Auction house Sotheby's withdrew a lot of 104 CryptoPunks NFTs minutes before the auction began. In a deleted post on its website, Sotheby's estimated the lot would sell for $20-30M. Just as the auction was set to begin, Sotheby's canceled it. The owner of the collection, known only as “0x650d,” decided to keep his Punks.
Larva Labs released CryptoPunks in 2017 on Ethereum. Today, CryptoPunks is a top NFT avatar project among collectors, with over $2B in sales volume to date. The least expensive Punk for sale costs about $200k.
Sotheby's planned a party for the auction, including a DJ wearing a CryptoPunk mask. They called the lot "Punk It."
According to CoinDesk, "the highest pre-bid offer was $14 million, which was also the reserve price." When an art auction is canceled at the last minute, it's usually because either a piece was sold privately before the auction, or because it is not expected to reach its target price at auction. As of this moment, it appears that Punk It! collection owner 0x650d still holds his Punks.
Speculators are suggesting 0x650d held the Punks to prevent a widespread correction in the high end NFT market. The collector purchased the 104 Punks for $7M in a single transaction in August 2021. If 0x650d was looking for a quick flip on these Punks, why cancel an auction with a good shot at bringing in $14M or more? From that perspective, it seems as if 0x650d has time to ride out the current market and/or owns an extensive collection of NFTs.
Sotheby's had good reason to expect this CryptoPunk auction to bring in record money. The auction house sold over $100M in NFTs in 2021. In September 2021, Sotheby's helped sell a collection of 101 Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs for $24M. It's easy to see how, in a better market, Punk It! could have brought in $20-30M.
0x650d is not complaining. To explain the canceled auction, the collector tweeted "nvm, decided to hodl" followed by a few memes. It is unclear what 0x650d plans to do with the Punks.