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Data integrity and $345 million worth of missing NFTs


We are starting an effort to archive NFTs as they appear on the blockchain.

J Chris AndersonApr 4, 2022

With our partners at NFTPort we have been investigating data quality in the NFT industry. We were surprised to find that over 12.8% of NFTs are not retrievable! Of the $25 billion worth of NFTs in the NFTPort index, almost 6 million are missing.

At NFT.Storage, we believe that data integrity is fundamental to a strong ecosystem, so in addition to providing upload, storage, and retrieval of NFT data as a public service, we have begun analyzing and archiving the world’s NFT images, assets, and metadata. By archiving NFT data as it is linked from various blockchains, our Niftysave project ensures that far fewer NFTs will be lost.

We can thank NFTPort for providing just the right statistical API we need to get an initial look at this historical data. Check them out if you are a developer and want to launch NFT products in hours, instead of months. From deploying NFT contracts with easy to use REST APIs to building advanced NFT applications where you need NFT data - they have you covered.

Missing NFT Metadata

Metadata is the most critical file for an NFT, as it links to the images and other assets. The metadata file is typically a JSON object with fields listing attributes like traits and rarity. If it goes missing or is incorrectly modified, it doesn’t matter how well your image is backed up, as the metadata has the final say about the content of the NFT. If you can’t load the metadata, you’ve lost the NFT.

In our analysis of the Ethereum NFT ecosystem (comprising over 46 million NFTs), we discovered that 12.8% of all NFT metadata assets linked from the blockchain are missing. That means that for one out of every eight NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain, their metadata can not be found. If there are backups, they aren’t online. Short of a heroic restoration effort, those NFTs are toast. The floor price - representing the lowest asking price set by the owner - of those missing NFTs adds up to $345 million. That's a lot of value lost to bad data hygiene.

The average floor price of a retrievable NFT in this dataset is 0.195 ETH, or about $650. For a broken NFT missing metadata, the average price is close to $60, or about 1/10th of the working ones’ market value. This indicates a correlation between abandoned projects and missing files.

Our NiftySave project aims to archive all the public NFT content using immutable content identifiers, so that future metadata, images, and assets are not lost. One benefit of content identifiers over location based URLs is they can be used to fetch data from any host, so the fastest response wins. NFT.Storage worldwide Gateway instances use this property to fetch data from the closest IPFS peer, cache it, and serve it to users with minimum latency. Niftysave plus NFT.Storage edge caching means the NFT data will be reliably and quickly available soon after it is mentioned on-chain.

NiftySave listens to the latest block updates on the Ethereum chain (and soon many others) and automatically archives and accelerates any NFT content it finds there. So in the future the number of missing NFTs will be much smaller. Learn how to use NFT.Storage gateways to improve your NFT gallery or other site. We are committed to providing this archive as a public service, including additional statistics and insights into NFT data integrity. To this end, we are working toward managing this effort via a DAO. In the long term, look forward to ways you can contribute to the archive.