All the tools you need to buy your first NFTs in the Solana ecosystem
I recently shared my experience with the leading NFT ecosystems and covered Solana as one of the main contenders to Ethereum’s dominance. It maintains this position and keeps attracting lots of artists, builders, and buyers with a near-zero-fee alternative to Ethereum’s gas wars.
The ecosystem keeps evolving rapidly and the number of new projects launching on Solana even seems to surpass that of Ethereum on some days. Furthermore, the quality keeps rising with plenty of interesting and innovative projects and original art.
I highly recommend exploring the Solana NFT ecosystem, even if you don’t jump in and invest all your hard-earned SOL right away. Just start by getting to know the tools you’ll need when you find the right project for you — which I believe you will soon enough.
The SOL currency
NFT purchases in the Solana ecosystem are made with the native currency SOL. You can easily acquire SOL on most exchanges, including Coinbase, Binance, and FTX. These exchanges even let you convert your fiat, such as US dollars or euro, directly into SOL.
1 SOL currently costs approximately $220 after a tremendous 2021, arguably fueled by their progress in the NFT space. This values Solana at around $67b, making it the 5th most valuable crypto asset after Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin, and Tether.
Top crypto assets by market cap as of October 22nd, 2021 (source: CoinMarketCap.com)
You can visit CoinMarketCap for a full overview of where to buy SOL.
The best wallets
The Phantom wallet is super easy to set up and fund with your newly acquired SOL, and the browser plugin makes NFT purchases really convenient as well. It even has a tab that displays your NFTs so you can easily confirm that you got what you paid for after minting a new project.
The Phantom wallet Chrome plugin in action
If you want a wallet that’s supported by all the big Solana marketplaces, your only other options at the moment are Solflare and Sollet. However, I haven’t found a compelling reason to use any of these instead of Phantom.
The best wallets summed up
- Phantom is still the undisputed king when it comes to Solana wallets.
- Solflare and Sollet are your only viable alternatives at the moment.
The Solana ecosystem is more fragmented than Ethereum’s when it comes to secondary marketplaces and doesn’t (yet) have an undisputed leader like OpenSea.
One of the reasons for the fragmentation is that all the main marketplaces are curated, and some with stricter curation than others. While this certainly means fewer scams than on more open marketplaces, I still recommend you look for collections to be verified before making a purchase, or follow the collection’s own direct links from their Discord or Twitter profile.
Solanart is the largest and most trusted marketplace, but also the one with the strictest curation. Some projects take days or weeks to get listed here, and some still haven’t gotten listed weeks after launching.
Two screenshots from the Solanart marketplace
Magic Eden has quickly emerged as one of the primary contenders to Solanart’s position, and one that’s much easier for new projects to get into.
The third in line seems to be DigitalEyes, another common go-to for new projects seeking a secondary marketplace as soon as possible after launch. I also see the new NFT marketplace on FTX starting to gain some momentum.
Because of the curation you will sometimes experience minting an NFT and not being able to sell it on the secondary market immediately afterward. New projects will announce on Discord if they’ve been pre-approved for listing on any of the above marketplaces before mint, and then send out updates as their other applications get approved down the line.
FTX, DigitalEyes, and Magic Eden, three of the leading Solana marketplaces
Other upcoming marketplaces with the potential to rival the above include SolShop, Alpha Art Market, and Solsea. I don’t have a lot of experience with these marketplaces myself and rarely see them mentioned by teams or other collectors on Discord.
Go-to marketplaces summed up
- Solanart is the most reputable marketplace but also the one with the strictest curation.
- Magic Eden is a strong runner-up behind Solanart.
- DigitalEyes is another go-to marketplace for many new NFT projects.
- FTX, SolShop, Alpha Art Market, and Solsea are all fighting for market share.
Other valuable tools
I’ll wrap up this Solana introduction with a couple of useful tools. Solanalysis is one of the most popular sites for getting an overview of the top projects, tracking their performance, and checking the rarity of individual items in various collections.
Solanalysis, one of the most popular tools for market statistics and NFT rankings on Solana
The two other tools I’ve bookmarked for similar use cases are MoonRank and SolanaFloor. The latter is still in beta and with a limited selection of projects and data, but I’ve heard and seen some promising things about it.
Many people see Solana as the biggest threat to Ethereum’s dominance in the NFT space and I tend to share this perspective. There’s a lot more competition among marketplaces and other tools, all pushing each other to innovate and get better all the time. OpenSea has largely been shielded from these outside forces because of its dominance, at least so far.
Coinbase recently announced their upcoming NFT marketplace and Shōyu is promising to shake things up as well. I’m curious to see how these and other new entrants in the space will impact and hopefully improve the Ethereum NFT ecosystem. They might just be what Ethereum needs to not lose out to Solana or one of the many other incumbents.
In any case, I firmly believe that Ethereum, Solana, and multiple other NFT ecosystems can co-exist, offer alternatives to creators, and continue to make each other better. I’ll keep using all of them and follow their development in the coming months!
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