liquidity. There are also “bounties” which supply a standing order book for punks here.

What’s a “Dev Punk?”

The Cryptopunk Developers kept the first 1000 punks for themselves and on occasion will sell or buy a punk. All punks numbered <1000 have the added distinction of being a Dev punk. They often sell at a premium, but you can buy one now here.

Dev punk account

Come join us on Discord and say hello- within no time you will be green!