There’s nothing particularly special about a bitcoin transaction. Every day, 300,000 of them occur on the BTC and BCH networks without fanfare. But occasionally, a perfunctory transaction will attain historical significance. These bitcoin transfers can be viewed in any blockchain explorer, where they have been immortalized by the public ledger and mythologized by the public.
Bitcoin History Begins on the Blockchain
All bitcoin transactions are equal in the eyes of miners. Provided there’s a sufficient fee attached, it makes no difference to them who sender or recipient may be or how many BTC are transferred. It’s only once hindsight and context are applied that significance can be attached to a transaction like an opcode. With over 360 million BTC transactions to date, the following article details just 0.0000022 percent. But within this slender selection lurks a trove of Bitcoin history. There’s magic and mystery encoded in the blockchain if you know where to look.
First Bitcoin Transaction
We might as well start at the start, with the first BTC transaction sent between two people and the only one known to have been sent by Satoshi. It occurred on Jan. 12, 2009 when Satoshi Nakamoto sent 50 BTC to Hal Finney in block 170. The cost of the transaction, like so many in the early days, was 0 BTC.
First Bitcoin to Fiat Sale
The first known sale of BTC in exchange for fiat occurred on Oct. 12 2009 when Finnish developer Martti Malmi sold 5,050 BTC for $5.02, with the fiat amount transferred via Paypal. The number of BTC sent corresponds with the fact that the only way bitcoin could be obtained back then was by mining it, when the coinbase reward was set at 50 BTC.
That Pizza Purchase
Laszlo Hanyecz’s 10,000 BTC pizza purchase is so famous that even nocoiners know about it. The details don’t bear retelling again: we’re only interested in the blockchain record for the legendary transaction. It resides here, in block 57043, which records the dispatch of 10,000.99 BTC on May 22, 2010. The 0.99 BTC on top, incidentally, was to cover the miner’s fee. That works out at a cool 4,191 sats per byte.
Mt. Gox Mega Transaction
When most whales wish to show that they own a particular bitcoin address, they’ll send a microtransaction from it. A few satoshis is all it takes to demonstrate proof of funds. Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles had a different idea though when pressed to prove the funds under his custody, sending a massive tranche of BTC from one wallet he controlled to another in a show of strength.
Leaked IRC logs allegedly show Karpeles offering to send 442K BTC, and blockchain records attest to this transaction taking place. On June 23, 2011, 442,000 bitcoins were indeed sent to two addresses in a single transaction, including 424K to one. It remained the largest amount of BTC ever sent at one time until November of that year, when 550,000 BTC was moved in one go.
Monster Transaction Fee
“Hi, I entered a transaction fee that was way too high…is there anyway that I can stop the transaction from confirming?” asked a distressed Redditor back in 2013. Help was forthcoming, but not before the 98 BTC transaction went through on May 16 with a whopping 30 BTC fee attached. That worked out at 6.8 million sats per byte.
In the end, the mining pool that confirmed the block refunded 7.5 BTC, granting the generous fee payer some consolation. This was by no means the highest fee to be attached to a bitcoin transaction, by the way. In August of 2013, someone sent a 200 BTC fee, which was benevolently returned by the mining pool that collected it, and then in 2016 a transaction for 0.0001 BTC was sent with 291 BTC attached.
Bitcoin Fake Murder
On March 31, 2013, Silk Road operator Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) sent 1,607 BTC to user ‘redandwhite’ to perform a hit on an individual who was extorting the deep web marketplace. The hit didn’t go through (it appears likely that redandwhite was both the assassin and blackmailer) but the transaction, for an agreed price of $150,000, did. With 322,639 confirmations, there will be no rolling back this BTC transaction.
US Marshals Silk Road Auction
On July 1, 2014, close to 30,000 BTC was sent to the winning bidder in an auction held by US Marshals offloading assets seized from Silk Road. The auction was split into 10 blocks, and in the end one individual won every single tranche. That bidder proved to be Tim Draper, and that acquisition, for approximately $18 million, proved to be a very shrewd investment.
There’s numerous bitcoin transactions that can be connected to hacks. One of the most notorious is the near-20,000 BTC stolen from Bitstamp in 2015. This includes a 3,100 BTC transaction that kickstarted the attack.
With bitcoin’s value worth multitudes more than it was in the period spanning 2009-2015, headline-grabbing transactions are less common, but still newsworthy when they occur. In the past fortnight, Binance sending over 100,000 BTC between wallets has caught people’s attention, as has a BCH address moving a total of 1 million bitcoin cash on the eve of the Nov. 15 hard fork. For so long as transactions occur onchain and without the veil of privacy, bitcoiners will continue to derive fascination from unusual blockchain movements.
What other historic bitcoin transactions deserve inclusion in this list? Let us know in the comments section below.
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