Non-fungible tokens, better known as NFTs, are unique digital tokens with provable ownership. They can represent and transmit ownership of anything, whether tangible art, legendary memes, in-games items, or digital collectibles.
Since NFTs live on permissionless blockchains, anyone can create an NFT (called minting) for anyone else to buy, collect, and sell. What can’t be done is duplication — as in, an NFT can’t be recreated because its identifying information is singular.
The result is a revolution in progress. NFTs have quite literally taken the world by storm, giving creators a groundbreaking new way of directly distributing content to audiences.
Buying, selling, or simply browsing NFTs is easily done these days by visiting an NFT marketplace. But which NFT marketplace is the best?
In 2021, these are the 4 best NFT marketplaces bar none.
Foundation is an Ethereum-based NFT marketplace focused on providing tools for the new creative economy. That economy is one in which creators distribute content directly to supporters in a circular peer-to-peer environment free of intermediaries.
What makes Foundation an incredible NFT marketplace is its simplicity. All artwork on the platform is sold using a simple NFT auction mechanism. The way it works is simple:
Aside from the simple auction process Foundation uses for selling NFTs, the platform’s user interface is also remarkably clean. The landing page is a straightforward succession of live NFT auctions, featured artworks, and artists’ collections.
Foundation Collections are of particular note because they enable artists to create limited series similar to CryptoPunks’ ever-popular 10,000 edition format. One of the platform’s most successful Collections to date is World of Women, a profile picture series aimed at diversifying the NFT community.
Despite the success of WoW, Foundation’s NFT Collections seem to really come into their prime when erring toward highly unique 1 of 1 artwork, like Jen Stark’s Cosmos series.
Foundation focuses on unique artworks you aren’t likely to find elsewhere. If you’re especially interested in singular 1 of 1 NFTs, Foundation is a better fit than marketplaces for gaming items, like Rarible.
Currently, the only way to bid on a Foundation NFT auction is with Ethereum (ETH). However, the platform is working toward enabling other forms of payment, including stablecoins. The ETH-only payment option makes Foundation better-suited to people already comfortable using crypto, but the platform’s beginner-friendly UI helps first-time NFT buyers.
How creators can get a Foundation invite
Foundation is invite-only, so not just anyone can hop onto the platform to mint and sell NFTs. The only way to get a Foundation invite is to receive one from another creator already using the platform.
What if you don’t know a current Foundation creator? Don’t fret; there’s plenty of generosity abounding in the Foundation community. Your best bet is to join the Foundation Discord channel to share your creations and connect with other artists.
Chances are, someone might like your work enough to send an invite along.
SuperRare is the Sotheby’s of the NFT world. Upon entering the platform, a curated feel pervades the selection of artworks for sale, making you feel like part of an exclusive crowd — even if you’re just window shopping.
Whereas Foundation focuses on offerings from a diverse community of NFT artists, SuperRare handpicks artists and onboards them to the platform. That’s why SuperRare NFT auctions tend to settle for higher amounts than other platforms. Artists are vetted and selected based mainly on artwork scarcity — in other words, they focus on quality mints over quantity.
SuperRare NFT auctions involve a few simple steps most people are already familiar with.
Creators and collectors also enjoy an offers feature that doesn’t lock you into an auction. Using offers, anyone can throw an offer your way. It’s entirely up to you to entertain it or not, but the point is there’s a perpetual secondary market available on SuperRare.
Some of the highest-selling NFT artists in the world reside on SuperRare. Sarah Zucker, an artist using analog methods to remix vintage videos, is a perennial favorite on the platform. Other sources of avant-garde NFT art on SuperRare include AI-generated paintings, such as the AI Generated Nude Portrait series by generative artist Robbie Barrat.
SuperRare is an NFT platform for collectors seeking a curated experience amongst works from highly vetted artists. To start collecting, all you need is a MetaMask wallet funded with ETH.
While it’s true that SuperRare pieces tend to cost more than similar works on other platforms, the clout carried by many SuperRare artists adds significant value. As such, SuperRare is a lot like Sotheby’s or Christie’s auction houses for crypto natives.
There are a couple of ways to receive an invite for SuperRare. You’ll either be hand-selected and approached by SuperRare staff with an invite — or you can apply to the platform directly.
If you choose to apply, it helps to have a portfolio of your work handy. Moreover, if you’re already an NFT creator elsewhere, know in advance that SuperRare emphasizes scarcity (i.e., you’ve minted relatively few NFTs).
Hic et Nunc (or HEN for short) is perhaps the most exciting NFT marketplace today. Unlike the other marketplaces on this list, HEN is entirely decentralized and hosts works on IPFS. What’s even more unexpected is that Hic et Nunc lives on the Tezos blockchain rather than Ethereum.
Because HEN is built on Tezos, a proof of stake blockchain, minting and collecting NFTs there is exceptionally inexpensive. Transaction fees are so low they borderline on being free, and they’re fast to boot. Those qualities make the HEN experience feel lively, affordable, and seamless, whereas buying NFTs on Ethereum is often the opposite.
Another major perk offered by HEN is anyone can mint NFTs there. There’s no curation, filtration, or selection involved — as long as you have a few XTZ tokens in your wallet, Hic et Nunc will take you. Besides, XTZ tokens are far less expensive than ETH, making HEN more accessible to a broader array of creators and collectors.
Odds are you haven’t used the Tezos blockchain before if you aren’t already a HEN user. So, you probably need to get a Tezos wallet set up. Temple Wallet is the best Tezos wallet available now and works similarly to MetaMask.
Once your Temple Wallet is running and funded with XTZ tokens, you’re ready to mint or collect NFTs on Hic et Nunc. Remember, HEN refers to XTZ tokens as tez.
Compared to collecting NFTs on Ethereum-based platforms, HEN feels almost too easy, a sensation adding joy to the experience of supporting artists. Speaking of artists, plenty of famous NFT creators, like Joanie LeMercier, are jumping on Hic et Nunc.
Because of HEN’s ease of entry, you’ll find a more international selection of creators on the platform. Artists from Latin America, Africa, and Asia abound on the platform, making it an excellent place to seek new and exciting artwork you won’t find elsewhere.
Hic et Nunc NFTs tend to be more experimental and far less formal than on platforms like Foundation and SuperRare. What’s more, creators with work across several NFT platforms tend to use HEN as a proving ground for early ideas.
If you like being the first to find under the radar NFTs with big potential, Hic et Nunc is for you. However, you must be willing to dig because HEN can sometimes feel like a sprawling unsorted record shop.
Recently, HEN has caught on with creators and collectors concerned about the environmental impact of NFTs on Ethereum. Currently, Ethereum uses a proof of work consensus algorithm requiring a medium-sized country’s worth of energy consumption.
In contrast, Tezos uses a whopping two million times less energy than Bitcoin and Ethereum, making it a far more sustainable blockchain network for NFTs.
OpenSea is the elephant in the room when it comes to NFTs. As the world’s largest NFT marketplace (and it isn’t even close), OpenSea is the standard by which other marketplaces are measured.
In 2021, OpenSea is regularly posting over $1 billion in monthly NFT trading volume. That metric goes some way in underlining just how dominant OpenSea is. For comparison, SuperRare’s all-time high monthly sales volume is currently $26 million.
A large part of OpenSea’s success amounts to right time, right place positioning. It was launched in 2017 — well before anyone had heard of NFTs — and has garnered powerhouse investors along the way. That’s helped the OpenSea team develop a wide-reaching NFT platform for every digital item imaginable, from fine art to gaming skins.
What’s really propelled OpenSea’s ascendancy is secondary market sales. Anyone can list NFTs for purchase directly from an Ethereum wallet. But even more importantly, anyone can make an offer on an NFT regardless of its status.
NFT collectors use OpenSea for NFTs much in the same way internet users default to Google. It’s the portal to the NFT world because it aggregates NFTs from all Ethereum-based platforms and makes them easy to search through.
Do you need to check the price floor on your Mutant Cats NFTs? You’ll want to head over to OpenSea. Ditto for seeking out new 10K edition PFP series like Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Using OpenSea, you can do quite a few things in the NFT world.
The OpenSea marketplace supports various NFT types, including in-game items, digital collectibles, utility NFTs, and profile pictures. If you’re a creator wanting to mint an extensive collection of unique digital items, OpenSea provides simple tools for doing so.
To reiterate an earlier point, OpenSea is Google for NFTs. It’s your dashboard when you primarily use Ethereum for NFTs. But don’t let that dissuade you if you’re mainly on Solana, Tezos, or another blockchain for NFTs. OpenSea will eventually add support for those chains, too.
If you need to get a handle on the day’s news and stats, the OpenSea NFT rankings page has you covered. Ditto if you missed the mint of another 10K edition NFT project — just jump onto the project’s verified OpenSea account to buy on the secondary market.
In other words, OpenSea is a pillar for anyone that interacts with NFTs.
NFTs are rising in popularity faster than any metric can track. Every day, huge names in both the traditional and crypto world announce involvement with NFTs in new and unexpected ways (Burger King NFTs, anyone?).
So, while this guide has laid out the current best NFT marketplaces, there are many challengers on the horizon. The quick evolution key to this space makes a reshuffling of the best NFT platforms not only possible, but inevitable.
A few contenders worth keeping track of are:
Finally, as a parting pro tip, NFTs on Solana, Tezos, and Polkadot might soon enjoy the same status as those on Ethereum. As a creator or collector, positioning yourself for a multi-chain future might be wise, indeed.
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