January 09, 2023 - 14 min read
An NFT whitelist is a special list of people who are provided early access to mint NFTs. It consists of a database of specific wallet addresses that are allowed to mint a project’s NFTs during a specific time period, typically between a few hours to a few days.
For NFT investors and traders, getting whitelisted has major potential financial advantages. In fact, one market report from Chainanalysis suggests that more than 75% of all NFT profits come from whitelist NFT sales, meaning that less than 30% of all NFT profits come from non-whitelist NFT sales. This means that there is a massive “first mover” benefit to getting on a whitelist and minting your NFTs before everyone else.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly how whitelisting works, how you can get on an NFT whitelist, the potential benefits and risks of NFT whitelists, and everything else you need to know about NFT whitelisting.
NFT whitelists were developed for several reasons, the main ones being to develop community and reward early supporters, prevent spam, and prevent gas wars.
Developing Community and Rewarding Supporters: NFT projects desperately need new community members to follow them, like, and comment on social media, join and moderate discord servers, and do other promotional and volunteer work. It can be hard to reimburse hard-working community members with money before a project has funds, however, they can easily add a community member to the project’s whitelist to reward them and keep them engaged.
Therefore, the potential of getting whitelisted incentivizes individuals to promote an NFT project, and those who are already whitelisted are even more incentive to promote, as they will likely now be investing in the project themselves and want to see it succeed. Ideally, this promotion will lead to a highly successful public sale, which will typically happen directly after the whitelist minting period ends.
Prevent Spam: Unfortunately, spam and bots have become a major problem in the crypto and NFT industry, particularly when it comes to the NFT presale process. Many NFT projects face hundreds or thousands of whitelist requests from fake wallets, while some individuals attempt to register hundreds or thousands of accounts at once in an attempt to mint as much as they can of the entire presale. Sometimes, this is done manually; other times, it’s done with bots. Either way, these activities can be extremely destructive to a successful NFT launch.
Fortunately, using an effective whitelisting process can help address these issues head-on. By limiting whitelist access to the wallet accounts of individuals who have actually participated in and/or contributed to the NFT project’s community, whitelisting prevents mass sign-ups. All of this means that a project’s NFTs are more likely to end up in the hands of a diverse number of real, engaged owners, instead of simply ending up in the hands of a few unscrupulous whales.
ETH gas data from Etherscan during the height of the BAYC Otherside mint.
Preventing Gas Wars: Right now, the Ethereum blockchain is still, by far, the most popular blockchain for NFT minting. Unfortunately, during periods of high congestion, transaction fees (also known as gas fees) on Ethereum can spike to incredible levels, in a process that some refer to as a gas war. For example, during the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC’s) Otherside metaverse land mint, minting prices reached higher than $7,000 per mint, with one individual notoriously paying $44,000 to mint two NFTs. Overall, the entire mint burned over $150 million in gas fees.
While NFT whitelists can’t completely get rid of gas issues, they make the problem much less serious. For example, the use of an NFT whitelist limits the number of initial buyers and gives them a specific time window to mint the initial NFTs. This stops a huge amount of people from all competing against each other to mint at one, which would typically lead to people bidding up gas prices higher and higher.
Some of the major benefits of getting on an NFT whitelist include:
Discounted Prices: If an NFT project really succeeds, you’ll likely never find prices as low as during the whitelist period. In fact, during the whitelisting period, many NFT projects give out free NFTs or discounted prices for whitelist members. Sometimes, these deals and perks are extended to all members, sometimes just to early whitelist members, and other times, through a raffle or contest.
Purchasing Rare NFTs: Nearly every large NFT project has some tokens that are significantly rarer than others, and these are the NFTs most likely to explode in value if the project succeeds. In fact, the rarest NFTs in a collection are often worth more than 10-20x than an average NFT in the same collection. However, it can be extremely difficult and expensive to find and purchase these ultra-rare NFTs after a project has launched. This process is much easier during the whitelist minting period, where there are far fewer people attempting to mint NFTs, making it easier to select and mint a gem.
Guaranteed Mint Access: Perhaps the most important part of getting whitelisted is the guarantee that you can mint during a specific period. Individuals who must mint during the public sale are often pushed out due to incredibly high gas fees or simple network congestion. In addition, many minting attempts may fail, meaning that someone could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in gas to mint an NFT, only to be left empty-handed.
Community Engagement: By engaging with an NFT project’s community enough to get on their whitelist, you can learn a lot about the project and the NFT market as a whole. In fact, once whitelisted, you may discover that the project is not actually worth investing in, saving you time, money, and effort. Alternatively, you could discover that the project is more promising than you thought, meaning that it may be worth it to invest more in the project’s NFTs upfront. This discovery process can also help you identify the rarest NFTs in the collection, which, as previously mentioned, have the highest potential for rapid price increases.
Airdrops and Rewards: We mentioned before that NFT whitelist members have sometimes gotten free NFTs simply for being on a whitelist or actively minting during the whitelist period. However, what you may not know is that some of these free “airdropped” NFTs have become record-setting collections in their own right. For example, Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) owners received free Mutant Ape NFTs, Cool Cat owners received Cool Pets NFTs, and PROOF Collection owners received Moonbirds.
While NFT whitelists do have many benefits, they do have some cons as well. The main drawback of the NFT whitelisting project is that it often requires many hours of engagement, as well as often putting your personal reputation on the line to promote a project that you cannot be sure will be profitable. Even after putting in hours of work, you may not get whitelisted. And, even if you get whitelisted and mint your NFTs early, you could still lose money.
Another issue with NFT whitelists is the potential for scams, which we’ll mention more later in this article.
There are several steps you can take to attempt to get on an NFT whitelist. Some of these include:
The best way to get on the whitelist for a quality NFT project is to discover a high-quality project early– that is, before the whitelist is completely full. There are a variety of ways to do this, including following NFT influencers on social media platforms for their recommendations, as well as researching upcoming collections on NFT data platforms like Rarity.tools.
When looking for a project, consider the quality of the art, the size and engagement of the project’s current community, and your own personal opinion about the project. While you can invest in any NFT project you like, it may be more fun (and potentially more profitable) to focus on investing in projects you truly appreciate and believe in.
Speed is also important, because if there are fewer spaces left on a whitelist, each space will often be harder to get. Make sure to follow projects you’re interested in on Twitter to get all their updates.
The Discord Server Announcements channel for the NFT and metaverse project Nouns.
Discord has become a hotbed of activity for most NFT projects, and is often the place where major announcements, such as a project’s roadmap, whitelist instructions, giveaways, and interviews or calls with the founders will typically be announced. In many cases, there may be a specific section just providing information about getting whitelisted. Alternatively, information about being whitelisted may be found in the “announcements” or “general” section. If there is little information on how to join the whitelist, simply ask other members in the group to help you out. It’s even better if you can engage with the founders directly, though this is harder when it comes to larger projects.
Once you find out how to join, make sure you start following the whitelist eligibility requirements, which could include a certain amount of community involvement or even winning a game, such as a puzzle or a quiz. It should be noted that closely examining a project’s Discord is another great way to determine if the project may be worth investing in.
For instance, if you found out that the founders recently launched another successful NFT project, that could be a good sign that this might be successful, as well. In contrast, if one or more of the founders was recently engaged in sketchy or illegal behaviors, that could be a sign to steer clear of the project. In addition to joining a project’s Discord server, many projects also have Telegram channels, which can be another way to stay engaged in and contribute to the NFT project’s community.
The more you engage and get your name out there, the higher chance that you’ll receive a whitelist invitation. This can start as simply chatting with others on Discord, and perhaps helping people out who ask questions to which you already know the answer. On Twitter, liking, commenting, and retweeting posts related to the project is also another way to get your name out there.
However, when using social media to promote an NFT project, it’s important to avoid spamming or using overly repetitive posts. To some, that could look like paid “shilling” and could actually hurt the project, reducing your chance of getting on the whitelist.
A Twitter Whitelist giveaway announcement for the NFT project Stella Fantasy.
As we mentioned earlier, some NFT projects have specific giveaways on social media that reward individuals for sharing or retweeting posts in order to get a spot on the project’s whitelist. Regularly check Twitter and Discord for these in order to participate in as many as you can.
Inviting friends is another great way to improve your reputation within an NFT project’s community. In many cases, users can get a unique invite code to invite their friends. In some cases, inviting a specific amount of friends may be a requirement for whitelist eligibility. In addition, you can promote the NFT project in other Discord servers, but always do this in the “shill” chat room, which is specifically designed for people promoting NFT projects.
Fan art for the NFT project Ugly Duck WTF.
NFT fan art, tastefully done, is a fun and free way to promote an NFT project that you want to get whitelisted for. In addition, if you can create some funny memes to support the project, this will go far in improving your community reputation and your chances for getting whitelisted.
After meeting the eligibility requirements for whitelisting, you will generally receive a message asking for your crypto wallet address. Once it’s approved, you will be officially placed on the whitelist and provided a time slot for minting your token. It’s important to make sure that whoever is messaging you is either the project or a founder’s real account, not a scammer, and to never provide your private key or seed phrase to anyone, even if they are a real representative or founder of the project.
Unfortunately, the NFT world, like many parts of the crypto ecosystem, is rife with scams from unscrupulous individuals and groups. Some common NFT whitelist scams include:
A Twitter post encourages victims to join a class action lawsuit against the creators of Animoon, a Pokemon-inspired NFT rug pull promoted by influencer Jake Paul.
Rug Pulls: Some entire NFT projects are scams in themselves. In certain situations, the founders of an NFT project plan to do a whitelist mint and a public sale, take the money, and then disappear. The founders may have also accepted money for merchandise and other items that will never be delivered.
This type of scam is referred to as a rug pull, as in the rug being “pulled” from right out under the investor. It’s very hard to determine whether a project will be a rug pull, because investors typically only find out after the project has been abandoned, however, by doing your homework, you can at least try to make sure that none of the founders have been involved in any funny business in the past.
Fake Followers: Unfortunately, many NFT projects use fake or bot followers to increase their follower count on major platforms like Twitter and Instagram. This is why it’s so important to both look at engagement, not just follower numbers, and investigate a project’s Discord server before deciding to invest the time to get on a whitelist.
Fake Accounts: In many cases, a genuine project may be taken advantage of by scammers who create fake accounts that look almost identical to the real account. They may have fake followers or even retweet the real account’s posts. This is a serious issue on Telegram as well as Discord, so be extremely careful when responding to messages from a project or founder’s account.
Be particularly cautious if you get sent a link, as this could contain some type of virus or attempt to convince you to input sensitive information that could be used to steal your identity or hack into your crypto wallet or other financial accounts. The fake account problem has even spread to OpenSea, where secondary market buyers have accidentally purchased fake NFTs from profiles that appear almost identical to the real project.
A Twitter user lists a number of celebrities accused of shilling NFT projects without letting audiences know that they were paid in money or with free NFTs.
Celebrity Shilling: Celebrity endorsements for NFTs can be both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, if a celebrity has endorsed an NFT project, it could be a good sign that the project has been gaining in popularity. However, it’s important to note that many celebrity endorsements are simply paid advertising, and are sometimes used to artificially prop up an NFT project that has not successfully developed a truly engaged community.
For instance, it’s estimated that influencer and boxer Jake Paul has earned more than $2 million over the past year and a half by promoting various NFT and crypto projects, all of which have either been totally abandoned or have lost more than 90% of their value. Even worse, Jake Paul failed to tell followers and fans that he was being paid for these endorsements, giving them the impression that these recommendations were actually personal endorsements.
Buying Whitelist Spots: In most cases, if you’re approached and asked to buy a spot on a NFT whitelist, you’re probably being scammed. The entire point of whitelists is to create real, engaged communities that will help sustain NFT projects over time. This is most effectively done by rewarding those who engage in the community itself, not by offering paid whitelist spots.
Extremely High Mint Prices: If a project from an unknown or little-known team has extremely high mint prices, this could be a cause for alarm. On one hand, it could indicate that they’re simply a little greedy, but on the other, it could be a sign of a potential rug pull, as the founders may wish to collect as much money as possible before abandoning the project.
In addition to pure scams, there are also signs that a project may simply be a low-quality endeavor. Factors that scream “stay away” from an NFT project include if the project is far too similar to another NFT project on the market, or if the founders or community moderators are rude, abusive, or use high-pressure tactics in an attempt to convince people to invest.
In addition to simply following the accounts of well-known NFT influencers and investors, using an NFT whitelist tracker is a great way to stay apprised of exciting new projects that could be hitting the market soon. Some of the best NFT whitelist trackers to check out include:
NiftyRiver: NiftyRiver is a comprehensive NFT data platform that provides a variety of services, including rarity tracking tools, NFT price data feeds, and lists of upcoming projects. It’s NFT Whitelist Finder scans through Twitter to find upcoming projects and lists important details, such as Discord server links.
A list of recent NFT sales and presales from NFT data provider Rarity.tools.
Rarity.tools: Rarity.tools is one of the most popular NFT rarity tools online today. In addition to helping people calculate the rarity of various NFTs, it also offers a calendar of upcoming public and whitelist mints.
NFTCalendar: NFTCalendar is a website that lists all types of NFT events, including whitelists, public sales, giveaways, and more.
Upcoming NFT.Art: Upcoming NFT.Art is another site that lists upcoming NFT drops, including whitelists.
If you’re serious about investing in an upcoming NFT collection and profiting from it, getting in on the project’s whitelist is a must. Statistics show that whitelist members who mint early gain the vast majority of profits from NFT resales and can gain access to rare NFTs far more easily than those who mint in the public sale. For the cost-conscious investor, NFT whitelist presales also allow users to save significant amounts of money on gas, which can become incredibly expensive during NFT public sales, particularly if a project has widespread appeal or is attached to a currently successful project.
However, getting on an NFT project’s whitelist isn’t always easy, and, unless you truly believe the project will succeed, it might not be worth your time and energy. Investors should look carefully at a project’s founders, community, and product roadmap, and should determine whether they’ve held to their past commitments before putting their efforts into getting whitelisted. Investors should additionally note that NFT whitelist scams are more abundant than ever, so investors need to proceed with caution before clicking links, entering personal information, or sending money to unconfirmed wallet addresses.
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