How Does Smart Money Play NFT Airdrops? Nansen's Weekly Alpha Leak

How Does Smart Money Play NFT Airdrops? Nansen's Weekly Alpha Leak

Nansen shares alpha on how 4 Smart Money wallets are playing NFT airdrops

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GM explorers!

Welcome to The Map and the Territory, Nansen’s weekly alpha leak newsletter where we try to cut through the noise – the headlines, the tweets, and the mania – with onchain data in an effort to surface actionable signal.

This week we’re taking a look at some of the most successful NFT Airdrop Pros – a niche Smart Money label reserved for traders and collectors who have managed to amass significant sums just from NFT airdrops. What are their secrets? And can intrepid chain checkers copy-trade their movements? Let’s dive in!

JPEGs From The Sky

The playbook for airdrops in DeFi-land is well read and well understood, both from a user standpoint as well as from a project standpoint.

For projects, the goal for many (if not all) teams in crypto is to eventually decentralize their operations, which often requires governance. Governance participants need to be responsible stewards of the project, or in game theory terms ‘individuals whose goals are aligned with that of the project.’ Therefore, airdrops of governance tokens to early and power users of a protocol makes sense, as it ensures those who have a voice in the project’s operations are the same ones who rely on it and have vested interest in keeping it healthy.

How to best distribute ownership of decentralized public goods is very much an emerging science, but these are the core principles. If this kind of complex, human-centric design problem fills you with idealistic hope for both the space and the species (as it does me), I’d recommend this excellent pod with Nathan Schneider, who coined the term “exit to community.”

For users, meanwhile, the goal for the overwhelming majority is simply to acquire, and subsequently dump, as many tokens as possible.

It’s a depressing incongruity, sure, but for those who are mercenary and clever about it a good sybil attack is effectively risk-free profit. Indeed, Smart Money seems to know that the game is all about selling: the most active DAOs by participation also tend to have single-digit Smart Money ownership percentage. They’ve already sold!

DAO Paradise Dashboard

Less well-known is the playbook for NFT airdrops. NFT projects distributing additional JPEGs is rarely (AFAIK never) intended to decentralize anything, and few have penned blog posts on how best to game the process.

Nonetheless, NFT airdrops can be worth staggering sums of money. Mutant Ape Yacht Club, a 20,000 collection half of which was airdropped to holders of Bored Ape Yacht Club, has a 15 ETH floor and a $400 million market cap, even after an Ape-related pullback.

However, not all are unmitigated success stories. Forgotten Runes Warriors Guild, an airdrop from the successful Forgotten Runes Wizards Cult, has largely trended down since release, now sitting at a .14 ETH floor, well below mint price.

Forgotten Runes Warriors Guild NFT Paradise Dashboard

So, how do Smart Money and NFT Airdrop Pro addresses play these drops? What’s the best way to profit? Let’s take a look at four case studies for reference.

Steve Aoki

Aoki is a prolific NFT collector and, at times, a noted top signal for projects. However, he’s also earned a Smart NFT Airdrop Pro label as a result of receiving 11 MAYC NFTs currently worth an estimated 154 ETH.

Steve Aoki Wallet Profiler

However, the 154 ETH is far below the 440 ETH he could have earned from selling the MAYC top at 40 ETH.

Anonymous Whale

Like Aoki, this nameless whale received a significant airdrop after establishing a large position in a popular collection – in this case, Azuki.

Whale Wallet Profiler

Shortly following the BEANZ airdrop, the whale managed to profit 20 ETH in sales when the derivatives were worth close to 5 ETH, and then an additional 13 ETH after they dropped significantly in price.

Had he sold at the top, just a few days after they launched, he could have brought in 80 ETH oir more.  


Cryptobreaker is a noted Ape ecosystem whale (who notably bought a significant position in something called RumbleKongLeague just a few days ago), owning 34 original Apes, 56 Mutants, and a stunning 156 Otherdeeds.

Cryptobreaker Wallet Profiler

While he’s largely diamond-handed the majority of his collection, at least one Ape-related airdrop he managed to sell at significant profit: $APE, which he managed to sell $2.3 million worth for ETH.


Airdrops from protocols can be complicated. While they serve a purpose in the operation of a protocol, they are often treated simply as a bribe to a community. In the case of NFTs, there’s less nuance – they simply are bribes, distributed to holders and often with an extra supply to lure in new community members.

Rarely does an NFT airdrop hold or return value via further airdrops, and looking at a sample of Smart NFT Airdrop Pros, picking a collection to buy into heavily, waiting for a derivative airdrop, and selling appears to be the most profitable strategy in nearly all instances. The exception is Apes, where Mutants also received an $APE allocation – in that instance, selling the token also yielded profits.

In short, it’s as clear a game of hot potato as there is in this industry.

Odds and Ends

This week on Office Hours our inimitable Intern hosted our very own Nelson, and the two discussed the differences between the Nansen subscription tiers. If you’ve ever been interested in upgrading your plan, this could be worth a look to help you judge which option best suits you (infographic courtesy of intern Kate):

Office Hours Infographic

That’s all for this week – as always, feel free to reach out with comments or questions at


The authors of this content and members of Nansen may be participating or invested in some of the protocols or tokens mentioned herein. The foregoing statement acts as a disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and is not a recommendation to purchase or invest in any token or participate in any protocol. Nansen does not recommend any particular course of action in relation to any token or protocol. The content herein is meant purely for educational and informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as financial, investment, legal, tax or any other professional or other advice. None of the content and information herein is presented to induce or to attempt to induce any reader or other person to buy, sell or hold any token or participate in any protocol or enter into, or offer to enter into, any agreement for or with a view to buying or selling any token or participating in any protocol. Statements made herein (including statements of opinion, if any) are wholly generic and not tailored to take into account the personal needs and unique circumstances of any reader or any other person. Readers are strongly urged to exercise caution and have regard to their own personal needs and circumstances before making any decision to buy or sell any token or participate in any protocol. Observations and views expressed herein may be changed by Nansen at any time without notice. Nansen accepts no liability whatsoever for any losses or liabilities arising from the use of or reliance on any of this content.

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