Historical NFTs 📅
An intro to historical NFTs!
Metaversal is a Bankless newsletter for weekly level-ups on NFTs, virtual worlds, & digital collectibles
Dear Bankless Nation,
Last week we explored one of the NFT ecosystem’s newer categories, writing NFTs.
Of course, all the innovation we have today has been made possible by our space’s trailblazers — the first NFT projects who pioneered categories into existence, like CryptoPunks did for profile picture (PFP) collections.
That said, “historical NFTs” is a sort of meta-category that covers the NFT ecosystem’s earliest projects.
Since early 2021 there’s been a huge surge in rediscovery, research, and trading efforts around these digital things as more people have started to view them as on-chain artifacts.
For today’s Metaversal, let’s do a quick rundown on historical NFTs and highlight two new marketplaces that explicitly cater to them!
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An intro to historical NFTs
Historical NFTs in the pre-Ethereum era
Ethereum is the first-mover smart contract platform that has served as the home of the contemporary NFT boom.
Yet what we can consider “Proto-NFTs,” or the ancestors of the non-fungible tokens we have today, existed on Bitcoin, Namecoin, Counterparty, and beyond prior to the launch of Ethereum in July 2015.
I won’t dive in too far here, but some notable projects from this pre-Ethereum proto-NFT era include:
Bit Domains — A domain name system launched on Namecoin in April 2011.
Punycode Domains — A domain name + on-chain art experiment started in May 2011.
Colored Coins — Yoni Assia introduced the concept of “colored coins” atop Bitcoin, an NFT-like system, in March 2012.
Monegraph — Launched in May 2014, Monegraph was the first NFT platform on Namecoin.
NILICoins — Nili Lerner issued conceptual art tokens as Bitcoin-powered colored coins in September 2014.
MYSOUL — Artist Rhea Myers conceptually tokenized her soul on the Counterparty and Dogecoin blockchains in November 2014.
FDCARD — Introduced in March 2015, these were digital trading cards on Counterparty and the commencement of Spells of Genesis project.
Rare Pepes — User-issued trading cards centered around Pepe the Frog that first started appeared on Counterparty in September 2016.
Historical NFTs in the Ethereum era
Perhaps in a century, all NFTs minted before 2025 will be considered historic. This is to say that the very concept of historical NFT will always be in flux to a certain extent!
Yet as things stand, there are a handful of projects that many NFT archaeologists agree are very important early NFT efforts in the Ethereum era. These projects include:
Terra Nullius — Released in August 2015, this was the first proto-NFT (i.e. preceding the ERC721 standard) project on Ethereum; it let users create non-transferable on-chain messages.
Etheria v1.1 — A virtual world project with Ethereum’s first transferable proto-NFTs that launched in October 2015; Etheria v1.2 was also released in October 2015.
Million Ether Homepage v1 — First introduced in December 2016, this project let users mint 10x10 pixel blocks as proto-NFTs.
Ethereum Name Service — Ethereum’s leading domain name system launched in March 2017.
Curio Cards — A collectible art project that first appeared on Ethereum in May 2017.
CryptoPunks — The v1 and v2 CryptoPunks collections both launched in June 2017, paving the way for the 10k PFP collections we have today.
MoonCatRescue — Launched in August 2017, the MoonCats project was the first generative art project on Ethereum.
Digital Zones — A conceptual art project released by artist Mitchell F. Chan on Ethereum in August 2017.
DADA Creeps and Weirdos — Started in October 2017, this was the first project to code artist royalties directly into NFTs.
CryptoKitties — The collectible digital cats project that inspired the modern ERC721 NFT standard.
New historical NFT marketplaces arrive
In recent days, two marketplaces have stepped forward to cater to historical NFT traders: HNFT and NFT History. The arrival of these projects speaks to the rising interest we’ve seen around the category of historical NFTs lately and to the fact that incumbent NFT marketplaces haven’t doubled down on this area yet.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how these niche marketplaces fare and if their listings can grow as further NFT archaeology leads to the potential rediscovery of more early NFT projects!
🙇 Check out these great historical NFT resources:
The History of Crypto Art by Martin Ostachowski
Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of the Early Evolution of Art on the Blockchain
🧐 Check out the HNFT and NFT History marketplaces
🎨 If you’re an artist or know an artist interested in working with Bankless, please reach out through our portfolio submission form!
William M. Peaster is a professional writer and creator of Metaversal—a Bankless newsletter focused on the emergence of NFTs in the cryptoeconomy. He’s also recently been contributing content to Bankless, JPG, and beyond!
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Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.
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