History of CryptoPunks
Like any historical, ground-breaking project, CryptoPunks' history is complex, nuanced, and incredibly interesting.
The CryptoPunks launched in June 2017 to little fanfare and were completely free for anyone to claim via an Ethereum smart contract. Over a week went by before the full 10,000 were claimed by over a hundred keen crypto-goers. Soon after, a small but critical issue was identified within the smart contract once listings began to appear. The method offerpunkforsale was not correctly coded and users were able to 'purchase' a Punk, exchanging their ETH for the listed Punk, then execute the withdraw command and receive the ETH that was paid to the contract. That ETH should not have been accessible to the buyer but only to the seller (as it is today with the v2 contract). The issue with the contract was caused by just one line of code:
Photo credit: @0xfoobar on Twitter
The well-known early Punk claimer hemba, in the course of a legitimate purchase, discovered this exploit and used it to heist a couple dozen Punks listed for sale. Hemba has since returned more than 30 v1 Punks heisted in that exploit including the extremely rare (and historic) v1 Cryptopunk #6487. Abound with glee and excitement, the Discord channel soon realised that these several 1, 10 and 100 ETH sales (ETH was ~$300 at the time) on the first day of trading were not legitimate but the cause of major concern. Owners were then warned not to interact with their Punks until the developers worked out a solution to this issue.
Larva Labs alerted the public to the bug via this tweet:
In the days following, Larva Labs issued a new smart contract with the bug removed and added bid functions. On 23 June 2017, they 're-minted' all of the Punks and airdropped them back to their rightful owners. Note that all 10,000 Punks and their IDs are identical between both versions of the contract. v1 and v2 Punks are identical in their aesthetic, though non-fungible and unique in their tokening.
There isn't much to say regarding this time period for CryptoPunks save for a few sweeps and pumps from the minority of people who were aware of them. NFTs and crypto went through a deep, cold and long bear market. Buyers, bidders, sellers and attention was scarce.
It really wasn't until September of 2020 where one could see a marked spike in social interest and sales.