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Feb 13, 2023

The Mysterious Mooncats

Jack Burt
Jack Burt


We’ve dug into quite a few collections in our Flip blogs, but even after hours and hours of research, Mooncats might be the most paradoxical . . . a historic project that flies under the radar in terms of price (~0.25 ETH) and popularity.

First things first: you’ve got to understand that Mooncats are an old collection … almost as old as CryptoPunks; their contract dates back to August of 2017!

Originally deployed by Ponderware, the project based on mining for and rescuing cats from the moon was abandoned after an underwhelming number of cats were minted. No one knows why they didn’t catch on at first, but they didn’t, and eventually, the front-end for the Mooncats’ site became defunct, and the project was lost to the void . . . until March of 2021.


Then, in the heart of the 2021 bull market, a fresh buzz formed around NFTs — projects like CryptoPunks and CryptoCats and CryptoKitties were being rediscovered and repriced by the masses.  That said, there was an incentive to go back and dig around the ETH blockchain for any historical projects that might have gone unnoticed – which is precisely how the 8-bit Mooncats got their eventual resurrection.

A digital archeologist, ETHoard, came across the Mooncats’ contract in March of 2021 and casually tweeted about it by saying, “While maybe not as eye pleasing as the recent #CryptoCats discovery, after that rush happened I started digging around and came across #MoonCatRescue.”

In his thread, ETHoard praised the retro-pixel design of Mooncats, then goes on to explain that because the front-end for the Mooncats’ site was broken, he had to manually interact with the contract to claim them, and lastly, that “since it predates ERC-721 we'll have to wrap them (right?)”

And just like that, a Mooncat rush began — threads popped up explaining how to manually claim Mooncats, someone stepped in to create a wrapper, and within days MooncatsRescue (Unofficial) had done thousands of ETH in volume traded.

Bear in mind this was all happening without the original Mooncats team (and that’ll be important to remember when we go back and ask why aren't Mooncats more popular today.)

Of course, when the original team (Ponderware) got wind of the Mooncat craze, they awakened and reengaged with the community – but by then a decent amount of fragmentation had occurred. Thousands of Mooncats had been wrapped with the ‘unofficial’ contract, effectively creating a split market.

And to make a long, complicated story short: Ponderware developed their own wrapper known as Acclimated Mooncats or MooncatsRescue Official. This new ‘official’ wrapper helped Ponderware raise money (both through the wrapping process and recapturing royalties), but also, their wrapper upgraded Mooncats to fully on-chain (this time, adding in the data necessary to generate the image itself.

Note: while most Mooncats eventually ‘acclimated’ onto the official team’s new contract (~ 19.5k of the 25k total), some stayed within the unofficial wrapper, and others never wrapped them at all (instead, remaining as ‘wild’ ERC-20s).

So, with most of the collection back under their wing, the Ponderware team got busy building out community and utility.


But of the many updates that came from the Ponderware team during this time, we think two releases, in particular, are especially important: one being their ‘Boutique’ application, and the other being their ‘Lootprints’ collection.

The Boutique was a groundbreaking idea for the time: it let holders generate and mint their own accessories (including determining their rarity), which accessories could then be owned by /applied to a Mooncat or sold on the Mooncats native marketplace.

And Lootprints, a secondary collection aimed at supporting Mooncats’ expansion, was released as part of a grander plan. Any holder of an Acclimated Mooncat could mint a Lootprint for free up until October 24th, 2021. The idea was that Lootprints would eventually turn into Spaceships and would also be a requirement to play GravBall (an on-chain game for Mooncats holders that, due to various reasons, still hasn't been finished.)

So why are the Boutique and the Lootprints uniquely important? Well, for different reasons, they represent stress points for the Mooncats community.

While the Boutique was creative and gave holders agency in the art/project, ultimately, it might’ve confused the rarity rankings associated with Mooncats, and thus made trading them less appealing from a flipper’s perspective. Or as jake.bit (a notable Mooncat holder) put it, “accessories confuse new buyers” and “flippers tend to get rekt [because] the community is mostly collectors”.


As for the Lootprints, they’re contentious because they never got used; and maybe they will eventually (in the Mooncats’ most recent Youtube video they talked about continued work on GravBall), but the unfinished project has potentially stifled momentum.

On top of all that, the Ponderware team had less money than you’d think considering the popularity of Mooncats. A significant amount of the minting proceeds and early sales were diverted toward the unofficial wrapped collection. In fact, there’s technically five different markets for Mooncats (Wrapped, Unofficial, Wild, Pool, Unwrapped, and Official), and the Ponderware team’s main source of revenue came from royalties for the ‘Official’ collection, which as we highlighted above, wasn’t benefiting enough from flippers.

Eventually, Ponderware slowly ran out of financial fuel, wound down some of their plans, and passed on ownership of Mooncats to community members (Midnightlightning and Paws) who are doing their best to maintain and build out the project.

All that said – even though you don't see them trending on Twitter or the top of our collections page – it wouldn’t be fair to say the Mooncats’ situation is bleak.

Mooncats is still a household name in the NFT collectors world; they’ve been auctioned off at Sotheby’s; they’re invaluable in terms of NFT history; they’ve done almost 20k ETH in volume traded (the official collection), and despite a rough year for most NFTs, their floor price has remained relatively stable.

At this point, the remaining question is not whether Mooncats are significant in the NFT world (their unique provenance and social proof are undeniable), but rather, how will the paradoxical gap between their price, their history, and their popularity be resolved in the future?

Disclaimer: This is not financial, legal, or tax advice. This article is strictly educational and is not investment advice, legal advice, tax advice, or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not legal, financial, or tax advice. Talk to your lawyer, accountant, or tax professional. Do your own research. See Flip’s Terms of Service for more details.

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