Genesis blocks hold a symbolism that’s almost spiritual. They represent the birth of a new cryptocurrency, and when that currency flourishes, its foundation stone – the maiden block to have been mined – is referenced reverentially. Ethereum’s first address is a memorable one: 0x followed by 40 zeroes. It’s also a dangerous one that has been the unintended recipient of $6 million in ether and over $500 million in ERC20 tokens.
Also read: People Keep Sending Satoshi Nakamoto Bitcoin
The Genesis Address That Keeps on Getting
Atheism and tech-savviness are synonymous, yet when it comes to cryptocurrencies, the religious undertones are strong. From the schisms caused by hard forks to the opposing dogma espoused by big and little blockers, crypto is basically god for geeks. As news.Bitcoin.com previously reported, people have been sending BTC to bitcoin’s genesis address for years as a way of acknowledging Satoshi. They’ve also been doing the same with Ethereum’s genesis address, not to acknowledge the genius of Vitalik Buterin and co, but simply due to user error.
0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000 is an easy address to remember. It’s also an easy one to enter by mistake. All it takes is one fat finger on the zero button and your ERC20 tokens are winging their way to an address where they are destined to remain for all eternity. It doesn’t help that some wallets used to default to this address until they’d been configured. “Is there any way to get the golem I sent to [the genesis address] back?” asks one Reddit user. “I was transfering my tokens from my ethereum wallet to my ledger nano s and forgot to input an address before hitting send. Ethereum wallet apparently sends to [the genesis address] as a default. Has this happened to anyone else?”
A Token Offering to the Ethereum Gods
Another anguished user claims to have sent their entire savings of 1,493 ETH there in error. In total, the genesis address has received over 750 transactions in three years, and today holds over 7,000 ETH, worth $6 million, and more than 200 ERC20 tokens worth a staggering $517 million. Some of these tokens were airdrops deliberately sent to public ETH addresses, and others were deliberately ‘burnt’ by being sent to this address, making is difficult to ascertain the precise number of ERC20 tokens sent in error, over and above the $6 million in ETH that has been sent. In its earliest days, the address was mostly sent ether, including transactions of 100 ETH at a time, back when the cryptocurrency was cheap. Then, as ethereum projects began to take off, the stream of ETH gave way to ERC20 tokens.
Today, that address holds 33,000 Aeternity, almost half a million BAT, 9.5 million Bytom, 750,000 Golem, and many more. While the BTC sent to Bitcoin’s genesis block are believed to be irretrievable due to a combination of its architecture and Satoshi’s disappearance, that’s not the case with ethereum. Should the project’s founders still have access to the private key for this address, it may be possible to set up a smart contract that automatically returns anything sent to it. Due to its unusual numerology, however, it is believed to be virtually impossible to generate a private key for this address, hence its popularity for ‘proof of burn’ projects. Meanwhile, the genesis address will continue to absorb tokens on a regular basis, much to the anguish of their unwitting senders.
Do you think the Ethereum team should return these funds, or is it the obligation of users to double check before they send? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock. This article was updated to note the difficulty associated with generating a private key for this address.
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