Explore Punk History and Culture with Danpolko, Collector of 100 Punks in 2017
Dec 16,2023 Written by New Society
If you're immersed in the world of crypto and NFTs, CryptoPunks is undoubtedly a name that resonates—the epitome of originality and provenance.
AI breaks down the definition of CryptoPunks for us: “CryptoPunks comprises a collection of 10,000 distinct 24x24 pixel art characters, each stored as a non-fungible token (NFT) on the Ethereum blockchain.”
Yet, according to New Society, CryptoPunks transcend mere pixels; they extend beyond the realm of digital art and even serve as the inspiration behind the modern CryptoArt movement. It encapsulates more than visuals—it encapsulates a culture, a shared belief and set of values that unites individuals.
But what defines this punk culture? What does the story of CryptopPunks look like in the eye of an OG collector?
In exploring this question, we had the privilege of conversing with Danpolko, renowned crypto punk collector who amassed 100 crypto punks between late 2017 and mid-2018. Presently, he remains the proud owner of 58 crypto punks, solidifying his status as one of the most substantial punk collectors.
Over the years, he has dedicated significant efforts to raising awareness about punks and their cultural significance.
New Society: How did you first start to acquire CryptoPunks? What drew you to this form of digital art?
Danpolko: In 2018, when I acquired those 100 CryptoPunks, they were incredibly affordable, typically priced between 50$ and 100$ each— a bargain, especially considering some rare ones were essentially overlooked. It was a time when CryptoPunks were seemingly undervalued, and interest in them was minimal.
My journey into decentralized applications began a few years earlier with investments in Bitcoin and Ethereum. While exploring new projects on the blockchain, I stumbled upon CryptoPunks. The project intrigued me — it felt like the first genuine artistic venture on the Ethereum blockchain. The pixel art, reminiscent of the video games from my teenage years, struck a nostalgic chord.
However, what truly fascinated me was that these CryptoPunks were algorithmically generated on the blockchain, a form of generative art. This innovation gave digital files a unique value, something groundbreaking. Prior to this, digital files could be easily copied and lacked traceable provenance. NFT technology changed the game, assigning uniqueness to each digital file through blockchain code, establishing provenance and inherent value.
So all these different factors drew me to CryptoPunks. It became somewhat of an addiction as I steadily acquired them — 10, 20 at a time — until I reached the milestone of 100 CryptoPunks in my wallet. At that point, I reassessed and thought, "Okay, that's 1% of the supply — I'm good now.”
New Society: And now (on the day of interview), CryptoPunks have a floor price of 56 ETH, which is approximately $126,000. Wow. And then what happened? For the few years after your acquisition of 100 punks?
Danpolko: I got completely captivated by the CryptoPunks project for several months — I was practically studying those punks every day for about six months straight. Then, the infamous bear market of 2018 rolled in. It hit hard — so hard that I decided to step away from crypto altogether. I took a break, didn't check anything related to crypto for almost two years.
Fast-forward to 2020, the year of Covid and lockdowns. That's when the Punk market began to show signs of life again. Admittedly, the prices weren't anything close to what we're seeing now, but still, each punk was holding a value between $300 and $400. It was a niche market, to say the least. The real turning point, however, came in 2021. Suddenly, it wasn't just a matter of a few hundred dollars per punk — it escalated to multi-million-dollar sales, particularly for those rare trait punks. The floor price soared to around $400,000 — it was mind-blowing.
I think the monotony of being stuck at home during the lockdowns played a role in the resurgence of interest in CryptoPunks. Even I found myself starting to tweet during that Covid period because, well, like everyone else, I was stuck at home.
New Society: And we had a lot of celebrities starting to acquire the punks at that time as well.
Danpolko: Definitely, it's kind of surreal to witness the shift. You've got big names like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Hollywood actors, and basketball players all jumping on the punk bandwagon. When I initially joined the punk community, it felt like this small, tight-knit group hanging out in the Discord.
Suddenly, the whole world wanted in on the punk action. It's interesting because having a punk almost feels like being part of this exclusive club. It brought a new level of excitement, and I genuinely enjoyed connecting with fellow punk enthusiasts. Plus, being a fan of art, meeting talents like Snowfro was a real highlight.
So for me, it was mostly about fun. If I gain a lot of profits, of course I'm happy, because that's still a ton of money that is involved. But mostly, it was for fun — I meet friends, I connect with great people, it's a really nice community.
New Society: Talking about community, if you would use 3 words to describe the ethos of the punk members, what would that be ? What does Punk Culture mean to you?
Danpolko: Pioneers, rebellious, acceptive.
Let me lay it out with an example. Many of us, from the early days, have found ourselves drawn to the world of collecting digital art. This inclination is rooted in our open-minded approach, driven by the belief that there's a transformative potential in the act of collecting both physical and digital items. This paradigm shift is marked by the advent of ERC standards, allowing us to attribute value to digital files — an innovation that was groundbreaking five years ago and remains just as novel today.
Traditionally, people have been more accustomed to collecting physical items like paintings or statuettes. However, in light of the increasing prevalence of iPhones, iPads, and VR, there's a noticeable trend towards the digital. This shift prompts us to reconsider how we perceive and attribute value, and it's a dynamic aspect that continues to shape our collecting experiences.
New Society: True, many people are spending more time on phone every day than anywhere else or on anything else.
Danpolko: Exactly. Digital is marking the onset of a new paradigm. The Punks community, myself included, readily embraced this transformative shift. There's a shared conviction that, despite current sentiments, the digital artworks we're currently collecting will become mainstream in 10 or 15 years.
And that's why to encapsulate the essence of the punk culture, I use three descriptive words: pioneers, rebellious, and acceptive. It reflects our position at the forefront of change, pushing boundaries. While there's still a need for extensive education, the trajectory is clear, and we're making progress toward that mainstream recognition.
New Society: And how do you envision the cultural impact of CryptoPunks evolving over the next few years?
Danpolko: I believe that punks will find their place in museums. The Punks are already in museums such as Centre Pompidou in Paris and Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami, but I believe it will be in many more renown museums.
The collector base will expand significantly because, over time, people will come to appreciate the profound value that a digital item can hold, possibly even surpassing that of physical artifacts. I acknowledge it might sound somewhat conceptual, but historical shifts often take time to be embraced. Consider impressionism art — it took over 20 years for widespread acceptance, and modernism art needed 50 years in the 20th century to gain traction. When a new paradigm emerges, the initial response is often skepticism: "Why should this have value? Even a 5-year-old can do this." Similar sentiments were voiced at the dawn of impressionism and modernism.
Moreover, the crypto space, unfortunately, does grapple with its share of challenges, including scams and rug pulls, creating a sense of apprehension among people. The technological barrier adds to the complexity — many are still unfamiliar with how to navigate this new terrain. However, I'm optimistic that we'll overcome these hurdles with time; it's a process.
For me, owning Punks represents the inception of an artistic revolution. I envision this revolution will eventually permeate the mainstream and find its place in museums. After all, we're already witnessing digital art being sold at prestigious auctions like Sotheby's — so why not in museums one day? It's a matter of time and a testament to the transformative power of this artistic movement.
New Society: And we're always excited to witness and participate in new artistic movements! Talking about this, I remember I'm already seeing pixelled punks street art in some corners of Parisian streets. Is it also part of the efforts by the Punks community to bring the Punk culture into the mainstream
Danpolko: It all began with Invaders — the iconic pixel art splashed across the walls of Parisian streets. I've been a huge fan of these creations by French artist Invader.
The first time I spotted Jef's work on the streets, I thought, "This is cool!" And that's when the idea hit me — I wanted to pay homage. So, we started scattering CryptoPunks all over Paris, especially in the neighborhoods I adore, like the 5th and 6th districts, where I used to call home. Paris is my city, you know? It was a tribute to my hometown, to Invaders, to CryptoPunks — an amalgamation of different elements.
I collaborated with the talented French street artist The Mosaist to bring this vision to life. Then, I was lucky to have the help from Dos Gatos, a Spanish Dual Artist, to capture it all in a fantastic video. The whole project was a blast, a fun homage weaving together different artistic threads.
I'm always on a mission to promote CryptoPunks. I love brainstorming with various artists to come up with unique ideas, like the Invader Punks in Paris. And I'm not alone in this — a CryptoPunks movie is coming out soon.
New Society: The “What The Punk” documentary? Yes, I saw it! Few details are revealed so far, but it looks so cool. Don't hesitate to tell us more about it!
Danpolko: Yes, sure! The movie will come out in March 2024. It's a documentary about the story of Crypto Punks told by punks, so more people can learn about the punk's history and culture.
Director: Herve Martin Delpierre (who also directed the documentary Daft Punk Unchained)
Co-producers: Marc Lustigman, Noam Roubah, and TokenAngels.
And it will be aired on French Television Arte. I think it's really interesting for people who don't know much about crypto art, and hopefully we'll get crypto art more popular. Many punks are involved in the filming, including me.
New Society: Will the movie be in cinemas?
Danpolko: We're working on it! Many of us among the punks are trying to help to get the movie into festivals.
I genuinely feel that Punks have this unique charm — something universally likable, whether you're deep into crypto or not. The whole package — the story, the aesthetics with the hoodies, VR glasses, cigarettes, male and female punks — it carries this rebellious punk art vibe. It's about pushing back against conservative norms and embracing progressiveness.
I believe there's a real shot at taking this to the mainstream. And let's be honest, pixel art is already a hit — it resonates with people. Here's to hoping we can bring that Punk charisma to a wider audience.
New Society: Talking about attributes, among your acquisition of 100 CryptoPunks, is there one or a few that are special for you
Danpolko: I have a penchant for the rare ones. Back in 2017, I was on a punk-buying spree, constantly checking out the cool ones like Aliens and Zombies. There was this Zombie punk sporting VR glasses that caught my eye, owned by another punk. Back then, since punks weren't in high demand, it was mostly a handful of us, shooting DMs in Discord, asking, "Hey, can I buy this punk from you?"
I lucked out in finding a connection with the owner of that Zombie punk with VR glasses. I slid into his DMs, expressing my interest to buy. Turns out, it was his favorite punk, and he quoted $800. At that time, it felt like a hefty sum, given that most punks were in the $50 to $100 range, as I mentioned. Nevertheless, I went for it, and now it's my avatar.
Then, there's this other punk that I had my eye on — female punk No.0. It was a stunning piece, and I spotted it for sale. Unfortunately, on that particular day, life got too busy, and by the time I circled back that night, it was already gone. What's worse, it seems like the owner might have lost it because the wallet has been inactive for over two years. That punk, to me, was like the Mona Lisa of the collection — numbered 0 in the series and visually striking. Now it's lost forever, but you know what? It could've been mine...
New Society: What else do you like to collect apart from punks?
Danpolko: I've got a substantial collection of digital art, and one of my absolute favorites is Robness —an OG among the OGs in this space. He's been in the game since the early days, minting on SuperRare back in 2018.
Another OG artist I'm a huge fan of is XCopy; the guy's art just speaks to me. Then there's the American artist Sarah Zucker — her pieces have found a special place in my collection.
Beyond that, I make it a point to support fellow French artists making waves in the art scene. Pascal Boyart and Agoria are two names that stand out for me. In fact, I've got over 200 pieces from Agoria's Compend-AI series.
I'm passionate about backing artists through collecting because blockchain allows for direct acquisition, cutting out intermediaries and those hefty gallery commissions.
The decentralization and transparency of it all really resonate with me. It's a fantastic aspect of the art world that blockchain brings to the table.