d/radio — The First NFT Ever Traded

archivist
5 min readApr 10, 2022

👋 Introduction

While working on the last version of my “First 10 (Eminently Primitive) NFTs” timeline* (see the end of this article) and the true NFT definition, I stopped a sec on the “tradable” aspect and realised something pretty surprising.

None of us NFT historians seemed to have thought about digging to find the first recorded NFT transaction. The First NFT ever traded. Regarding that tradability to be one of the core aspects of a NFT, it came as evidence that finding such a piece would be historically insane.

So I decided to try.

First, it was obvious to search into Namecoin domains for that, as the first NFTs were created on this first fork of Bitcoin in April 21, 2011.

Then, I needed to figure out if it is technically possible to distinguish if an empty Namecoin name_update was just coming from the owner updating the value of the domain or was a real transfer to another wallet. After asking Domob (Chief Namecoin Scientist), the answer is no.

As he also said, “You can of course try to analyse the blockchain in a more sophisticated way, compare to old forum posts to find potential trades and so on, but you will not be able to really be sure about it”, so I decided to not give up without even trying.

Here is what I did.

⛏ Digging

1I looked into ALL the April / May 2011 domains chronologically minted (from d/bitcoin) and checked the values updates. The ones that I was focusing on are the name_updates, as name_new is for the (re)registration and name_firstupdate is for the mint (following the name_new).

So one thing to be sure about is that behind one of these domains name_updates, the first NFT trade was hidden.

2Then, I had to analyse these name_update values for each domain and eliminate those with evidence that value was updated by the owner itself and showing it is not (or can’t be) an evident trade or transfer to another peer (ex: same value updated on multiple domains at the same time, or IP address entries showing an intent to setup the domain and not to trade it) until I may find a value that could be interpreted as a peer-to-peer transfer or ideally a trade.

I knew that it may not happen at all and the more I will go through Namecoins domain mints timeline, the more the chance to properly identify the first NFT trade will fade away.

3While doing this, only a handful of domains were left, and I was absolutely stunned when it came to the d/radio turn. Its first name_update value on May 6, 2011 2:15am shows “SOLD”.

How could the value be more relevant to indicate a trade than the “sold” keyword on the first name_update itself? I was shocked that no one noticed such an incredible detail before. Also, we can see that the value included at the registration is “webpagedeveloper.me/namecoin” pointing to a still available URL where the creator of the domain says “I’m taking bids on reserving names if you are interested”, showing he was clearly looking to sell domains he owned.

For curiosity, I also searched for “sold” in the database and the only domain in 2011 with this keyword in his name or values is d/radio.

4But I came back to earth and felt I could have the first NFT ever traded in front of me, so I needed to be sure I did not miss anything. So I decided to dig more into the old Namecoin forum thread on bitcoin.org to hopefully find something that could corroborate the discovery.

And after a few hours, I found an interesting post from Vinced (Co-creator of Namecoin) on May 4, 2011 5:28am saying “A new release is up on Github. This release includes: — Name transfers can now be performed using name_update”. If only I had this info before step 1. Transferring a Namecoin domain was not possible before May 4, 2011.

5Then you get it, I re-checked all the domains with name_updates processed between May 4, 2011 5:28am (start date a name transfer was possible) and May 6, 2011 2:15am (date of the first evidence of a trade in a name value with d/radio).

Here is the list of the 3 domains that remained and the analysis about their name_updates in the May 4 to May 6, 2011 time range:

  • https://namebrow.se/name/d/ns/ name_update: For this one, pretty easy to say it was not a trade as Khal (Namecoin Co-Creator) used it to setup a new DNS server for Namecoin domains at this time (source) — NOT A TRADE
  • https://namebrow.se/name/d/reg/ name_update: For this one, same, the first name_update value on May 5, 2011 is a DNS setup, the same used for ns.bit the day before, and communicated by Khal on May 6 so we can guess reg.bit was also owned and used for DNS tests purpose by the Namecoin team — NOT A TRADE
  • https://namebrow.se/name/d/insure/ name_update: And for the last, also not relevant, the first name_update coming only 6 min after the mint (name_firstupdate) shows “get insurance”, a simple mention related to the domain name subject — NOT A TRADE

☝️ Conclusion

Regarding all the elements above, we can serenely affirm d/radio is the first NFT ever traded.

Now let’s imagine the seller of d/radio did not add this “SOLD” mention to the value for the domain transfer back in May 2011, maybe it would never have been possible to identify what was the first NFT transaction ever.

(transparency) Also hopefully, the current owner of d/radio added his Bitmessage address in the last domain value so I was able to reach out to him and managed to find the liquidity to acquire it for the price he asked.

A warm and special thanks to Swooty who built an incredible Namecoin data explorer that helped me make this discovery ❤️

“First 10 (Eminently Primitive) NFTs” timeline*

More gems on “The NFT Timeline”

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