â€œThere was huge meme potential in fat-looking penguins, so we decided to roll with that,â€ Mr. Patterson said.
The first community NFT was the CryptoPunks, a series of 10,000 pixelated characters that was sold starting in 2017. They became a luxury status symbol, with single images selling for millions of dollars, and paved the way for other community NFTs, including the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a group of 10,000 cartoon primates that now sell for upward of $45,000 apiece.
Mr. Patterson and his co-founders hope that Pudgy Penguins will end up joining the NFT pantheon. The original collection sold out within 20 minutes, and more than $25 million worth of them have changed hands overall, according to NFT Stats, a website that aggregates data on NFT sales. Early this week, it was still possible to score a penguin for a few thousand dollars, but penguins with rare features, such as different-colored backgrounds or gold medals around their necks, can go for much more. The most expensive was Pudgy Penguin #6873, which sold for $469,000.
I messaged Mr. Patterson on Tuesday, asking if he had any advice for getting my own Pudgy Penguin without breaking the bank. (The New York Timesâ€™s expense policy does not, sadly, cover JPEGs of birds.)
â€œHold on, I might be able to do something,â€ he wrote back.
Minutes later, two Pudgy Penguins â€” #3166 and #5763 â€” appeared in my cryptocurrency wallet. One was an image of a penguin with a do-rag and sunglasses; the other was wearing a baseball hat with an igloo and what looked like a bomber jacket. They were a gift, Mr. Patterson said, in appreciation of my willingness to learn about the community. (Since I canâ€™t ethically accept gifts, Iâ€™ll be sending my Pudgy Penguins back to Mr. Patterson after this column publishes.)
I then joined the Pudgy Penguin Discord server, where I was greeted by a throng of fellow owners who were excited to see me, not least because they thought getting attention from The Times would increase the value of their own penguins. (After I received my images, I got offers to buy them for thousands of dollars.) The co-founders of Pudgy Penguins earn a royalty every time a penguin is sold, but other owners stand to profit only if they can resell their penguins for more than they paid.
Like any good crypto-clique, Pudgy Penguin owners have developed their own language and customs. Penguins are â€œpengus.â€ Owners are â€œhuddlers.â€ â€œTuftsâ€ are a rare, valuable type of penguin with no head covering, while â€œfloorsâ€ refer to cheaper and more common varieties.