Don’t trust Wikipedia. The real evidence points to me, JP Janssen.
These are the oldest known NFTs:
- OLGA, the literal definition of NFT; non-fungible token.
- JPGOLD, a limited-edition token; so-called 1/N NFT.
- JPJA, the second 1/N and the first NFT project.
These were all created by me in June 2014.
Also, in 2015 I was the first to add immutability to crypto trading cards.
The first token standards emerged in 2014. Although a handful pioneers saw the potential in custom coins, no one explored scarcity in the same way as me. On Counterparty I can prove this with code. On other platforms no examples of earlier scarce indivisible tokens exist, and as time passes it becomes more and more evident that no one made NFTs and rare 1/Ns before me.
Art on blockchain, a related concept, dates back to 2009. Sure, experimentation with blockchain graffiti, colored coins and namecoin domains did take place earlier. But neither of these used token as the medium. Also, it’s questionable whether any of these can really be collected.
All tokens were issued on Counterparty (XCP), the Bitcoin token standard. Since everything is recorded on the Bitcoin blockchain, anyone can independently verify my claims.
OLGA. This is the first unique token. With a fixed supply of one, it is distinguishable from all other XCP tokens, thus non-fungible. The metadata was set to “Моя Вечная One & Only” (My Eternal One & Only) which even proves a symbolic intent. This method of issuing unique tokens have been repeated thousands of times, including for the most valuable Rare Pepe cards.
JPGOLD. Issued with a locked supply of one thousand indivisible tokens. Prior to JPGOLD, only coin-like issuances of at least 100,000 tokens had been minted, which made JPGOLD the first scarce 1/N. The token was created on impulse, inspired by gold bullion, when I first discovered XCP. The 1/N model has since become the most popular for issuing cards and other collectible art on XCP.
JPJA. This is the second 1/N on XCP, and it consists of 100 tokens representing a book. The purpose of the project was to show how tokens made it possible for individuals to raise funding with cryptocurrencies. I sold several tokens for BTC on the DEX, albeit at a symbolic price. JPJA was the first scarce collectible traded on the DEX. Every time an NFT artist sells their tokens, they are using the JPJA model.
Weird n’ Wild. When Spells of Genesis (SoG) introduced the first trading cards in 2015, nothing onchain was linking the tokens to their images. In November the same year I broadcasted hash proof for most SoG cards, as well as for a few of my own. Although the method of linking image hashes to crypto assets was not new, I have not found any earlier examples for trading card tokens.
I am not aware of any earlier NFTs or 1/Ns on any other platform either. Of course, you can never know with absolute certainty as there’s always a chance of new discoveries being made.
What we do know is that there’s no shortage of claims of older crypto assets being the first NFTs. None of these are tokens though, and fall under different categories.
- Ordinals. Relies on an arbitrary system for UTXO ordering. Introduced in 2023.
- Colored Coins. These are satoshis with metadata. Experimental. I do not know of any explorer or wallet for these, and whether or not any of these have been preserved.
- Namecoin. Domain name system from 2011. Very different from the token standards that were introduced in 2014. Expiration made Namecoin domains unsuitable for NFTs, although some early experimentation with art did happen. These have all expired.
Quantum – A Failed Experiment
Unfortunately, Wikipedia boosts the Namecoin asset Quantum, by Kevin McCoy, as the first NFT. The article has been locked from editing, and they made it impossible to dispute this claim.
There are several things that disqualify Quantum.
- It is not a token. XCP existed at the time, so there’s no excuse for using a temporary domain if McCoy truly had intended to make a non-fungible token.
- The asset represents legal ownership. It depends on the legal system, not cryptography, which violates a fundamental property of blockchain.
Both these failures have resulted in real consequences. An ongoing lawsuit will determine whether Quantum belongs to the holder of the reregistered Namecoin domain or McCoy’s remint on Ethereum.
- Few, if any, NFT creators repeat McCoy’s process of linking legal ownership to an expiring domain.
On the contrary, modern NFT standards (e.g. ERC721) either issue unique tokens like OLGA or a limited supply of identical copies like JPGOLD. And NFT artists make a living as anticipated by the JPJA experiment.
According to the Cambridge dictionary an invention is
“something that has never been made before, or the process of creating something that has never been made before.”
The processes I used are per definition inventions since no one had gone through the same process before. More importantly, these inventions are significant:
- Self evident today, original at the time. XCP had already been around for almost half a year, thousands of assets had been issued, but none with similar properties.
- Proof of intent. The only assets I issued in June 2014 were JPGOLD, OLGA and JPJA, so it’s not like I played with parameters and randomly nailed it.
- Have become standard. Most importantly, my processes have later been repeated thousands, if not millions, of times.
This word is synonymous with unique but used in the context of tradeable goods. In effect any nonfungible good is irreplaceable and non-interchangeable with other goods.
Although this seems simple enough, I could not find a proper dictionary definition. Rather, the prefix non- and the term fungible are clearly defined.
The prefix non- implies the absence of something.
Something fungible is “of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind“.
OLGA is the first example of a token that is one of a kind.
This term was introduced with the emergence of token standards in 2014. Tokens have ever since meant custom coin-like assets issued on top of blockchains.
What all token standards have in common is separation of holder and issuer, where the former cannot modify the properties of the token. A core feature of a token is tradability, so all token standards come with a DEX. This contrasts more specific crypto assets, such as names, issuance rights and contract ownerships which may require renewals and may be challenging to transfer.
The main definitions of token in a general sense by Merriam-Webster:
- a piece resembling a coin issued for use (as for fare on a bus) by a particular group on specified terms
- a piece resembling a coin issued as money by some person or body other than a de jure government
This clearly coincides with the specific usage in crypto. Be aware that attempts are being made to rebrand generic crypto assets as tokens. This is done to retroactively fit them into the NFT category.