The Man Who Bought 100 CryptoPunks—Before They Were Famous

“I was just a guy having fun behind his computer,” Dan Polko told Decrypt. “I never imagined everything that was going to happen.”

Polko bought 100 CryptoPunks, worth millions at their peak, back when nobody cared about the iconic NFT collection.

The French native discovered CryptoPunks just a few days after they were first released in June 2017, after reading an article.

As an early adopter of Bitcoin and a keen follower of Ethereum, Polko’s interests naturally gravitated towards NFTs.

To him, CryptoPunks wasn’t just another digital art collection. It was a nostalgic ode to his love for cyberpunk, science fiction, and classic rock.

“The pop art aesthetics, the funky colors, the pixel art, reminded me of the video games of my childhood, such as Donkey Kong, Tetris, and Pac-Man,” he told Decrypt.

After leaving his computer for two months of vacation, his decision was made when he went back: he had to take the bet.

“I used the ETH that I had bought for less than $10, as the CryptoPunks were at the equivalent of $300,” Polko told Decrypt. “It was like buying a lithograph in an art gallery. By October-November, I started to accumulate. I bought one, then two, three, four, and I couldn’t stop”.

Over the next four to five months, he acquired 100 CryptoPunks.

“It was cheap, you could find great ones because there were maybe three buyers on the planet, as no one cared,” Polko said. “There were five guys on Discord, always the same, joking about the fact that these would be as valuable as Warhol in 50 years.”

Inspired by legendary art collectors

After a two-year break from the crypto and NFT space, the Covid lockdown brought Polko back to his computer, reigniting his curiosity about CryptoPunks.

Around the same time, he discovered a vibrant community on SuperRare, featuring artists like XCOPY, Robbie Barrat, and Hackatao. However, liquidity constraints held him back from investing in their art.

But the tide was about to turn.

“Twitter was the catalyst for CryptoPunks,” he said. “I began using my CryptoPunk as my profile picture. There were the old timers like Snowfro, and many others who’ve since disappeared.”

When CryptoPunks’ prices began skyrocketing, Polko, who had merely hoped for a decent return, found himself reaping rewards beyond his wildest imaginations.

“It was surreal,” he told Decrypt. “I grew up listening to icons like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and now I was seeing Snoop flaunting a CryptoPunk on his social profiles.”

Yet, when the market showed signs of faltering in mid-2022, Polko strategically began divesting.

“The priciest I sold went for 95 ETH,” he disclosed. “The purchaser was the same individual who bought a Punk for $24 million. He bought a few from me, all priced between 80 to 95 ETH.”

The logic was clear.

“I considered the possibility of the market not bouncing back and decided to secure my earnings. The thrill is undeniable, but it’s also about the financial reward.”

Though he sold 42 of his CryptoPunks, he still retains 58 in his collection.

With the liquidity he acquired, Polko decided to return to his role as a digital art collector.

He managed to acquire works by XCOPY, Sarah Zucker, and many other French artists.

“I pride myself as the primary collector of Pascal Boyart’s works,” Polko told Decrypt. “I own a significant portion of the Obvious collection, and pieces by Agoria. It’s important for me to repatriate this to France and not let it be dominated by the English-speaking realm.”

The new Impressionists

He’s enthused about being involved in a movement, and part of a community of artists and collectors.

“I found it fun to be part of something new,” he told Decrypt. “I always come back to the Impressionists, the beginning of modern art, where artists, collectors, and art dealers mingled in Paris. Now, with social networks, it’s not in Montmartre cafés but on Twitter or other social networks. It’s a global thing, and that’s why it worked because it’s worldwide.”

The connections he made sometimes led to sales; after becoming friends with artist Justin Aversano, Polko sold him a CryptoPunk—taking one of Aversano’s Twin Flames NFTs as partial payment.

Additionally, Polko is a patron of the new crypto art movement, helping artists to set up exhibitions.

“It’s amazing,” he told Decrypt. “In France, we’ve triumphed due to the contributions of figures like Benoît Couty, Jean-Michel Pailhon, Obvious, Agoria, and Pascal Boyart. Personally, I’ve always strived to elevate the French touch, drawing inspiration from artists like Daft Punk, and drawing a connection between CryptoPunks and the essence of French culture.”

He highlights the pivotal role of Paris’ NFT Factory and IHAM gallery, hubs dedicated to NFT exhibitions and learning. “A vibrant French community has gathered around this new digital movement,” Polko said. “We were competing with cities like New York, but I believe Paris has now set the pace.”

As Polko envisions a future dedicated to traveling and collecting more digital art, he’s optimistic about the future of the space.

That the National Museum Centre Pompidou recently added a CryptoPunk donated from Yuga Labs to its collection only strengthens his conviction.

But he also stresses the value of patience.

“It was when the MoMA in NY acquired Pollock and Rothko pieces that the careers of those artists exploded,” he said, noting that the Centre Pompidou only acquired its NFTs six months ago.

But, he added, “We see that it’s accelerating.”

Polko again invoked the legends of Paul Guillaume and Ambroise Vollard.

“They championed artists like Manet and Monet,” he reminisced. “They birthed entire art movements. Our ambition is to usher in a similar renaissance, but this time, with digital art.”

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