De-meow-stifying the CryptoKitties Marketplace
A Guide to Collectible CryptoKitties Cats
Disclosure: I’ve been a CryptoKitties collector/player since November, 2017, and have a significant CryptoKitties collection.
When a new user appears in the CryptoKitties’ Discord chat, inevitably they ask some variation of one of two questions:
1) “Can I make money doing this?”
2) “How much are my CryptoKitties worth?”
Regardless of what a certain TikTok video might imply, the answer to number one will usually be, “no,” but the more complicated answer is, “no, but maybe (if you work at it); who knows?”
The answer to number two is almost always, “pretty much nothing,” because if you have a valuable cat in your possession, chances are you already know that you do (the community of owners of valuable CryptoKitties is quite small).
Before I can further explain, we’ll have to go on a deep dive off the top of the cat tree to the bottom of the kitty litter tray. Hold your breath!
A Brief History of CryptoKitties
November 28th, 2017 was the launch date of what would become one of the most infamous projects in the history of the blockchain. More a product of fate than design, Axiom Zen, the creators of CryptoKitties, found itself thrust into the middle of an incredible cryptocurrency bubble, where everyone was looking for the next “pump” upon which they could profit.
Though a couple thousand “beta” cats already existed from before the game went public, the first hundred cats (IDs: 1-100) were first put up for sale by Axiom Zen on the date of the launch. These cats were the “founder” cats, with CryptoKitty #1 being the most famous of them all: Genesis.
While the other founder cats quickly found homes in the first few days, selling from 10 to 50 ETH apiece, Genesis was not sold until December 2nd, for a cool 246.92 ETH, or 114,000 United States dollars. To this day, Genesis is still owned by its original buyer, the reclusive Mr. Stimpson J. Cat (I hear he’s been spotted on a few other Discord servers with a smug look on his face: 😐).
Many of the founder cats were quickly flipped for greater and greater amounts, with several sales coming within a few thousand dollars of Genesis’ selling price.
At the time, other cats were also fetching huge prices. CryptoKitties was experiencing what many alt-coins had experienced over the prior months; absolute and unmitigated FOMO!
As the bubble popped and market activity began to subside, the user base quickly dwindled. The mystery of the genetics and the contract that controlled them was eventually revealed and the breeding of cats became more of a science that only a few dozen players would come to master. To this day, breeding valuable cats remains quite challenging and requires a significant amount of study to grasp.
How to Value CryptoKitties
To help you understand how the community values any of the almost 1.8 million CryptoKitties that currently exist, it’s important to first understand the fundamental characteristics that describe a CryptoKitty. Let’s use “Kitte Strongbun” (the names are randomly generated) as our example:
This is cat #1769786, one of the most recent to be born. It’s a “Gen 8” with a “Snappy” cooldown. Its dominant genes are listed in the first column (munchkin, tiger, mintgreen, etc), and its recessive genes are listed in the other three columns (you’ll need to install the ckbox extension in your browser to see the genes). “Munchkin” is the cat’s fur type, and we can see its recessive fur types are koladiviya, munchkin, and selkirk. For a full list of all of the potential genes, check out this trait chart on KittyHelper.co.
In the first year of the game, a CryptoKitties-controlled account called “Kitty Clock” would spawn and auction off generation zero, or “Gen 0” cats, which are the parents (or grand-parents, or great grand-parents, etc) of all the other cats in the game. There will only ever be 50,000 Gen 0 cats (as specified in the Ethereum smart contract), so right away, Gen 0’s have more value than other cats, because of their rarity. The Kitty Clock no longer spawns new Gen 0 cats, but the CryptoKitties creators still have the ability create new Gen 0’s (up to the 50,000 cap), in the form of exclusive cats (further described later in this article).
The “cooldown” represents the rest time a cat needs before it can breed again. A Gen 0 cat that has never been bred will have the fastest possible cooldown, and therefore has utility in addition to scarcity. Every time a cat is bred, its cooldown period increases, which reduces its utility, so you can see that a cat that’s never been bred is more valuable than one that has been bred.
“Kitte Strongbun,” our example cat, is a Gen 8, meaning it has eight generations of cat that came before it (including the Gen 0). Because it was born as a Gen 8, its cooldown starts as “snappy” which is 30 minutes, so even though it’s never been bred, it’s going to take a while to produce offspring. Lower gen cats are therefore more valuable.
Are you still with me? Okay, let’s talk more about genetics.
Some genes don’t exist in Gen 0 cats, and are created by mutating two genes together. These mutated genes first appear in Gen 1 cats (M1 type genes). Similarly, some genes are mutations of mutations, and therefore can’t appear until Gen 2 (M2), Gen 3 (M3), or Gen 4 (M4), as the case may be.
Alright, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, we can start talking about the value of these cats.
1) “Mewtation” Gems: the first cat in the entire game that gets a specific “mewtated” gene is allocated a diamond gem. There are only 243 “diamond cats” in the game, and many of them have been bred. The cheapest, previously bred, diamond cat typically sells for 3-4 ETH, though many are priced much higher. An un-bred diamond cat can be very valuable, but there has not been one sold on the market for quite some time, as owners of these cats appear to be keeping them as investments. These days, you might be able to pry one out of a collector’s hands for 7 or 8 ETH, depending on the mewtation, but that’s just a guess on my part.
The 2nd to 10th cat with a specific mewtation receives a gold gem, and they’re referred to as “gilded.” They’re not as rare as diamonds, obviously, but still considered quite valuable. Gilded cat prices start from just over 0.5 ETH, at present.
This whole “gem” thing continues for “amethyst” (11-100) and “lapis” (101-500) gems. Cats with multiple gems can be very valuable. For example, there are two cats in the entire game that have two diamond gems each. I have yet to see one of these sell on the market, so who knows how much they’re actually worth. When you get to the very valuable cats, liquidity dries up rapidly.
Let’s move onto the other major types of cats that are valued by collectors:
2) Founder Cats: as explained earlier, these are the first 100 cats. Their value is a function of their ID number (the lower, the better), their genetics (the rarer, the better), and whether the cat has been bred (analogous to the condition of a baseball card or a coin, a “virgin” (yeah, yeah, laugh it up) or “mint” cat is more valuable than one that has been bred).
In the last few months, founder cats have generally sold for between 15 and 25 ETH apiece. Due to their high value (though they’re more than 95% cheaper than peak 2017 prices), turnover is quite slow and founder cat holders are reluctant to let them go, as they hope that prices will one day return to what they once were. I’ll leave it to you, the potential collector, to decide if that will ever be the case.
3) Exclusive Cats: these cats came into existence at the discretion of the CryptoKitties team for all sorts of reasons. They’ve been given out as rewards for contributing to the ecosystem and as prizes for winning competitions. Many exclusives are one of a kind, including Honu, which was sold for $25,000 at a charity auction to raise money for ocean protection, and Celestial Cyber Dimension, which sold for $140,000 to raise money in support of artists.
The value of an exclusive cat is generally tied to its rarity and age. The cheapest exclusives came out in mid to late 2019 and currently sell for 2-3 ETH a piece, while the most expensive (the one of a kinds) are for sale for hundreds of ETH, if at all. Your best bet for acquiring any of the rarer exclusives (or any Cryptokitty, really) is to contact the owner on Discord and negotiate privately. You can use KittyHelper.co as a reference for previous sales data, but keep in mind that many sales happen privately and are not recorded on-chain.
If you’re not sure you can trust the person on the other side of the negotiating table, make sure you use the CryptoKitties website to complete the transaction. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a transaction fee to ensure you don’t get taken for a ride! That being said, because of the small size of the community these days, most CryptoKitties players have excellent reputations and would never consider pulling a scam. It’s more likely that you, the new player, would be the party of concern in the transaction, no offense.
4) Fancy Cats: Fancy cats are CryptoKitties’ breeders bread and butter. Every one or two weeks, new fancy cat art is released into the game. As of today, 76 varieties of fancy cats roam the blockchain. Collectors further breakdown this category of cats by the year in which they were created, with November 28th being the start of a CryptoKitties “year.” The first 43 types of fancy cat are “year one” fancy cats. The next 32 are “year two” and there is currently one “year three” fancy cat.
Upon the release of a new fancy cat, breeders compete to solve clues which reveal its genetic recipe. The first to be born, a so-called “number one fancy” is quite valuable, and at present can often be sold to a collector for 5 ETH or more. The subsequently born cats are generally worth less and less, with the lowest price depending on the “cap” or the limit of how many are allowed to be bred. Fancy cats with high caps (some are as high as 50,000) can be acquired for not much more than the “breeding fee,” which is currently 0.008 ETH; that is the base cost of breeding a CryptoKitty, assuming you already have the potential parent cats in your possession.
A very important additional factor to consider is the generation of a fancy cat. A “low gen” fancy cat is a credit to the capability (and luck) of the breeder. It can be significantly more difficult to create a lower gen fancy cat than a higher gen fancy cat. The reason for this is that lower gen fancy cats are bred from parents that have the required genes in recessive slots (vice dominant slots). The parents might not even have the genes at all (and a mewtation is required to create the fancy cat)! A very low gen fancy cat can be like two giraffes trying to give birth to a monkey; it’s difficult, you know?
Currently, the most valuable fancy cat is “Schrodinger’s Cat,” a “year one” fancy, of which there are only 73. The cheapest one on the market is for sale for 15 ETH, but you could almost certainly negotiate the price down a couple of ETH. Other, less rare fancy cats (those whose numbers have a higher “cap”) sell for cheaper. For example, you can pick up a “Page,” of which there are over 4000 and counting (10,000 cap), for just over 0.009 ETH. Once again, KittyHelper.co has a great tool for checking the cheapest or “floor” price for any type of fancy cat.
To summarize, the value of a fancy cat is a function of its rarity, age, condition (if it’s been bred), generation, and how early it was discovered. For example, a very expensive cat would be the #1 Schrodinger’s Cat. A very cheap fancy cat would be the #3942 Page. To a lesser extent, other factors can also come into play when valuing fancy cats, such as whether the “recipe” for the cat was challenging for breeders (were three traits needed? six?), or if there was some sort of drama behind how the breeding process went down (ask someone about “Catbury,” if you ever get the chance).
5) Purrstige Cats: similar to fancy cats, purrstige cats are created using a recipe. While fancy cats have dedicated art, purrstige cats can be described as “normal” cats but with distinguishing features based on their genetics. These features will only appear if the cat is bred during a specific time window, or until the purrstige’s “cap” is reached. For example, there are purrstige cats with antlers, funny hair-dos, robotic parts, weapons, or duck beaks, among many others.
Purrstige cats are almost always worth less than fancy cats. If you were looking to buy an “entry level” collectible cat, a purrstige might be the way to go, as they’re still rare and have unique art associated with them.
6) Shiny Cats: this type of cat was very recently added to the game. A “shiny” cat is a variation of a fancy cat that is very, VERY unlikely to be bred. They are so rare, as a matter of fact, that some shiny cats will never be discovered because they won’t be found within the allotted breeding window for that fancy cat. A complex formula determines if a shiny cat will be born (see the CryptoKitties article here, if you want the details on how it all works). There are currently only eight shiny cats, and its difficult to say how much they’re worth. Just know that they’re extremely rare, and if the market for CryptoKitties picks up, they could end up selling for a significant premium over regular fancy cats.
7) Special Edition (SE) Cats: these are limited edition cats that are created by the CryptoKitties team (similar to exclusives) and are awarded as prizes or auctioned off to the highest bidder. There are currently six different SE cats, which range in rarity from 1 of 10 to 1 of 500. The less rare ones can be bought for less than 1 ETH while the rare ones can go for more than 10 ETH each, as was seen with recent Catzy and PurremyAllaire sales.
From here, things get a little crazy, but I’m afraid if I continue, you’ll just end up going from “mystified” to “demystified” and back to “mystified,” and then you’ll just unsubscribe from my newsletter and go buy some art from SuperRare (not that that’s a bad thing).
There are some very, very niche markets within the CryptoKitties community that focus on the specific genes of cats and how dominant they are (or aren’t). For breeders, these can be important factors, but for us collectors, there’s already enough on our kitty-collector plate to deal with, in my humble opinion.
Alright, at the beginning of this article, we considered two questions that are often asked my new CryptoKitties players:
1) “Can I make money doing this?”
The complete answer to that question is, “yes,” if you’ve studied breeding, built up a large pool of cats from which to breed, and have quite a bit of luck. Although some players have developed bots to gives themselves an advantage over “manual” breeders, there are now several web-based breeding tools (see catatonic.club or KittyHelper’s “fancy chaser” tool) that level the playing field significantly, and “non-botted” players are often the first to find new fancy cats.
The other way to make money is to try to anticipate the future market, similar to how you would try to make money with any other type of investment. If you think that CryptoKitties will become more collectible over time, then by all means, feel free to dabble in the market, but no one can know for sure what will really come of any of these NFTs.
2) “How much are my CryptoKitties worth?”
Now we know just how complex of a question that can be. “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”
As a matter of fact, all CryptoKitties are worth something; at least one WCK, which is a Wrapped CryptoKitty token. That’s right, someone turned CryptoKitties into a currency, and look how much it’s worth:
Okay, not all that much, but that’s still pretty neat. Check out wrappedkitties.com for more info.
Whew, you made it, and you’ve only got a bit of kitty litter up your nose.
Please go check out the CryptoKitties marketplace and have a look around, and if you need some help, there are always plenty of friendly community members that would be more than happy to answer your questions on the Discord server. Enjoy!