Why Quantum Is NOT the First NFT

Kevin McCoy’s 2014 art piece Quantum was sold at Sotheby’s for $1,420,000 – presumably as the first NFT ever minted. I do not agree it’s the first NFT. I see several reasons why:

  1. It was a name record, not a token, hence not a Non-Fungible Token.
  2. It got destroyed. It is forever lost.
  3. The auctioned token is a replica, not the original.

Before I emphasize my points, here’s the background. On 3rd May 2014 the following text was recorded on Namecoin:

I assert title to the file at the URL http://static.mccoyspace.com/gifs/quantum.gif with the creator’s public announcement of it’s publishing at the URL https://twitter.com/mccoyspace/status/462320426719641600 The file whose SHA256 hash is d41b8540cbacdf1467cdc5d17316dcb672c8b43235fa16cde98e79825b68709a is taken to be the file in question. Title transfers to whoever controls this blockchain entry.

Even though McCoy didn’t quite make an NFT, this description is a strike of genius. It includes most of the essentials of an NFT. First it points to an image, then the hash eliminates any ambiguity in case the original file is changed or the url goes down. Finally, the terms of ownership is explained. It sure deserves a spot in blockchain history.

However, Quantum fails as an NFT since it uses a Namecoin record. This is not a token by convention. You may argue it shares most of the same properties with tokens, such as being controlled by a crypto address, recorded on a blockchain, and being transferable. One essential property is missing though; it is temporary. Without periodic user action to renew it, a Namecoin record expires.

This fundamental flaw disqualifies NFTs from being registered on Namecoin. Claiming Quantum was the first NFT makes as much sense as saying Yuri Gagarin was the first man on the Moon. No, he was the first man to journey into outer space – which in itself is a major achievement. In a similar fashion I admire Kevin McCoy for creating a visionary pre-NFT.

My second point is that the original Quantum record did in fact expire. It does no longer exist. This leads to some interesting questions. Could you say it was a temporary artwork that got destroyed or burned, forever lost? Legally speaking, if the title belongs the holder of this no-longer-existing record, is the art now in the public domain? Or is the opposite true, if no one holds it, no one will ever be entitled to use it?

Finally, the token which was auctioned off for 1.42 million dollars is an Ethereum token from 2021. It is not the original Quantum. These are two separate things. Sure the replica points to the same image and is minted by the same artist. But that’s it. It is not the original record from 2014. That one is forever gone.

What’s The First NFT?
OLGA was registered June 2014 on the Bitcoin blockchain, about one month after Quantum was recorded on Namecoin. Since Quantum disqualifies as an NFT, I believe OLGA is the first NFT ever minted.

OLGA is unique in several other ways too:

  • It is the oldest surviving NFT,
  • It is the first Bitcoin NFT.
  • It is the first Proof-of-Relationship NFT.
  • It is the first Eternal NFT – i.e. the entire file is on the blockchain (not just a URL or the hash).

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