Cryptograph uses GBM auctions to sell unpriceable NFTs for charity


Raised though GBM auctions


Charities supported

77.35 ETH

Highest sale price

“Selling one-of-a-kind NFTs from world icons at a time when no one had even heard of NFTs brought a unique challenge: How do you price the unpriceable? GBM auction was the answer. A truly revolutionary auction mechanism for truly unique NFTs.”

Hugo illustration
Hugo McDonaugh
Co-founder, Cryptograph


Cryptograph is the original celebrity NFT platform. Since 2020, they have published and sold one-of-a-kind digital artworks by icons such as Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher and Vitalik Buterin. Each Cryptograph raises money for a charitable cause chosen by its creator.


Selling such unique collectibles at a time when NFTs were in their infancy, meant there was no way to know the value of a Cryptograph. The team needed to find the best price discovery mechanism that can be implemented on a blockchain.


The GBM auction gave Cryptograph a great pricing mechanism for their truly unique NFTs, directly implemented on the Ethereum blockchain. GBM made Cryptograph auctions into a novel and engaging experience for bidders, and remains the only way to buy or sell Cryptographs to this day.

The Situation

Made by Icons. Owned by You.

Cryptograph is a social enterprise that raises money for charity by auctioning one-of-a-kind digital creations made by world icons and artists as NFTs. Cryptograph creators select a charity, and every time the NFT is sold or traded, money is raised for the cause. To date, Cryptograph and its creators have supported over 46 different charities worldwide and raised over $200,000.

Started in 2018 by a team of entrepreneurs, impact investors and blockchain pioneers, Cryptograph has auctioned over 100 works by world icons from all walks of life. These include Paris Hilton, Jason Momoa, Vitalik Buterin, Adrien Brody, Matt Bellamy, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Morello, Kristen Wiig, Ellen von Unwerth, and Kobe Bryant (through the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation).

On top of being unique creations from some of the world’s most famous icons, Cryptographs were also launched at a time when most people had never heard of NFTs. “At the time, we referred to Cryptographs as crypto collectibles. Very few people used the term NFT and the concept definitely raised eyebrows in Hollywood”, says Cryptograph cofounder Hugo McDonaugh. All this meant that no one had any idea what a Cryptograph would be worth; fixed price sales where out of the question. The Cryptograph team needed a price discovery mechanism like an auction, but both the traditional English and Dutch auctions have their limitations.

The limitations of the English Auction

Even though it is far the most common form of auction used in the world, the traditional English auction mechanic does have several shortcomings:

In an English auction, only the highest bidder wins. Everyone else loses and leaves with nothing.

There is no incentive to participate, thus many auctions don’t attract enough bidders and items are undervalued. Some auctions have no bidders at all.

It is difficult to generate excitement, most of the action happens at the very end of the auction.

On a blockchain like Ethereum, bidders pay a not-so-small gas fee to bid, so losing bidders end up with less money than they started with.

The issues with the Dutch auction

Although it seems simple in principle, it is very difficult to implement a Dutch auction safely on a blockchain, and it is not as effective for price discovery, in particular for very unique items.

It is hard to come up with a starting price. Too high discourages participation, too low forces a price cap.

Bots can identify when a bid is coming in on the blockchain and bid just before. This means humans cannot win.

Winner’s curse. You have no idea what the second highest bidder would have paid, which can leave a sour taste.

Bid to image

GBM: The auction where everybody wins

GBM™ turns any sale into a great experience where users either win the auction or make money. You place a bid, and if someone outbids you, you get your refunded bid, plus an incentive. Every participant either makes money or wins the auction, making the auction fun and exciting for everyone!

More Activity

Bidders are rewarded for bidding early, making the start of every auction an event no one wants to miss.

Better Prices

The incentives lead to greater price discovery, meaning items sell for their true market value, even when the demand is low, and the project captures most of the value.

Happier Community

Bidders cover their costs and then some, and every participant goes home with something. Everybody wins!

How GBM Works

When a bid is placed, the GBM™ formula calculates how much money that bidder will earn if they are outbid. Every bidder that gets outbid earns an incentive, and the highest bidder at the end of the auction wins, with the seller receiving what is left in the pot.

Incentive Function

The GBM™ formula is transparent and also customisable to give bidders more or less return depending on the seller’s preference.

Instant Payout

Incentives earned are distributed immediately along with the refunded bids, so users can keep bidding and earning as soon as they are outbid.

Hammer Time

Any bid placed towards the end of a GBM™ auction extends it, so every bidder has the chance to win the item if they have the capital.

What is the community saying?

The impact of GBM on Cryptograph

An exciting sale experience

GBM auctions successfully created a unique and exciting way to sell Cryptograph NFT. Straight out of the gate in July 2020, the first ever Cryptograph made by Vitalik Buterin’s Cryptograph sold for 77.35 ETH. This was the highest sale of any NFT on any blockchain that week.

In the first 100 Cryptograph auctions, more than $200,000 were raised and 46 different charitable organisations were supported around the world.

Cryptograph x GBM

77.35 ETH

Highest Cryptograph sale

A solution to cover gas fees

In 2020, transaction fees on Ethereum started rising. Thanks to the incentive mechanism of the GBM auction, every losing bidder receives an incentive when he or she is outbid. As a result, bidders were able to cover their bid’s gas costs when outbid. Cryptograph bidders earned more than $35,000 in incentives in the first 100 auctions.

Furthermore, in a GBM auction bidders are incentivised to bid higher than the minimum increment. That is because the GBM formula calculating their incentives depends on the increases their bid represents compared to the current standing bid. As a result, the GBM model reduces the numbers of bids per auction and less transaction fees are needed overall.

Cryptograph x GBM


Inc in revenue*

*compared to fixed prices distribution


Raised through GBM auctions

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Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin holding his Cryptograh Quadratic Funding, his first ever NFT, which sold in a GBM auction for 77.35 ETH on 11th July, 2020