Ethereum, Polygon, Tezos, and Solana are the main smart contract blockchains that have active marketplaces for NFTs. To buy NFTs on these blockchains, you’ll need some of the blockchain’s native currency to pay for the NFT itself and the associated fees.
Ethereum is where most of the prominent collections are and requires you to own ETH, but its fees tend to be outrageous. During January, it was not uncommon for a single transaction to cost $150. If you’re buying a $50 NFT, a $150 fee doesn’t make sense.
Fortunately, blockchains like Polygon, Solana, and Tezos have fees that are often less than a penny. There aren’t many well known collections that utilize these blockchains yet, but NFTs are still in the first inning.
For our example, we’ll buy ETH on Coinbase, set up a crypto wallet using Metamask, then buy an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain on the OpenSea marketplace. But the good news is that once you learn how to buy an Ethereum NFT, the wallet setup and buying process is almost identical on other blockchains, wallet providers, and marketplaces.
Ethereum on OpenSea
1. Get an Account With a Crypto Exchange
First, sign up for an account on a crypto exchange. Coinbase, FTX, Gemini, Crypto.com, and Binance are all reputable companies. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but you’ll need to pass a KYC verification by providing the company with a form of identification.
2. Buy Crypto and Wait a Week
Once verified by your exchange, figure out which currency you need. If you want to buy NFTs on Ethereum via OpenSea, you’ll need ETH. If you want to buy NFTs on Solana via Magic Eden, you’ll need SOL.
For this example, I’ll buy ETH on Coinbase.
After buying ETH, we need to withdraw it from the Coinbase, but due to regulations, you can’t withdraw cryptocurrencies from an exchange until seven days after buying.
While we patiently wait, we can work on the next step.
3. Create a Digital Wallet
Now, we need to create a wallet. There are tons of wallet providers and they’re all free to use.
For Ethereum NFTs, the most widely used wallet is Metamask. It has a phone app and a desktop browser extension.
Lots of crypto and NFTs can be done on a phone, but things can get messy so I highly recommend a desktop for NFTs.
A wallet contains two elements: a private key and a public key. We’ll focus on the private key for this step.
For this example, we’ll use the MetaMask desktop browser extension. Be sure to download it directly from metamask.io because there are lots of fake wallets in the wild.
Once you’ve downloaded MetaMask, you should be greeted with a screen that looks like this:
Now, click “Create a Wallet.”
Now, create a password. This password isn’t very important and can easily be reset if you forget.
Next up is the most important step. You’ll be presented with a list of 12 words that are your recovery phrase, which can sometimes be referred to as a seed phrase. This recovery phrase protects your private key.
Now, write your recovery phrase on a piece of paper. Ideally, don’t write this on a word document or note app. Store it in a safe place on a piece of paper, then make a backup that’s kept separate from the first piece of paper.
Now, click on the words presented in the order that matches your recovery phrase. Once you type your recovery phrase into your wallet provider, you should never type it again. Under no circumstances, should you ever share this 12-word phrase with anyone. It’s for your eyes only. If someone gets a hold of your private key, it’s game over and they’ll have full control of your assets. I’ll cover more in-depth NFT security in a future post, but as long as you understand the need to guard your private key with your life, you’re in a good position.
Now, that you’ve entered your recovery phrase into Metamask, you officially have a wallet setup inside your web browser. You can bring your recovery phrase into any compatible wallet provider and you’ll have access to all your assets. You’re not locked into Metamask.
4. Transfer Crypto to Your Wallet
After it’s been seven days since your purchase of crypto on the exchange, it’s time to send crypto from the exchange to the wallet associated with your Metamask.
To send crypto, we need to locate our public wallet address. If you click on the Metamask extension inside your browser, your wallet address is located near the top of the app. It’ll start with “0x….” and it’ll be followed by a string of 40 numbers and letters. You don’t need to memorize your address and you don’t need to protect it. No one can do anything except send you crypto if you present them with your address. However, keep in mind, if you share your address with someone, they can view what’s in your wallet.
Now that you’ve found your public address, copy it to your clipboard.
Open your crypto exchange app to find the crypto you purchased a week ago. From there, you should find a “withdrawal” or a “send” button, depending on the app you use. Then, enter the amount you want to send, and copy your public address from your MetaMask into the “to” field, and tap send.
Assuming you’ve passed all identity checks and nothing looks fishy to the exchange, you should receive the funds in your wallet within 10 minutes or so.
5. Sign Into an NFT Marketplace With Your Wallet
Now that we’ve got a funded wallet, we’re ready to sign into a marketplace. Because we’ve got ETH, our two best marketplace options are OpenSea or LooksRare.
To buy on OpenSea, we’ll go to opensea.io, and click on the head icon (top right corner), then “Profile”. Now choose which wallet provider you’re using. For us, we’re using Metamask, so click on MetaMask and follow the prompts. Finally, click “Accept and Sign” and a window will pop up in your Metamask asking you to sign a message. After you’ve signed the message, you officially have an OpenSea account. You can bring this same wallet to any other marketplace too.
6. Find NFT & Sign For Transaction
Now that we have an OpenSea account. Let’s browse the marketplace for an NFT to buy.
We’ll click on the project that looks good and find an NFT in that collection that we like. This one costs .17 ETH. We’ll click “buy now” then “checkout.” Now, a new window will show up on your Metamask.
You’ll see an estimated “gas fee” added to the purchase price. This fee is the cost to use the Ethereum network. Depending on the time of the day and the overall state of the market this fee will vary heavily. Currently, it’ll cost about $10 to buy this NFT, which is relatively low for the Ethereum network.
Metamask does a solid job of estimating how much you should pay for gas. If you become an expert, later on, you can edit this depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
If everything looks good, we’ll sign the transaction. This will tell the network of Ethereum nodes, what you’re trying to buy and how much you’re willing to pay. Once your transaction is in the pool of pending transactions, you have to wait for a miner to confirm your transaction. We can watch our transaction on Etherscan. If you submit a transaction as Metamask presents it, it will typically take between 45 seconds and 5 minutes to confirm. But sometimes transactions can get stuck in the pool and take hours to confirm if the conditions of the network can change rapidly. If this happens, we can resubmit our transaction a second time by adding more gas.
Once a transaction is confirmed on Etherscan, you’re officially the owner of your first NFT. You can view your NFT inside the OpenSea profile viewer and it should show up with any other wallet viewer.
As you just learned, buying an NFT from an open marketplace with a decentralized wallet is pretty complex and it requires a ton of responsibility.
This method of buying NFTs won’t be for everyone, but if you want a taste of true ownership, you need to try it.
If all of this sounds intimidating to you, I highly recommend playing around on NiftyGateway or NBA Top Shot first.