The early development of crypto is often narrated through the emergence of the Bitcoin whitepaper and the mystery surrounding its creator’s identity. But, there are more stories to be told – Bitcoin Pizza Day is perhaps the most famous of which. Bitcoin eventually gained traction because of its early pizza-loving community — a scattered group of enthusiasts who believed that a new monetary system could be built by using blockchain technology.
One evening, Laszlo Hanyecz, a programmer and early Bitcoin miner living in Jacksonville, Florida, was feeling experimental. He decided to put a call out on the Bitcointalk forum. Hanyecz was willing to trade 10,000 BTC, worth roughly US$30 at the time, for two pizzas, as long as the recipient of the Bitcoins ensured the food arrived at his doorstep:
I’ll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day. I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I’m aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don’t have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a ‘breakfast platter’ at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you’re happy!
The post remained online for four days before someone accepted the offer. Hanyecz received his pizzas, and a fellow Bitcoiner got a five-figure amount of BTC in return for making a phone call to Papa John’s, an American pizza chain. That was May 22, 2010.
Ever since Hanyecz performed the first recorded real-world transaction using Bitcoin, many cryptocurrency enthusiasts and investors would return to the story every year.
Some people view Hanyecz’s choice to trade 10,000 BTC for two pizzas as the consequence of impatience, but his action drew attention to the potential of Bitcoin’s real utility. It was the first publicly recorded instance of cryptocurrency being used to purchase an item in real life, bridging the conceptual gap between abstract digital assets and everyday financial transactions.
It’s natural to wonder how much Hanyecz’s Bitcoin pizza was worth during BTC’s all-time high — the answer is close to US$690 million — but it’s more important to note that his post on Bitcointalk sparked interest in cryptocurrency in a long-lasting way. At that point in time, the first Bitcoin had been mined by Satoshi Nakamoto less than a year and a half ago, and awareness about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology was limited to a small, loosely organized online community.
As an early Bitcoin adopter and developer, Hanyecz didn’t hesitate to spend the BTC that was in his wallet. Even if he had considered the tokens’ potential appreciation in value, he was also prepared to put them to use in real-life settings.
Since then, a range of use cases have been developed around cryptocurrencies — as a channel for charitable donations and financial aid, retail payments, a store of value, and remittances. Crypto can be used to buy anything between a cup of coffee and real estate, going far beyond pizzas.
As we draw closer to 2023’s Bitcoin Pizza Day, a range of crypto protocols and platforms will have annual promotions and giveaways as an annual celebration. But it’s also worth taking a moment to consider how far the crypto space has come and where it is heading as builders continue to create new utility for cryptocurrencies.
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