One would think that there isn’t yet another original way to make a pixel art digital collectible — but the NodeMonkes collection, which launched on Dec. 14, 2023, has defied all expectations.
The Bitcoin Ordinals collection of odd little characters calls itself the first 10,000 PFP collection on Ordinals — and it was the talk of web3 at the start of the new year, with a floor price, as of this writing, of .19 BTC, or a little over $8,000.
But what makes NodeMonkes interesting — and what’s driving their popularity? Let’s dive in on the buzzy Bitcoin Ordinals collection.
First of all, NodeMonkes are not technically NFTs—they’re Ordinals on Bitcoin, which are fully on-chain images inscribed on individual satoshis, or fragments of a Bitcoin. Ordinals are a pretty new way of creating unique digital collectibles, and they’ve received a new surge of interest as web3 liquidity has looked, more and more, outside of the Ethereum ecosystem to find the next big win.
The NodeMonkes collection claims to be the first 10,000-count profile picture collection on Ordinals. That’s a confusing statement, given that Bitcoin Frogs, another 10,000 collection, launched on March 8, 2023. However, it makes sense in the world of Ordinals.
Collectors of these Bitcoin inscriptions prize Ordinals that were created early on, and the satoshis used for NodeMonkes were inscribed in February 2023, making them extra desirable. The inscriptions for the NodeMonkes are in the 80-110k range.
The anonymous team that created the collection took the clever step of waiting until December 2023, when the Ordinals ecosystem was more built out, before launching NodeMonkes. Instead of launching in the early days, when collectors faced Google Sheets order books, nerve-wracking Sparrow Wallet transactions, and trades made by trust on Telegram, NodeMonkes entered an Ordinals ecosystem with native wallets, robust marketplaces, and loads of interest and liquidity.
The NodeMonkes auction — for 8000 of the pieces — kicked off on Dec. 21. It was a descending or Dutch auction, with a starting price of .21 BTC, with the price dropping by .005 every six blocks (approximately every hour). After 8,000 valid bids, the auction ended — and everyone who bid paid the “clearing price,” or the price set at the final bid.
Overages were refunded, and people who had bid multiples of the clearing price would receive multiple monkes. The bidders didn’t receive their monkes immediately but could claim them on Magic Eden beginning on Dec. 27. The final price for the monkes was .03 BTC, and on Dec. 29, the claim page on Magic Eden went live.
Interest in NodeMonkes has been strong since buyers began to claim and trade them; after four days of trading, the collection surpassed 500 BTC in volume. At the time of writing, the collection has a market cap of over $82 million, according to Magic Eden.
Why NodeMonkes Work
The collection has a number of things going for it. First, it has a winsome collection of traits that perfectly mix self-referential crypto in-jokes with wholly original creations. The Alienate head traits—referencing CryptoPunk aliens—are especially desirable, with four selling for around two BTC ($85,627) each on Jan. 3rd.
On the same day, Bored Ape Yacht Club co-founder Wylie Aronow, better known as Gordon Goner, bought an ultra-rare duck NodeMonke, leading to a spike in prices and volume for the collection. “I really want to support Ordinals. Also, it’s a really fantastic collection. Very well done—I just like’ em!” he told nft now.
The NodeMonke team also created a separate collection of 400 honoraries to celebrate web3 luminaries. While this is a tried and true technique for projects that want to promote themselves, the scale of the campaign and the NodeMonkes team’s bang-on homage to greats in the space made it particularly effective here. Recipients like Batz, Claire Silver, Grant Yun, Betty_NFT, and Des Lucréce responded with delight to their honoraries, drawing interest to the collection.
Even though it is, at first glance, a bunch of awkward-looking squashed-together blocks of color, NodeMonkes art has a consistent visual language that enables it to express a familiar idea while remaining instantly recognizable as itself. It’s become a cultural phenomenon, just like Nouns glasses, ape references, and the very concept of a collection of 10,000 generative PFPs. Their website looks like it was designed for MS-DOS displays, but it contains a whole lot of useful data, such as auction results and a Monkedex that allows visitors to sort the collection by traits. Keeping with this old-school vibe, NodeMonkes trade with zero royalties.
Challenges and Controversy
Despite its success, the collection is not without controversy. In the lead-up to their launch, NodeMonkes initially said the collection would be a free mint. The team had claimed that venture capitalists had offered them $5 million for the project, which they said they’d refused. The team then changed tack, saying they would raise funds for charity — and then, they dispensed with that pledge altogether.
This caused some frustration among Ordinals fans. “To be clear – there’s nothing wrong with a team being compensated for their work. I don’t think anyone takes issue with that, especially since we’re likely talking about life-changing money here. It’s the flip-flop that’s troubling. The feeling that you were hit with the Ol’ Switcheroo at the last minute after they benefited from the early goodwill,” wrote the Mint or Skip newsletter.
Another problem the community has been facing is that hackers took over its Discord server on Dec. 23 — and they’ve still not gotten control back. Without a home Discord, it’s harder for the holders to gather together and establish a community.
That said, the community is doing great even without Discord, mainly bolstered by a strong meme game: the NodeMonkes catchphrase, “send nodes,” was even echoed by Gordon Goner at his buy. They also have no roadmap or promise of future utility, meaning they are safe from the typical pattern of a collection’s prices rising before an important announcement and then dropping afterward.