Bored Ape Yacht Club and its multibillion-dollar ApeCoin, explained: What they are and how investors got rich

March 18, 2022, 5:23 PM UTC

NFTs jumped into the mainstream last year, and some of the most popular collections rose to celebrity status.

Foremost among them is a bored-looking ape avatar, with thousands of unique varieties in terms of appearance.

In 2021, countless celebrities bought an NFT from the Bored Ape Yacht Club, including late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon, tennis star Serena Williams, and pop star Justin Bieber. Thursday’s release of ApeCoin, a cryptocurrency that was “airdropped” for free to all holders of a Bored Ape NFT, brought renewed—and new—attention to the line of unamused-profile-picture–style NFTs.

The ApeCoin token surged as much as 90% in just its second day of trading, and CoinMarketCap said APE had a $3.7 billion market cap as of early Friday afternoon.

But what is Bored Ape Yacht Club, and how is it helping NFT collectors get rich?

What makes a Bored Ape valuable?

Bored Ape Yacht Club, or BAYC, is a top-selling series of NFTs owned by Yuga Labs. The NFT collection had anonymous creators until February, when BuzzFeed News reported that they were Greg Solano, a 32-year-old writer and editor, and Wylie Aronow, a 35-year-old from Florida. 

It’s customary in the NFT space for creators to maintain this kind of anonymity, which raises questions about fair payment.

For instance, the BAYC creators came up with the idea of rich apes living in a swamp clubhouse, then hired freelance artists to design the apes, and partnered with two engineers, whose identities are still unknown, to launch the NFT project. Rolling Stone reported that one of the primary visual artists, who goes by the alias Seneca, had no idea they were such a big—and profitable hit—until Googling “Bored Apes” months later. Yuga CEO Nicole Muniz told BuzzFeed that each of the original five BAYC artists were “compensated over $1 million.”  

There are 10,000 original Bored Ape NFTs, each with a different combination of features like fur color, background color, outfits, and accessories that make each one unique. All share the same uninterested look. These features give each ape a certain value, depending on how many apes also share the same characteristics.

For example, one of the rarest NFTs in the collection, Bored Ape #7495, has a dagger in its mouth, a feature that only 48 other apes have, according to the NFT marketplace OpenSea

A non-fungible ape on the blockchain

What gives the Bored Apes their underlying value, though, is the blockchain technology on which they are built. The apes are NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which means that every ape is a unique item with a single owner. The owner of each ape is recorded on the blockchain, a digital and transparent ledger where everyone can see who owns a particular NFT. Whenever the NFT is purchased, sold, or transferred, a new entry is added to the blockchain, updating the ownership details.

A combination of NFT technology, eye-catching art, and some hype have propelled prices of Bored Apes into the six figures. The lowest price for a Bored Ape was about $262,630 as of Thursday, according to DappRadar, which tracks NFT prices. 

Some Bored Apes have even sold for millions of dollars. In January, Bored Ape #232 sold for 1,080.69 tokens of the Ether cryptocurrency, or about $2.85 million at the time. From the original collection, Yuga Labs has built upon the popularity of Bored Ape Yacht Club with a newer series launched last August called Mutant Ape Yacht Club.

Owning a Bored Ape is now the epitome of NFT coolness for many. Holding the NFT can give you access to an exclusive Discord server with some celebrity owners, as well as free perks like additional NFTs or tokens from the BAYC ApeCoin launch this week. Bored Ape owners can also show off their NFT as their profile picture on Twitter with a Twitter Blue subscription.

Owning a Bored Ape is becoming increasingly lucrative, as seen with ApeCoin’s skyrocketing rise in the past two days. As Fortune’s Taylor Locke reported, Nathan Head, a 25-year-old NFT artist and collector, made $75,000 from an ApeCoin sale on the day of the token’s release, when the token was trading at about $6.80. Had he held on, his ape-themed crypto would have been worth more than $431,000. 

While he said it makes him a “little bit sick” to think about how much more he could have made, the money was still “life-changing.” And he’s holding on to his ape.

“I’ve had my ape for nine months, and it is probably the best investment I have ever made in my life. I initially purchased it on a bit of a whim,” Head said. “I honestly don’t know if I would ever sell my Ape, even though it’s worth more money than I have ever had in fiat. It truly feels like being in a very cool club that comes with a lot of very valuable freebies and opportunities.”

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