HomeArtThe Story Behind the First NFT and Its Controversial Sale

The Story Behind the First NFT and Its Controversial Sale


Regardless of what many could imagine, NFT artwork didn’t begin with the Bored Ape Yacht Membership. It additionally didn’t begin with CryptoPunks. So what was the primary NFT, and who created it? Finally, this singular honor goes to Quantum, a generative piece of artwork that was created by digital artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy. After its creation, Quantum was subsequently become an NFT by Kevin in 2014.

And the explanation he minted this specific piece of artwork? It’s actually reasonably easy. He did it for possession.

The delivery of NFTs

After he and his spouse created Quantum, McCoy needed to develop a strategy to promote the piece in its digital type. The issue? He didn’t have a means of creating the provenance of a digital piece of artwork.

For the uninitiated, “provenance” is the documentation that authenticates the creator, possession historical past, and appraisal worth of a specific piece of artwork. Sadly, provenance paperwork for digital artwork didn’t exist on the time. In different phrases, there was no strategy to confirm the creator and possession historical past of digital works. After mulling over his choices, McCoy joined forces with tech entrepreneur Anil Sprint to unravel the issue. Finally, the duo began to discover blockchain expertise to see if it would present a viable path ahead.

Again within the early 2010s, blockchain expertise was nonetheless a very area of interest subject. Bitcoin was solely valued at $630 (its value on the time of writing is simply over $16,500), Ethereum had simply launched, and coin creators usually overpromised, underdelivered, and bought sued into oblivion. However McCoy and Sprint weren’t dissuaded, and the choice paid off — to place it calmly.

Quantum. Credit score: Kevin McCoy

As is extensively now identified, blockchain expertise accommodates a number of properties which are conducive to purchasing and promoting digital artwork. With it, people have a trustless means of figuring out the creator and monitoring the possession historical past of any merchandise on a blockchain. This served McCoy and Sprint’s functions completely, and McCoy registered Quantum on blockchain. “I had an idea to use blockchain technology to create indelible provenance and ownership of digital images of this kind. Quantum was the first ever to be recorded in this way,” McCoy later stated.

Shortly after that first minting, McCoy and Sprint demonstrated how “monetized graphics” like this may very well be used to ascertain provenance and promote digital artwork. Their demonstration occurred throughout a reside presentation for the Seven on Seven conferences. Through the presentation, McCoy offered a digital picture to Sprint for $4 utilizing blockchain. And with that, McCoy and Sprint unwittingly set the inspiration for what would develop right into a multi-billion-dollar market lower than a decade later.

Quantum rediscovery and controversy

Sadly, Quantum was forgotten following its 2014 mint. This was largely resulting from its unique dwelling on Namecoin, a pre-Ethereum Bitcoin offshoot. Particularly, Quantum lived on Namecoin Block 174923, and that’s the place it stayed for years — till the 2021 NFT bull market.

When NFTs began to achieve mainstream consideration and promote for hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in 2021, McCoy realized he is perhaps sitting on a golden egg. So he began to advertise Quantum, turning to media retailers like Axios to debate his work and its function in NFT historical past. Thanks largely to this publicity push, Quantum finally went up for public sale at Sotheby’s. And in June of 2021, it offered for multiple million {dollars} at public sale. The profitable bidder was sillytuna, an nameless NFT collector.

However there have been issues.

Shortly after its million-dollar sale, consultants famous {that a} particular quirk about Namecoin known as into query who precisely owned Quantum on the time of the sale. As defined by Ledger Insights, Namecoin requires customers to resume no matter is minted on the Namecoin blockchain each 250 days to retain possession of the digital merchandise. Notably, McCoy by no means renewed Quantum. This allowed a totally separate entity — veteran collector EarlyNFT — to scoop up the possession rights to Quantum earlier than the Sotheby’s public sale.

In an ironic twist, EarlyNFT secured these rights only a day after the piece about Quantum was revealed on Axios. Finally, EarlyNFT contested the validity of Sotheby’s public sale by a lawsuit.

Who gained? As of writing, the Sotheby’s sale nonetheless stands, and sillytuna nonetheless owns the piece. Nevertheless, that might change, as the total authorized proceedings are nonetheless pending.

It’s unlucky that this unearthed piece of NFT historical past drummed up a fair proportion of controversy to associate with it. Nevertheless, the NFT neighborhood is healthier off understanding the story of Quantum — of its highs and its lows. First movers usually set a precedent for people who comply with. And given the acute highs and stomach-turning lows we’ve already seen within the NFT area, it appears Quantum did simply that.


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