Azuki is an NFT collection of 10,000 anime-style avatars launched in January 2022. The project garnered considerable success, selling out on marketplaces like OpenSea and LooksRare in under three minutes and even outranked projects like Bored Apes in terms of sales volume after release.
When we hear the words Blue Chip, we can think about stocks from profitable and well-established corporations. The same applies to Blue Chip NFTs —projects with long-term upside potential, like Bored Ape Yacht Club and Azuki NFTs.
The Azuki collection came when the Bored Apes, CryptoPunks, and NFT art dominated the market. There was barely any anime-themed project in the eyesight of the NFT community, but Azuki managed to call everyone’s attention with hand-drawn digital samurais and caffeine-addicted skateboarders.
What Are Azuki NFTs?
Chiru Labs created Azuki, a Web3 startup based in Los Angeles and led by a team of anonymous developers, artists, and gamers who identify using pseudonyms: Zagabond, HoshiBoy, 2pm.flow, and Location Tba. They claim to have worked in companies like Alphabet (Google), Meta, and other decentralized projects.
Zagabond, the Founder, claims to be an early “DeFi builder” and an “ex big tech” entrepreneur. Overall, the team is highly secretive about their identities and previous work experiences.
In an interview with Forbes, Zabagond stated that it’s not about the identities nor past experiences but creating a sustainable brand with a broad IP (Intellectual Property) with multiple revenue streams beyond royalties and merchandise. Some of their ambitious projects aim at reaching Hollywood, building a metaverse, and a whole ecosystem called The Garden, which they describe as a “corner of the internet where artists, builders, and web3 enthusiasts meet to create a decentralized future.”
While most keep their identities hidden under pseudonyms, Arnold Tsang, a renowned visual artist from Toronto, Ontario, is credited as a co-creator of the Azuki brand. He’s participated in numerous high-profile titles in the gaming industry, most noticeably in the first-person shooter video game Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment.
Azuki History: Launch & Public Sale
Azuki officially debuted on January 12, 2022, through a public sale that racked up over $30 million in sales. The initial offering was 8,700 avatars; each sold out at $3,400 apiece within minutes. Shortly after, the Azuki team held a private offering, selling another batch for around $2 million.
Originally, Azuki was going to be launched using the Dutch Auction method, meaning that the price of each Azuki was set to decrease gradually. Hence, the original mint price was 1 ETH and would reduce by 0.05 ETH every 20 minutes, but the hype pushed by crypto influencers and the logistics and roadmap embodied by the project had it sold out within minutes.
Reviewing Azuki NFTs, the “Brand of the Future”
Azuki is an NFT brand that has established itself as one of the main topics in the NFT community in a short time. Currently the 5th top-selling NFT collection on OpenSea, it’s considered a blue chip collection due to its high sales volume —north of $918 million at the time of writing, and an average floor price of 14 ETH (around $22.4).
There are 10,000 Azuki NFTs and at least 4,872 owners as of March 2023, according to NFT Stats.
Despite the bearish sentiment in the NFT market in 2023, the collection reached over 3$ million in sales during the second week of March. During the first three months of the year, total sales amounted north of $77 million, signaling the project’s strength despite bearish market conditions.
The most expensive Azuki sold to date is Azuki #4666, one of the rarest avatars out of the collection, sold in early 2022 for nearly $600,000.
Each Azuki has different traits, which make up for their rarity level. They wear different clothes, hair, ears, mouth, background, and more. Azukies hold different items, such as swords, a cup of coffee, a Boombox, skateboards, umbrellas, etc.
Like other popular collections, Azuki Beanz is an off-shoot collection airdropped to Azuki holders, launched in March 2022. They are cheaper, and consist of 19,950 unique NFTs, each giving access to the project’s, which allows them to be aware of upcoming drops and merchandise from the brand.
Beanz are tiny bean pods that emerged from the dirt in the Garden, as read on the Azuki website. Twelve unique traits classify them: clothes, wearables, eyes, mouth, etc. —and most importantly, their personality; while Azuki NFTs usually look more relaxed and calm, Beanz are more diverse: they can be energetic, upbeat, chaotic, or noisy, aggressive while a few others have a more intellectual, peaceful style.
Toshi and Gus are the original Beanz characters (or the first Beanz), described as a natural leader carrying a skateboard everywhere and a chaotic menace that loves to troll and cause trouble around them.
Like the original Azuki collection, Beanz are PFP avatars launched in the Ethereum network and offer 5% creator earnings. These tiny fellas have generated 123,595 ETH in total sales, while the floor price currently ranges between 1.25 and 1.29 ETH. They can only be
With the creation of Beanz, the idea of a native currency sprouted: $BEAN, which would be used in the Azuki-verse. Some other ideas were considered to realize the project’s intellectual property. Some of them are experimenting with meta-game, 3D interactive experiences, and a DAO to experiment with decentralized governance.
These and more ideas presented in the Azuki Mindmap are presumably in the works, but there has been no official announcement since 2022.
The Azuki Controversy
In May 2022, Zagabond was surrounded by controversy after revealing he was the founder of three defunct NFT projects: CryptoPhunks, CryptoZunks, and Tendies. These projects were considered scams, especially CryptoPhunks, which was allegedly a rugpull —a type of scam in which developers disappear with investors' funds.
The discussion heated up after users on Twitter found on-chain data about a wash trade (when a buyer, usually the same person, buys and sells something to inflate an asset or stock) made by the founder of CryptoPhunks. Naturally, the floor price of Azuki NFTs plunged roughly 50%, going from $45k to $25k, and the team’s credibility and trustworthiness suffered a major blow.
On May 10, Zagabond hosted a podcast hosted by crypto influencer Andrew Wang to address these accusations, stating that “there’s no rulebook for creators to follow,” and he handed off “some” of the projects to their respective communities.
To make things worse, a former CryptoPhunks founder, “dvx” stated that Zagabond abandoned the project after failing to communicate with the dev team and community, even after fully fleshing out the roadmap.
The Azuki community was dissatisfied with Zagabond’s responses, which led him to issue an official apology via Twitter.
Zagabond remained as director of Azuki NFTs. Ironically the controversy pushed Azuki sales up 1200% thanks to traders who capitalized on the lower floor price.
Where to Buy an Azuki NFT?
You can buy an Azuki using secondary marketplaces like OpenSea and LooksRare. You’d need a crypto wallet that supports NFTs, popular options include MetaMask and Coinbase Wallet. From thereon, connect your wallet to any of these two marketplaces and type “Azuki” in the search bar. Remember that this is a Blue Chip collection, so you’ll see a blue checkmark on it (beware of scammers).
Final Thoughts: The Future of Azuki NFTs
Despite the controversy, the Azuki ecosystem has managed to thrive and expand its ecosystem beyond hand-drawn PFPs. So far, the project’s roadmap consists mostly of ideas being shared and discussed between developers and the community.
However, the biggest development for the Azuki ecosystem is the creation of its own metaverse, which will be an RPG using the community’s NFTs as the main characters. This metaverse will endorse some of the ideas discussed by the team, which include a DAO, the $BEAN currency, merchandise, and 3D immersive experiences.