Could Bitcoin Ordinals give rise to rare sats futures market?

A senior employee at one of the world’s biggest bitcoin mining firms says he’s “fascinated” that there’s no futures market based around rare and incredibly valuable satoshis, and has speculated that ultra-rare sats could be worth “millions” to collectors.

Adam Swick, chief growth officer at Marathon Digital Holdings was speaking to CoinDesk about the race to mine the first satoshi after bitcoin’s next halving, due to happen later this month.

Following the launch of Bitcoin Ordinals early last year, individual satoshis, far from being unremarkable and largely anonymous slivers of bitcoin, can now be numbered and traded as if they were collectibles – much like non-fungible tokens (NFT).

This would make the first sat after a bitcoin halving — a relatively rare occurrence — worth significantly more than its face value. Indeed, according to Ordiscan founder ‘Tristan,’ it could be valued at around $1 million.

Sats can now be graded on a rarity scale created two years ago by Ordinals creator Casey Rodarmor. On the scale, sats are ranked from ‘uncommon’ – a block’s first sat, for example – to ‘mythic’ – the first ever bitcoin sat which now presumably sits safely in Satoshi’s own wallet.

While not quite at this level, the first sat mined after a halving would be on the upper end of the scale, particularly among affluent collectors on Ordinals marketplaces.

“If we take that satoshi that is produced in an event that happens every two weeks, to a sat that’s produced just once every four years, I don’t know what that’s going to be worth, but it could be millions,” said Swick.

“We have thousands of these uncommon sats — the first satoshi of every block for example — and we’ve often looked at the market to see if we should sell them or hold them,” he added.

Read more: Bitcoin maxi Greg Foss apologizes for bipolar tirade against Ordinals community

Futures market could see miners paid up front for rare sats

Due to the way mining works, those companies with the largest share of global hash rate or their own mining pools likely stand a much better chance of being the ones to unearth the sought-after sat. However, as Swick points out, it’s still far from a sure thing.

“We recognize that it’s kind of a lottery ticket,” he told CoinDesk. “But we’re being careful to make sure all our machines are online, which is our goal anyway. But it’s something we’re acutely aware of coming up to the halving.”

Despite the odds of actually mining the most prestigious and valuable sats, Swick also floated the idea of a futures market that would see miners with substantial hash rate share paid in advance for rare sats they may be able to obtain.

For example, Marathon boasts a 5% share of global hash rate. Therefore, an Ordinals collector could pay the company 5% of what they believe a specific ‘epic’ sat would be worth and Marathon would promise to hand it over, should it be able to mine it.

“It could be super interesting if someone runs round to all the publicly-listed mining firms pre-paying them for the epic sat, and then they have a 40% chance of winning it,” said Swick.

“This has never been done before and I’m frankly fascinated that a futures market like this has not emerged yet.”

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