It’s no secret to veterans and newly indoctrinated DeFi “degens” that memes are as native to Web3 as Satoshi’s Bitcoin white paper is to Bitcoin. And when it comes to anthropomorphic characters nestled throughout the NFT world, there’s nothing more at home in crypto than Pepe the Frog.
While Pepe may not be getting the kind of buzz and attention these days that Bored Apes and CryptoPunks are, look no further than this for a sign of Pepe’s lasting appeal in the NFT world: In October, a one-of-one Rare Pepe NFT called “Pepenopoulos” (created in 2016)sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $3.6 million.
First released as NFTs in 2016 on a peer-to-peer marketplace called Counterparty, Pepe the Frog dates back to 2006, when it appeared in a Matt Furie comic called “Boy’s Club.” Several years later, due to the Cambrian-like explosion of social media, the character quickly evolved into a standalone meme, gaining popularity on Myspace and 4chan.
By 2015, variations of the cartoon amphibian, called Rare Pepes, started to emerge with watermarks like “RARE PEPE DO NOT SAVE” to indicate that the artists behind each design had not yet published the meme for public use. That year, a collection of 1,200 rare Pepe images was listed on eBay, reportedly reaching a price of $99,166 before being removed from the site.
Along with the many obscure and bizarre renditions of Pepe smoking joints or eating animated flying pizzas, designs included the occasional crypto culture satire as…