Famous bitcoin transactions and stories behind them

December 17, 2018
Darya Karatkevich

Just over 10 years ago, the creator of bitcoin, Satoshi, published the very first bitcoin whitepaper and spawned a phenomenon. Over that decade, cryptocurrency went from a novelty to a viable currency being used for transactions daily around the world in a very short time.

Through the years, there have been some famous and interesting transactions, some of which the users probably wish they could take back! The very first transaction was completed in January of 2009 when Satoshi transferred 50 BTC to the late programmer and cryptographer Hal Finney.

First fiat currency transaction

bitcoin dollar

Ten months after the very first transaction, the first fiat currency transaction was completed when a Finnish developer, Martti Malmi, sold 5,050 bitcoins for $5.02. Even after bitcoin retreated from all-time highs last year, this is still worth about $20 million today.

At last year’s peak prices, this amount would have been worth over a hundred million dollars! When he received the funds via PayPal, I’m sure he never imagined he’d be giving up that kind of potential value.

In these first years for bitcoin, you could only get it by mining. The reward for mining was 50 BTC, to encourage users to join the network. The first fiat transaction set the stage for cryptocurrency trading, but it wouldn’t be until 2010 until a transaction for actual goods was completed.

Bitcoin pizza

bitcoin pizza

On May 22nd, 2010, Florida-based programmer Laszlo Hanyecz transferred 10,000.99 BTC to Papa John’s Pizza for two large pies. If you thought the first fiat transaction was one to regret, those Pizzas today would be worth over $35 million!

Pizza is one of the world’s most loved foods, but I don’t think even the best pizza ever could be worth that much. The extra 0.99 BTC was tacked on for a transaction fee to pay for the mining necessary to complete the transaction.

At the time, the transaction was worth about $25 USD, more in line for the value of a couple large pizzas.

First large transaction

bitcoin huge transaction

The then CEO of the now-defunct Mt.Gox exchange, Mark Karpeles, wanted to prove that his system could handle a large transaction safely. On June 23rd, 2011, he completed a transfer of 442,000 BTC. This transaction was simply from Mt.Gox to Mt.Gox, but it proved the system was safe for large sums.

Unfortunately, down the road, Mt.Gox would be hit with a hacking attack that saw almost 850,000 BTC disappear and effectively ended the company for good. It was the biggest hack in dollar value until this year, when Japanese exchange Coincheck lost a reported $553 million.

Tesla Model S


The first vehicle to be purchased with bitcoin took place on December 6th, 2013. A dealer in Newport Beach, CA, received 91.4 BTC ($103,000 at the time,) in exchange for the automobile. The transaction was handled through payment processor BitPay, who disbursed fiat currency to the dealer.

The service allows businesses to accept bitcoin transactions without having to risk holding the volatile currency. This is a great way for businesses to add blockchain based currency as a payment method, expanding their customer base.

While I’m sure the new owner enjoys their Tesla, that amount of BTC would still be worth $320,000 today.

Take flight

bitcoin flight

In 2014, private jet booking company privatefly.com started accepting payments via bitcoin wallet address. Tech entrepreneur, Olivier Janssens booked a flight soon after, flying from Brussels to Nice.

Neither the company nor Janssens would reveal the cost of the transaction, but others have speculated it would have been anywhere from 9.5 to 54 BTC depending on the size of the plane.

If you’re more adventurous than taking a private flight, you can even use bitcoin to book space travel! If you’ve got bitcoin burning a hole in your cryptocurrency wallet, this is one way to spend it.

Out of this world

bitcoin space

In 2013, the first bitcoin transaction for interstellar travel happened when a flight attendant purchased the future trip from Virgin Galactic. Founder Richard Branson has been a bitcoin investor and evangelist from the beginning, so it makes sense that he accepts such payments for his ambitious space travel venture.

The cost to book a space flight is $250,000, which at the time would have been somewhere between 200 and 700 BTC, depending on the exact date of the transaction. Today, that’s somewhere between $700,000 and $2.5 million!

Follow the action

These days there are over 200,000 transactions per day on average, with an all-time high of 490,000 on December 13th, 2017. As you can see, bitcoin has come a long way from that first 50 BTC transfer just ten years ago.

Post written by Darya Karatkevich
Darya is a blockchain market observer with 5+ years of experience as an author and editor for major tech blogging platforms. Her fortes are blockchain technologies and solutions, cryptocurrencies and crypto-related regulations.

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