In the beginning of crypto, there was mainly darkness. Years of building and scaling the blockchain so it could support the millions of people required for mass adoption have led to the point where we are now — worldwide mania about blockchain and crypto.

So how did we get here? This story begins back in 2017, with the birth of Cryptopunks, the first mainstream success of blockchain, through NFTs and the ERC-721 standard...

The Cryptopunks project was developed by Larva Labs in 2017, then a two-person team of Canadian software developers who took inspiration from the cyberpunk movement, edgy electronic music, and films about a dystopian, technological future like Blade Runner. Demonstrating a future of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on what was at the time a burgeoning blockchain called Ethereum, Cryptopunks added a whole new perspective to the intersection of digital collectibles, cryptocurrency, and the entire concept of art and commerce online.

This project was also an inspiration for the ERC-721 standard, becoming a framework on the blockchain for the birth and continual growth of non-fungible tokens. Years later, as NFTs captured the attention of everyone from world-famous celebrities to the titans of the traditional art world, like Sotheby’s, Cryptopunks led this mass global craze for NFTs. As of writing, the lowest price available to pick up a punk of your own is around 103.7 ETH ($362,390 USD), and rare punks are selling for upwards of $10,000,000.

Fast forward three years later to 2020. Inspired by the impact of Cryptopunks, Unique Network launched its first NFT collection, Substrapunks, to demonstrate the innovation and alternative ethos that drives Unique Network to develop NFTs that have more utility, interoperability, and are more sustainable than Ethereum-based NFTs. Substrapunks were the first NFTs on Polkadot, with 10,000 Substrapunks being created — in a hat tip to Cryptopunks. We chose Polkadot because of their infrastructure design, and its Substrate chain. The goal for this NFT drop was not only to pay homage to the visual essence of its predecessor, but to exhibit how NFTs on Polkadot can shed some of the limitations (high gas fees, more damage to the environment, lower flexibility) of Ethereum-based non-fungible tokens. The success behind Substrapunks helped give us the fuel and support we needed to design and soft launch our Marketplace in November of 2020.

Let’s talk stats. In the three months following their sale, SubstraPunks were traded repeatedly, with over 724 exchanged in the marketplace in September alone, with an average price of 1.5 KSM and a total turnover of 1069 KSM (almost 3x the turnover in July 2021). For the first NFT to be released in a live Substrate network, this was an impressive milestone that marked its own place in the lineage of Cryptopunks and what they brought to what was at the time a whole new world.

In September of 2021, following price floor milestones and even its own Twitter fan account, all 10,000 Substrapunks have been claimed, with thousands exchanged across the Unique Marketplace for all-time highs, like the Blondie #3354, which recently sold for 38.5 KSM. Due to continued buyer attention around SubPunks, they also have been the backbone of a few of Unique’s latest updates to our ecosystem, as we officially roll out many of our advanced features and the latest iteration of our Marketplace.

We also announced in September a gift to the NFT community—owners of Substrapunks (as well as their “sister NFT,” Chelobricks) would be entitled to a share of marketplace profits, one of our most significant steps yet towards decentralization on our platform. All accounts holding at least one Substrapunk and one Chelobrick would now be entitled to get a share of 50% of market trading fees. This update followed another exciting announcement earlier in the Summer of 2021 with RMRK. We shared that Chelobricks would be able to interact with Kanaria eggs, demonstrating one of our most unique advanced features: NFT-to-NFT interoperability. These are the first cross-chain NFTs with composable functionality and evolving traits!

So what’s next for Substrapunks and the Unique Network Marketplace? We look forward to ongoing trading and engagement across the Substrapunks community, where people enjoy this edgy, diverse collection of characters whose value continues to grow as a reflection of the success of Unique Network. As for the future of our Marketplace, Substrapunks is a successful case study for the power of Substrate, which we announced has built our newest parachain for Unique Network, Quartz.

Quartz is our most versatile and experimental chain yet, and a pivotal part of our growing presence on Polkadot. In the coming weeks, we will be growing our presence in the expanding Kusama network as we bid for a parachain on their network via a crowdloan auction.

So just as Cryptopunks started the NFT revolution, we believe that Substrapunks will be the best case study for Polkadot NFT capabilities. Unique Network is proud of its Substrapunk roots, and we’re equally excited to deploy additional advanced features for NFTs. Stay tuned!