First NFT? Evidence suggests someone sold a PNG for 500 BTC in 2010

A gold picture frame containing a large ornate Bitcoin logo that symbolises and NFT

Depending on who you talk to, the earliest NFTs were either Colored Coins or Rare Pepes — but potential evidence of an even earlier example has resurfaced.

Bitcoiner Matt Lohstroh recently shared a Bitcointalk post from January 2010 in which the author said they’d like to “give Bitcoin a try” by selling a picture for $1.

The would-be art dealer posted their Bitcoin address and instructed any interested buyers to send 500 BTC.

“Hello all. I’ve decided to give Bitcoin a try. As a test, I want to see if I can make $1 USD from selling a picture,” wrote user Sabunir. “To get the picture, please send the coins to me and then send a Private Message stating the time you sent them. I will reply to your Private Message with a link to the picture.”

“Anyone want to buy a picture for $1?”

Unfortunately, exactly what image they were selling is unclear, but Sabunir described it “as my own creation, with a resolution of 1280×960 — great for a desktop background.”

Sabunir also pitched an idea for signing transactions with messages as a way of tracking the sale’s lifecycle on the Bitcoin blockchain.

However, Bitcoin’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto clarified they’d initially left that functionality out by design.

“Yes, it’s a technical limitation,” replied Nakamoto. “Sending by [Bitcoin] address enters the transaction into the network and the recipient discovers it from the network. You don’t connect directly with them and they don’t have to be online at the time.”

Nakamoto continued: “I very much wanted to find some way to include a short message, but the problem is, the whole world would be able to see the message. As much as you may keep reminding people that the message is completely non-private, it would be an accident waiting to happen.”

There’s sadly no concrete proof of a sale in the thread. All we know is that after two weeks, Sabunir had no bites and bumped the post to determine why.

“I don’t want to buy the wallpaper for the same reasons I don’t want to buy wallpapers for real money,” replied user SmokeTooMuch. “There are free sources for very good wallpapers, so why spend money for it?”

But Lohstroh pointed out a curious deposit in Sabunir’s history: one for 500 BTC two weeks after they’d bumped the post. At today’s prices, 500 BTC is worth almost $30 million.

In NFT, the T stands for Token

If that’s really evidence of Sabunir’s quasi-NFT actually selling, the transaction has a special place in Bitcoin history.

Crypto art purists might say the image wasn’t really an NFT as there’s no corresponding token.

[Read more: Bitcoin visionary Hal Finney ‘predicted’ booming NFT market — in 1993]

That might very well be true, however there’s one thing it does have in common with your modern day NFTs: a dead link

Indeed, there’s no remains of Sabunir’s image — the file was hosted on Dropbox and is today inactive, much like many NFTs in 2021.

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