But the highly speculative market for NFTs has also cooled in recent months.
On May 9, the price of Ether, the cryptocurrency to which the values of NFTs are pegged, soared to $3,883, more than five times its price at the beginning of the year, according to coindesk.com. At that point, weekly completed sales of NFTs at dedicated marketplaces on the Ethereum blockchain (which do not include Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions) reached a high of $176 million, said nonfungible.com, which charts the performance of the NFT market. By May 20, weekly NFT sales had slumped to $19.2 million, a decline of 89 percent, and have flatlined at below $20 million, according to the database.
This correction, or “stabilization phenomenon,” as the nonfungible.com blog preferred to call it, was due in part to a steep fall in the price of Ether, as well as the age-old, ever-irrational cycle of boom and bust.
“Things have settled down,” said Anders Petterson, co-author of the “NFT Art Market Report,” published in May by ArtTactic, a London-based art market analysis company.
“The NFT market reached such high levels that people began to question where was the value,” Mr. Petterson said. “It got saturated. There was a massive supply of new artists, and we don’t have a qualitative benchmark. If you can’t explain value beyond the fact that people are buying it, it becomes difficult.”
But the top-end traditional auction houses, with their formidable global marketing machines, continue to set one-off benchmarks for NFTs. In June, when the specialist marketplace for “nifties” was still supposedly in the doldrums, Sotheby’s sold a rare “alien” CryptoPunk for a record $11.8 million, the second-highest price ever achieved for an individual NFT.
But Mr. Norman, the book dealer, was skeptical that the Berners-Lee NFT will create a surge in demand for computer code nonfungibles.
“There’s a real question of how much people will be interested in collecting digital,” Mr. Norman said. “The amount of digital information being generated is just incalculably gigantic. Everyone with a computer generates something. How much of it matters?”