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If you want in on the NFT craze, an NFT marketplace is your gateway to participating in the purchase and sale of these digital assets — from art to music to entire virtual worlds. Think of NFT marketplaces as your Amazon of the digital realm.
There are dozens of NFT marketplaces in existence, and many of them have a specific focus or niche. What should you look for before deciding which one to use, and what are the top NFT marketplaces out there? Here's what you need to know.
First, remember that an NFT (non-fungible token) simply represents ownership of an asset. Before choosing an NFT marketplace, you'll first want to decide the kind of digital asset you're interested in buying, selling, or creating. Just about anything digital — the written word, videos, video games, art, collectors items, etc. — can be tokenized on a blockchain (such as Ethereum (CRYPTO:ETH), the most common blockchain network NFTs are built on), so narrowing down your interest is a good place to start.
Another consideration is the type of tokens supported on a marketplace. Some support a wide variety of tokens. Others are closed marketplaces and utilize a specific proprietary token. When opening an NFT marketplace account, be sure to fund your blockchain wallet with the right crypto or token required to participate in the site's activity. You'll be prompted to link your wallet to the NFT marketplace once you've opened up an account. Also check to see what kind of security the marketplace has in force, and if it has had any issues in the past.
Here are some of the top NFT marketplaces right now.
OpenSea is the leader in NFT sales. OpenSea has all sorts of digital assets available on its platform, and it's free to sign up and browse the extensive offerings. It also supports artists and creators and has an easy-to-use process if you want to create your own NFT (known as "minting").
The marketplace supports more than 150 different payment tokens, so the platform's name is appropriate. For an introduction to the NFT world, OpenSea is a great place to start.
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Axie Marketplace is the online shop for the video game Axie Infinity. Axies are mythical creatures that can be bought and trained and then pitted against other players' Axies to earn rewards. On Axie Marketplace, players can buy new Axies, as well as entire lands and other items, as NFTs for use within the game.  
Axie Infinity tokens (called Axie Shards) are built on the Ethereum blockchain. As such, they can be bought and sold on a variety of other NFT marketplaces, as well as on some cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase Global (NASDAQ:COIN).
Larva Labs is best known for the viral CryptoPunks NFT project. They were originally given away for free back in 2017, but some CryptoPunks have sold for millions of dollars since then. Larva Labs has other digital art projects going such as Autoglyphs, as well as other Ethereum blockchain-based app development projects.
Larva Labs' CryptoPunks NFTs are sold out, but they can be bid on and bought from various third-party marketplaces. Nevertheless, Larva Labs' various projects are worth keeping tabs on — including the Meebits, which can be bid on directly from the company's built-in marketplace.
NBA Top Shot is the National Basketball Association and Women's National Basketball Association's foray into the NFT world. On its marketplace, collectible moments (video clips and play highlights) and art can be purchased from the world's premier basketball leagues.
The NBA built it as a closed marketplace (you can only buy and sell on Top Shot) using the Flow blockchain built by Dapper Labs. It's easy to sign up and buy directly on the Top Shot marketplace website. Collectible moments can be purchased for as little as a few dollars.
Rarible is another large marketplace for all sorts of NFTs, similar to OpenSea. All kinds of art, videos, collectibles, and music can be bought, sold, or created on the platform. However, unlike OpenSea, you'll need to use the marketplace's own token Rarible (CRYPTO:RARI) to buy and sell on the marketplace. Rarible is built on the Ethereum blockchain (although artwork can be managed on OpenSea as well using Rarible tokens).
The company has partnered with some notable companies. Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) Taco Bell has listed art on Rarible, and cloud software giant Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) recently partnered with Rarible to help secure NFT artists' and creators' work.
Similar to Rarible, SuperRare is also building a marketplace for digital creators. The site includes art, videos, and 3D images, but collectors can purchase artwork using Ethereum.
SuperRare recently announced its own token of the same name based on the Ethereum blockchain. The tokens will be used to find and curate new talent for the marketplace. Like Rarible, SuperRare NFTs can also be bought and sold on OpenSea.
Foundation.app was designed as a simple, no-frills way to bid on digital art. Sales are made using Ethereum. Since the marketplace's launch in early 2021, it has sold more than $100 million of NFTs.  
Artists are invited to the platform by the Foundation community, and buyers simply need a crypto wallet funded with Ethereum to start making purchases. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to start creating your own NFTs, Foundation probably isn't the best place to begin, but the marketplace has plenty of artwork that can be perused in a simple format.
Nifty Gateway has facilitated the sale of some of the most popular digital artists such as Beeple and singer/musician Grimes. It's an art curation platform powered by the crypto exchange Gemini (controlled by the Winklevoss twins). The NFTs, known as Nifties, are built on Ethereum.
Besides being a curated platform, Nifty Gateway also hosts any NFTs purchased — meaning the NFTs aren't stored in your own wallet but are actually stored for you by Nifty Gateway and Gemini. While that may not work for NFT collectors who want more flexibility with their art investments, Nifty purchases and sales also can be made in fiat currency (e.g., U.S. dollars) without making a cryptocurrency purchase first.
Mintable, backed by billionaire Mark Cuban, aims to be an open marketplace similar to OpenSea. To participate in buying and selling NFTs on Mintable, you'll need Ethereum. The platform also supports minting of NFTs for creators of all types (from photographers to musicians) who want to sell their work as a digital asset.
An aspiring NFT collector or creator will need to purchase Ethereum from a crypto exchange first, then connect their wallet to Mintable to facilitate bidding and buying on the marketplace.
Theta is a blockchain platform built for the decentralized distribution of video and TV on the internet. The NFT marketplace Theta Drop made its debut in 2021 with the World Poker Tour's digital collectibles. The World Poker Tour was an early adopter of ThetaTV and uses the platform to stream content.
Theta utilizes its own blockchain technology. To participate in the Theta Drop NFT marketplace, you'll need to purchase Theta Token (CRYPTO:THETA). Various crypto exchanges such as Binance support Theta, and the tokens and NFTs purchased with them can be stored in a crypto wallet, as well as in Theta's own crypto wallet app.  
NFT marketplaces are your path to start investing in digital assets, collectibles, and art, but there are lots of options out there. Be sure to choose one that suits your buying and storage needs based on the type of NFT you're after and the crypto you're interested in using for transactions. 
Also be aware that this is a new industry and is highly speculative. Some NFTs may rocket higher in value, but there's no guarantee. The value of digital art and collectibles works much the same as physical art and collectibles: Value is subjective and determined by factors such as uniqueness and the reputation of the artist who made it. Make a purchase — if any — with your overall investment strategy, net worth, and investment time horizon in mind.
There are hundreds of platforms around the world that are waiting to give you access to thousands of cryptocurrencies. And to find the one that's right for you, you'll need to decide the features that matter most to you.
To help you get started, our independent experts have sifted through the options to bring you some of our best cryptocurrency exchanges for 2021. Check out the list and get started on your crypto journey, today.
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