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Tale of Lost MoonCats NFTs Spurs Buying Frenzy

Long, long ago, four billion MoonCats were lost in space. For years, these poor digital cats were doomed to languish in the wasteland of forgotten blockchain projects…until now.

MoonCats to the Moon

If you’ve followed OpenSea’s NFT ranking list over the past few days, you may have noticed a new, mysterious project called “Wrapped MoonCatsRescue” taking the chart by storm.

With a seven day trading volume of 5k ETH, Wrapped MoonCatsRescue is currently second only to CryptoPunks (25.8k ETH) in the weekly ranking, beating out popular NFT mainstays like Rarible, Sorare, and Beeple.

But MoonCats are more than just the hottest new NFT project. They’re actually one of the oldest.

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Discovering MoonCats

Back in 2017, shortly after the advent of the first NFT art project, CryptoPunks, but before CryptoKitties unleashed an unprecedented Ethereum-based mania, two developers calling themselves “Ponderware” set out to create blockchain-collectible cats.

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Their project was called MoonCatRescue, and the novel premise was that users could search for lost MoonCats off-chain and then adopt them by bringing them onto the Ethereum blockchain. This was done by generating a seed corresponding to a unique cat ID and procedurally generated cat image (randomized from an assortment of different traits including stance and fur color) off-chain and then submitting it as an on-chain contract attached to the Ethereum address that generated it. 

However, only 25,600 MoonCats could be brought onto the chain, so “searching for” (or generating) a MoonCat didn’t necessarily mean that cat would be brought into a contract. Users could generate endless cats and ultimately only bring their favorites into their on-chain collection. 

MoonCat owners could also give their MoonCats permanent names, making this the first NFT project to allow for such a feature. 

Moreover, the project was intended to be free aside from the gas fees for bringing selected MoonCats on-chain. At the time, these fees cost around $0.50

Lost MoonCats

The developers’ only attempt to monetize came in the form of “Genesis Cats”—256 unique black or white MoonCats which would be sold directly to users in very limited batches. Unfortunately, the developers ran into a bug which made the funds from these sales inaccessible. 

CryptoKitties soon exploded as the biggest name in NFT collectibles, becoming a mainstay in the NFT space to this day.

The MoonCats developers changed the method for buying Genesis Cats from sending ETH to burning ETH, but eventually, perhaps without any further incentive to continue, the MoonCats project was forgotten and Ponderware’s social media accounts went inactive. 

Found MoonCats

With the recent boom of mainstream coverage of the NFT market and ever-increasing values for OG NFTs like CryptoPunks, more eyes are on the NFT space than ever before.

Recently, a Twitter user going by “tilopa” wrote: “can anyone confirm that predates cryptocats? looks like a very early og nft that you can still mint but the ui is broken so you have to interact with the contract directly.”

This was all it took to set off the latest NFT gold rush. Within three hours, the limit of 25,600 on-chain MoonCats had been reached. During this time, users paid nearly $600k USD in gas fees for MoonCat rescues.

Ponderware even returned to Twitter for the first time since 2017 to Tweet in celebration: “All regular MoonCats have been rescued!”

Trading MoonCats

Due to outdated coding, MoonCats aren’t compatible with modern NFT markets.

But the Ethereum space is full of programmers, and it wasn’t long before people figured out how to wrap MoonCats using the Wrapper contract, making them tradable on OpenSea.

The Wrapped MoonCatsRescue market is still finding its footing. Average “adoption” prices are  around 1 ETH, but outliers can range anywhere from 0.2 ETH to 20 ETH.

As with any NFT, it’s impossible to say where any MoonCat will land long-term, but at the very least, owning a MoonCat means owning a very unique piece of NFT history.