MoonCats are a collection of 25,440 generative pixel art cats created on August 9th, 2017 on the Ethereum blockchain by the development team, ponderware. The first MoonCat (MoonCat #0) was minted a day later on August 10th, 2017 by ponderware. Nearly four years later on March 13th, 2021, Justin Trimble, Allen Henna, ETHHoard, and a several other NFT community members shared on Twitter that they had discovered an ancient contract that was the "2nd NFT on Ethereum", with nearly 20,000 free mints still available out of the 25,600 contract max. Within hours all of the free mints had been claimed and over 5,000 individual wallets had participated. This moment is often referred to as the MoonCat Rescue and is attributed with giving birth to the "NFT Archaeology" movement. Since then MoonCats has grown to over 7,000 unique owners, has accumulated nearly 30,000 ETH of total volume, and has been featured at auction houses such as Sotheby's.
Ponderware was founded by a team of two developers, who go by the names wanderwonder and jurfles. In 2016, ponderware began theorizing about a future application on the Ethereum blockchain. In the following months they witnessed ETH rising from single digit to triple digit value. Crypto was going through its first major public breakout and phrases like "To the Moon" were being exclaimed.
Looking at what was on-going in the crypto space, ponderware sought out to combine their technical development skills with a project that satisfied their eagerness to participate in this new technology sector. After assessing their options they concluded that cats were one of the most popular internet trends of all time and "going to the moon" was the hottest phrase in all of crypto. They decided to combine the two and interject some lore in-between and concluded with naming the project: MoonCatRescue, an Insanely Cute Operation.
According to ponderware, they were not aware of any previous "NFT" project except CryptoPunks at the time when they deployed the MoonCatRescue contract on August 9th, 2017.
The project had a couple of notable firsts at the time it launched:
- First (partially) on-chain generative art. The traits of a cat were stored on-chain (as part of their ID) and the hash of the algorithm that can generate the art based on these traits was also stored on-chain. (later in 2022, ponderware deployed a second contract which can generate the pixel perfect art of every single MoonCat making them fully on-chain at this point)
- First NFT requiring proof of work to mint
- First NFT with an irreversible naming function
- First price curve NFT on Ethereum (Genesis cats had an increasing price for each 16 cats released)
The Rescue Mission (Minting)
Visitors to the original website could “scan” for cats on the surface of the moon via a proof of work mint mechanic. The process on the technical side was very similar to how Ether is mined; the timing depended on the power of the visitor’s computer and luck. It took anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to find a MoonCat. What the user's browser did during this process is randomly generate numbers, searching for one that met the algorithm's requirements to be a "seed code". After a MoonCat was found, the visitor could decide whether to rescue it or scan for another one. Rescuing a MoonCat submitted a transaction with the seed code to the MoonCatRescue smart contract, and a new MoonCat token was minted.
This was the first proof of work method introduced to the minting process of any NFT project, preventing bots or malicious users front-running others to mint out the whole collection.
MoonCats had a naming feature built into the smart contract. Once chosen by the owner the name is irreversible forever even if there is a new owner.
During 2017, only 3,365 cats were rescued out of the maximum 25,344 possible. Interest declined in the following years to the point where only 3 cats were claimed in 2020. On March 12, 2021, Twitter user @ETHoard rediscovered the project and tweeted about it which caused all the remaining cats to be rescued within four hours. At this point the rescue mission was complete.
The Unofficial Wrapper
Just hours after the rediscovery of the project, a developer unrelated to ponderware deployed an ERC-721 wrapper contract so that people could wrap their original ERC-20 MoonCats and trade them on modern marketplaces. Since the wrapper was developed in a rush, it does not list any metadata (traits/properties) of a MoonCat, which makes it more difficult to find specific cats. It also had an issue where it did not respect the original rescue ID of the cat, and rather replaced it with a new number (sequentially as the cats got wrapped) which generated confusion and even led to people paying high premiums for what they thought were low id or early minted cats that were really just early to be wrapped. The most shocking example of this was somebody paying Ξ30 ($47,640 at the time) for "Unofficial Wrapped MoonCat #0" which is in reality was MoonCat #18339.
Despite this wrapper being unofficial, these are still legitimate MoonCats that can be unwrapped and wrapped in the official wrapper at any time by their owners.
Once the official wrapper was released six weeks later, the volume shifted steadily over time. As of December 2022 the official wrapper is where nearly all MoonCats volume occurs.
The Genesis Community Vote
At the time of the rediscovery, only 96 of the 256 Genesis Cats had been offered up for adoption. Once all of the available to mint MoonCats had been rescued, ponderware decided to let the community vote whether the remaining 160 Genesis Cats should be released. The community voted to have ponderware delete the private keys necessary for releasing them. As a result of this, the total number of Genesis Cats will remain at 96, and the total circulating supply of MoonCats is 25,440 instead of the originally planned 25,600.
The Genesis Vault
During April 2021, 24 Genesis MoonCats (12 black, 12 white) were placed in a vault by Red Cave Adventures and fractionalized. Anyone could purchase these fractions, known as $GMC24. In July 2021, the vault was migrated from Niftex to Sushi, and the token renamed $uGMC. As of May 2022 a group of collectors decided to buy out the vault, and the 24 Genesis MoonCats which were locked away are back in circulation.
The Acclimator (The Official Wrapper)
After the rediscovery, ponderware, the original developers of the project, returned and began work on new features.
Ponderware decided to create an official “wrapper” for MoonCats that would address the issues with the unofficial wrapper. Like other NFT collections that predate the ERC-721 standard wrappers are required for tokens to display on modern marketplaces like OpenSea. Ponderware named this new contract “The Acclimator” and the process of wrapping MoonCats “acclimation”. This fit it into the lore of the MoonCats as after being rescued from the moon, they needed some extra help to adjust to Earth's environment.
Accessories And The Boutique Launch
Ponderware launched the MoonCat Boutique and Accessory Designer in July 2021, allowing anyone to create and sell accessories for MoonCats. The contract called MoonCatAccessories stores all of the accessories on-chain and also maintains the ownership relationship between MoonCats and their accessories. Accessories purchased for a MoonCat will stay with it forever and are non-transferrable and can be displayed/hidden anytime. Most of the accessories have a limited supply. Their price is determined by the designer, while the developers also receive a share after each sale. It's important to note that accesories do not effect the original contract and provenance of a MoonCat in any way and are rather built ontop of the original functionality for those who want to use it.
This is thought to be one of the earliest and possibly the first instance of an NFT owning another NFT.
The CUDL Game
Several independent developers launched a game for MoonCats called CUDL Finance. The game resembled the Tamagotchi digital pet concept. Owners of MoonCats could register their cats in the game, where they had to keep feeding them regularly, otherwise they would die (only in the game though). To purchase food, users had to use $CUDL tokens they earned daily after each cat they registered in the game. For a short period of time the game became quite popular. Thousands of cats were registered and there was significant demand for the $CUDL token from speculators. Eventually the game was migrated to a new contract which had a serious bug that got exploited. After this event there was an attempt of reviving the game, but interest and engagement slowly died off.
lootprints (for MoonCats)
In September, 2021 ponderware launched the lootprints (for MoonCats) project as the next step in the MoonCats story. Ponderware revealed that lootprints would be used in two upcoming developments: GravBall (originally Codename: Sportsball) and Deep Space.
The format of lootprints was heavily inspired by Loot (for Adventurers) which launched in August 2021 and introduced a novel concept: tokens came with a list of items/properties, but the context in which they should be used was left open intentionally by the creators.
MoonCats which were acclimated (wrapped) before a snapshot could claim their lootprints for free, while newly wrapped MoonCats could purchase them for a relatively low (but slowly increasing) fee. Lootprints have some built in rarity, based on their class (Cruiser, Tank, Sub, Mech) and Bays (3, 4, 5); their mint ID and color are based off of the MoonCat who claimed the lootprint.
The Sotheby's Auction
Multiple rare MoonCats were put up for auction at Sotheby's as part of the 'Natively Digital 1.2: The Collectors.' NFT sale in October 2021. The MoonCat lots were the following:
- Lot #17 (collector: 888): MoonCat #1762
- Lot #29 (collector: Jake Gallen): MoonCat #10
- Lot #30 (collector: Jake Gallen): MoonCat #183
- Lot #31 (collector: Jake Gallen): MoonCat #220
By this time the initial craze from the summer had cooled down resulting in a somewhat underwhelming outcome for the auction. Bids on the Genesis MoonCat did not reach the reserve price, while the three "Day1" MoonCats were sold at what collectors considered underwhelming prices.
Integration with WorldWide Webb
In the fall of 2021, developer hack3r.eth begun releasing a playable version of the WorldWide Webb game. A pixel based MMO playable on browsers that allowed for players to equip popular NFTs as a in game avatar and explore a vibrant 2D city. Many in the MoonCats community took interest when hack3r.eth posted a tweet about the new pet functionality featuring a MoonCat. As the game exploded in popularity, many in the community jumped in to have their favorite feline follow them around the city. In some cases also sporting their custom accessories and costumes to bring even more art and creativity into the community with new artists designing accessories specifically for WorldWide Webb. Many of the parties and in-game event were largely attended with special areas accessible only to MoonCat holders.
The popularity of MoonCats in the WorldWide Webb and the functionality of the game expanded with projects designing special animated versions of their NFTs for the game. This inspired MoonCat community members Acidman.eth, Ctrl+R, ZibZub and Vinny to work on creating a similar vision for MoonCats. They created a tool which generates unique animated walk cycle for all 25440 cats based on their IDs (on-chain traits). For the first time expanding the art beyond a static 2D image and providing a dynamic collection of frames to further enrich the MoonCat ecosystem.
In November, 2021 a new MoonCat themed project - MoonCatPop - was launched by ponderware. Owners of MoonCats could purchase a digital MoonCatPop Vending Machine featuring their cat with all of its accessories.
Each Vending Machine contained 100 cans, which could be minted at Ξ0.05 or Ξ0.04 for owners of a MoonCat (a 20% discount). 84 Machines were minted in the first wave, 172 Machines will be available at some point in the future, meaning there will be 256 MoonCatPop machines in total. There is no date for future minting waves.
The owners of the vending machines formed the first official MoonCat DAO under the name: MEAO.
After an extensive search for potential IP acquirers, eventually two members of ponderware (Paws and MidnightLightning) decided to take over the project. The official handover occurred in October 2022, at which time ponderware ceased to be involved with MoonCats.
Supply and rarity
There are 25,440 MoonCats in the collection. 25,344 MoonCats were randomly generated during minting (Classification: Rescue) while 96 black and white cats were released in batches by ponderware (Classification: Genesis).
On top of the 25,344 MoonCats that people could rescue, the developers created 256 unique Genesis MoonCats which visitors could adopt in the Adoption Center, a built-in marketplace of the website. The creators' intention was to collect Ether from the sale of the genesis cats, however a change they made during their initial QA process led to a bug that resulted in those funds being sent to the burn address.
The Genesis MoonCats were added in batches of 16 cats when the contract owner called the AddGenesisCatGroup function. Once added, a Genesis MoonCat could be rescued by paying an adoption fee. The fee was defined in the contract by a price curve starting at 0.3 ETH for the first batch and increasing by 0.3 ETH for every subsequent batch. In 2017, 6 batches of Genesis MoonCats were added. Of the 96 cats added, 17 were adopted and rescued in that first year. The remaining 79 Genesis MoonCats were rescued during the 2021 rediscovery.
After the rediscovery of the project in March 2021 - following some heated debates and a vote - the community decided to not release the remaining 160 Genesis MoonCats. The private keys got deleted and hence the originally planned supply of 25,600 MoonCats were permanently reduced to 25,440.
Types and Attributes
Attributes are embedded in a MoonCat’s ID which is a 10 digit hex number. The ID defines the exact attributes of a MoonCat:
- Pose: Standing, Sleeping, Pouncing, Stalking
- Face: Smiling, Pouting, Grumpy, Shy
- Coat pattern: Solid, Tabby, Spotted, Tortie
- Coat hue: Red, Blue, Orange, Sky Blue, Cyan, Purple, Fuchsia, Yellow, Magenta, Teal, Chartreuse, Green
- Coat saturation: Normal, Pale
Since these attributes were randomly generated during the minting process, they have a pretty much even distribution across the collection.
The minting concluded over the course of almost 4 years:
- 2017: 3,365 mints (#0 - #3364)
- Day1: 492 mints on the first day (#0 - #491) - collectors refer to these as Day1 cats.
- 2018: 2,319 mints (#3365 - #5683)
- 2019: 71 mints (#5684 - #5754)
- 2020: 3 mints (#5755 - #5757)
- 2021: 19,682 mints (#5758 - #25439) (these are not considered "early rescues" by collectors)
As MoonCats were minted and rendered, some appeared the same, while others shared many of the same traits. The phenomenon resulted in the classifications of Litter Size, Twins, Mirrors, and Clones.
- Litter Size: Cats that share the same rendered coat (color and fur pattern) belong to the same litter.
- Twins: Cats from the same litter which share an face.
- Mirrors: Twins who share the same pose
- Clones: These cats are visually identical. There are only 1,192 Clones in the collection (596 pairs). Among these there are 24 Triple Clones (8 triplets), which are some of the rarest cats in the collection.
After the rediscovery, as soon as the collection was completed, the newly formed community started to speculate on what would become desirable or rare traits. Certain narratives came to life to differentiate between MoonCats. Character cats, which look like depictions of different cats in popular culture, quickly gained traction, with orange tabbies (dubbed "Garfields") quickly fetching significant premiums. Shortly after, more character cat narratives came to life, including pale purple/magenta tabby cats (dubbed "Cheshire Cats") and pale fuchsia/red pure cats (dubbed "Pink Panthers").
Two months later an Alien CryptoPunk owner picked up a handful of pale sky blue pure and pale green pure cats. This event inspired the community to call these cats "Alien" and "Zombie" MoonCats respectively after the famous CryptoPunk types.
|Cheshire Cat||Pale Purple/Pale Magenta Tabby|
|Pink Panther||Pale Fuchsia/Pale Red Pure|
|Alien||Pale Sky Blue/Pale Blue Pure|
|Zombie||Pale Green/Pale Teal Pure|
|Golden (Lucky) Cat||Yellow Pure|
Since the character cat narratives were made by the community, they are not represented as such in the official MoonCat wrapper metadata. Initially this resulted in a lot of debates around the exact definitions of character cat traits. As the community and the market matured, eventually these definitions also stabilized and now are published at a website maintained by one of the community members.
Since naming a MoonCat is permanent, some of the ones that got named early-on, became well known in the community. Early rescue cats named before the rediscovery are popular and sought after as their supply is limited:
- 2017: 268 cats were named.
- 2018: 67 cats were named.
- 2019: 2 cats were named.
The first cat ever named was MoonCat #6 aka "mister moo", which is though to be the first NFT ever to be irreversibly named in a smart contract.
Both Genesis MoonCats and early Rescues have commanded high prices with peak sales occurring during the NFT boom in August, 2021.
|Price (ETH)||Price (USD)||Rescue ID||Image||Date|
|160Ξ||$524,160||#527||August 27, 2021|
|88.8Ξ||$286,735||#2876||August 25, 2021|
|75Ξ||$242,175||#1117||August 25, 2021|
|70Ξ||$221,340||#90||August 7, 2021|
|69Ξ||$188,094||#87||August 4, 2021|
|Price (ETH)||Price (USD)||Rescue ID||Image||Date|
|48Ξ||$157,680||#9||September 13, 2021|
|39Ξ||$126,633||#12||August 28, 2021|
|32Ξ||$104,832||#10||August 27, 2021|
|28.8Ξ||$91,066||#6||August 7, 2021|
|27Ξ||$89,370||#5757||Jan 14, 2022|
- Daryl Morey (president of the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team) is holding the Genesis MoonCat #2881, and MoonCats #3628, #14044, #14055
- Gary Vaynerchuk (Chairman of VaynerX, CEO of VaynerMedia, CEO of VeeFriends) is holding MoonCats #12413 and #24558
- Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team) is holding a pair of clone MoonCats #25241, #10645, a Cheshire MoonCat #13701 and MoonCat #2609
- Logan Paul (media personality, podcaster, actor, and professional wrestler) is holding Genesis MoonCat #527
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 https://etherscan.io/address/0x60cd862c9c687a9de49aecdc3a99b74a4fc54ab6#code
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0xd31d05adb302131f0c31f1a001685f29eb3b2b66d2af3b90d1e2c7f22661db61
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 https://twitter.com/ethoard/status/1370268082841604098
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 https://github.com/ponderware/mooncatparser/blob/master/mooncatparser.js
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/address/0xB39C61fe6281324A23e079464f7E697F8Ba6968f#code
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x628d6d25b823bcffbe09f40962fb51e3825bfb46f9e3c74f7bce4d31df12402b
- ↑ https://redcaveventures.medium.com/be-a-part-of-mooncat-history-with-gmc24-e3ca1f8a0018
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/address/0x8d33303023723de93b213da4eb53be890e747c63#contracts
- ↑ https://metaverse.sothebys.com/natively-digital/lots/mooncat-1762
- ↑ https://metaverse.sothebys.com/natively-digital/lots/mooncat_10
- ↑ https://metaverse.sothebys.com/natively-digital/lots/mooncat_183
- ↑ https://metaverse.sothebys.com/natively-digital/lots/mooncat_220
- ↑ https://twitter.com/WebbEmotional/status/1447146855343738880
- ↑ https://pop.mooncat.community/
- ↑ https://www.reddit.com/r/MoonCatRescue/comments/m4gazs/mooncat_k_values_explained/
- ↑ https://gist.github.com/BeautifoolData/24271320b296d7456ca30c6758c82fdf
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0xd3e6393d78952aca8307787844bbb4b2c1b997378a6fff27fc3a629870ae6fed
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x2b0971245be67e9f482918abc84831e520fb940401e5dc8581272fb66ad9c868
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x22634b295d7316e791d569affddae6133f79606be2f9c1f99d501a930f629d46
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x16a5b017ffeed1c9dc910c962e5e8ef63659a9089c84af21b4c3bddf0c06f1d3
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x9c47a41b8e5fdd3ad2f96b943271651d394634e3e527cf579d3a8e55f26320ab
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x9c05fc8b2479b2212c1c992f3353286a7b98dc08d7aa286c8729b921c65244ad
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0xef8cff98a57658e7c355e8c2c32698b7ace06db3be25051cc3b66cb7d2554582
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x86e0810e6b3365071701d339841ddb389ca33c2997141b7bc374c3e485c91efb
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x070d34dd7ab37107f72867b44c639a72d7d31042008138dac4b1cce94eb06145
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x32d3506b543e065a58f7cde5c2409f4a54c52e14578c07f0252c354288c8f153
- ↑ https://etherscan.io/tx/0x9ab1f70514eceda8850a25647777e69cdbc63a83fc706f4e077111b340e8206f
- ↑ https://opensea.io/0x4548D498460599286CE29BAf9e6B775C19385227/acclimatedmooncats
- ↑ https://opensea.io/darylmorey/acclimatedmooncats
- ↑ https://opensea.io/Gennady/wrapped-mooncatsrescue
- ↑ https://opensea.io/MCuban/wrapped-mooncatsrescue
- ↑ https://opensea.io/logz/acclimatedmooncats