An NFT drop of 10,000 COVID-conscious punks sold out within minutes while badly clogging the Ethereum network and costing users thousands in gas (transaction) fees.

Stockhead found that 626 users had paid more than US$1,000 in gas fees to mint the COVIDPunks, with one user even paying 2.27 Eth — US$6,400 — in a failed transaction.

This user paid 0.6 Eth to mint 16 COVIDPunks, plus another 1.7 Eth (US$4,915) in gas fees to ensure that their transaction went through.

The sale around 4am AEST burned 526.26 Ethereum (US$1.5 million) in transaction fees under EIP-1559, the Ethereum Improvement Protocol that leads to a fraction of all gas fees being destroyed rather than paid to miners.

COVIDPunks had recently sold from 0.08 to 0.55 Ether (US$222 to US$1,530) on Opensea this afternoon, although some were hoping for more.

“We are aware that a portion of our users lost gas due to failed transactions during our unexpectedly huge launch. We are looking into the problem, and will be working on a solution,” the team behind the project wrote on Discord.

The “punks” are inspired by Cryptopunks, one of the first NFT drops on Ethereum back in 2017. But each character is wearing masks. Like the Cryptopunks, they are limited to 10,000 characters. They have different attributes such as vaccination status, mask type, sex and background colour.

There was no word yet on what had become of “patient zero” – the unique COVIDPunk who started the pandemic.

UPDATE SEPT 16, 2021: In an olive branch to those who lost out of COVIDPunks but paid high gas fees, the team behind the project has airdropped  over 3,000 COVIDBots to affected users. (They’re similar images of people wearing masks).

The COVIDPunks Twitter account said in a direct message that the team was “devastated” by what happened and the airdrop was “the culmination of a great effort from the COVIDPunks team to offer affected users something special.”

The CovidBOTS can be viewed on Opensea here.