Moonbirds, latecomer’s guide. Scam, hype, or art?

A collection of 10,000 pixelated bird NFTs minted by Proof Collective sold out in minutes and earned bluechip status within a week. What happened?

The NFT world has seen some hyped up collections in the past, but the success of Moonbirds exceeded all expectations, surprising even the most bullish supporters.

In just under a week after launch, Moonbirds surpassed $230 million in sales volume, according to Delphi Digital’s data. With minting price at 2.5 ETH, the pixelated owls hold a floor price of 30.2 ETH at the time of writing. Last weekend, a Moonbird changed hands for a record 350 ETH, or over $1 million.

Top NFT collections in 7-day view on OpenSea.
Source: OpenSea

One trader bought a Moonbird for 44 ETH and sold it for 240 ETH in a single transaction. According to Delphi Digital, buyers included Moonpay and Jimmy Fallon, as well as Delphi Digital employees themselves.

Proof Collective

Moonbirds may be new, but Proof Collective isn’t. In fact, it’s a chic members-only collective grouping nearly 1,000 NFT collectors and artists, the NFT version of a highbrow club. Together, Proof members own over 150,000 NFTs, including over 800 Bored Apes and almost 140 CryptoPunks.

Statistics showing Proof Collective members and their NFT collection.
Proof Collective stats as of April 26. Source: Dune

Unsurprisingly, the full members list is unavailable.

The collective is also known as a source of expert information about the NFT market, with a private Discord channel and live events for members, as well as a publicly available podcast that members can access before everyone else.

Moonbirds is not Proof’s debut as NFT makers. Their first collaboration was with Heart You, creator of Emotes PFPs, a “project of self understanding, love and acceptance of the whole self, including our shadow self.” Emotes had 1,433 NFTs.

Then came Grails, Proof’s first “original collection” that was free to mint for club pass holders. It included 20 artworks, each by a different artist, with 1,036 NFTs minted in total.

Grail NFTs
Source: Proof Collective

Launched in February 2022, the collection features artists like Tyler Hobbs, who has recently sold his Careless and Well-Intentioned #1 at Sotheby’s Natively Digital 1.3, and Larva Labs, the tandem responsible for CryptoPunks. In short, Grails was the crème de la crème of the NFT world at the time.

So, this last success did not really come out of nowhere. Proof was building up to it for months.

Moonbirds take flight

Before launch, Proof held a raffle open to all members of the public. Each winner was granted the right to mint a single Moonbird NFT for 2.5 ETH. Proof members were given two Moonbirds per one membership NFT.

In total, the collection includes 10,000 Moonbirds, including 7,875 allotted for the raffle winners, 2,000 for Proof Collective members, and 125 for distribution by the Moonbirds team.

Apart from a trendy PFP, Moonbirds’ holders get access to various perks, including Proof Discord channel, Proof Parliament meet-ups, IRL events, merchandise deliveries, and airdrops. The community will also be the first to Project Highrise, a Metaverse project Proof is working on.

Those who wish to hodl onto their owl can stake, or, in this case, nest it, for additional benefits. The longer the owl will be nested, the better perks the holder will get. Nesting is expected to kick off in late April.

Sneak peek into Moonbird nesting
Source: Moonbirds website

Proof co-founder Kevin Rose made clear in a YouTube video released after Moonbirds had launched that Proof intended to use the money raised in the sale to fund a bigger “media company.” He and Ryan Carson, both experienced digital entrepreneurs, wish to leverage the value and community they’ve built in their next projects, notably Project Highrise.

Can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs

The collection was hailed by some as the most successful NFT launch in history, but it wasn’t all rosy. Before launch, the Twitter-based self-proclaimed watchdog NFT Ethics accused Proof Collective of washtrading and nepotism.

To make things worse, Zachxbt, a pseudonymous independent crypto investigator who specializes in the NFT space, discovered that the Moonbirds raffle was subject to a Sybil attack, which relies on a large number of pseudonymous identities a single user creates to gain a disproportionate advantage.

In a subsequent tweet, Zachxbt amended the number of wins to “50+.”

Another controversy was sparked with rumors of rarity sniping, which occurs when project leaders use insider information to gain an advantage ahead of launch. If Proof co-founders, including Kevin Rose, Ryan Carson, and Justin Mezzell, knew the rarity numbers, they would be able to acquire owls with the most valuable traits. What’s more, with multiple membership NFTs, they would get more than two Moonbirds.

While Arran, one of the project’s devs, claimed they were the only person with knowledge of the trait order, Carson admitted he knew the numbers as well. He has since announced his departure from the project.

This may have prompted NFT Ethics to run more research on Proof co-founders and their past projects, including controversial layoffs.

Meanwhile, the craze continues. At the time of writing, Moonbirds’ trading volume was at 118,000 ETH, and Kevin Rose announced $10 million in funding led by Seven Seven Six, with True Ventures, where Rose is a partner, also in attendance.