Celebrating Bitcoin Pizza Day: the Time a Bitcoin User Bought 2 Pizzas for 10,000 BTC

Laszlo Hanyecz did not spend $270 million buying Papa Johns, CoinDesk's George Kaloudis writes.

AccessTimeIconMay 22, 2023 at 4:35 p.m. UTC
Updated May 22, 2023 at 5:03 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMay 22, 2023 at 4:35 p.m. UTCUpdated May 22, 2023 at 5:03 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMay 22, 2023 at 4:35 p.m. UTCUpdated May 22, 2023 at 5:03 p.m. UTC

On May 22, 2010 Laszlo Hanyecz paid Jeremy Sturdivant 10,000 bitcoins (BTC) for two Papa John’s pizzas which were delivered to Hanyecz’s home. This exchange is widely celebrated because it is viewed as the first use of bitcoin in a commercial transaction with bitcoin as the medium of exchange.

Of course, Bitcoin Pizza Day also invites one of the silliest and most disingenuous takes on bitcoin ever with: “Wow, that guy is dumb, if he held that bitcoin he’d have over $270 million! Instead he just got two pizzas.”

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Well, would he?

Obviously 10,000 BTC is a lot of money now, but it wasn’t in 2010. In fact, 10,000 bitcoins in 2010 bought you about two pizzas. Bitcoin would have no value if no one ever used it for anything, hence why Bitcoin Pizza Day is so important.

This applies for a lot of things, but bitcoin’s parabolic rise happened in plain sight so it’s an easy thing to latch onto. Here’s another hypothetical example to outline how disingenuous the “this guy is dumb” take is.

Suppose a technology company with four co-founders hires its first employee. That employee is paid a $50,000 cash salary and is granted a 1% stake in the (worthless) company after their first year of service. That employee then decides to take a sabbatical to hike the Appalachian Trail and while there decides they don’t want to work for the company any more.

Suppose the hypothetical company is a technology company – perhaps a hot social media website – and after eight years of hyperbolic growth the company goes public at a $100 billion valuation. Employee #1 is suddenly immensely wealthy, but did this hypothetical social media company pay their first employee $1 billion for a year of work?

No, of course not. They paid them $50,000 cash and 1% of a company that was worthless at the time. In that same way, Hanyecz didn’t pay $270 million for two pizzas, he paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas in 2010 because that’s how much two pizzas cost in 2010.

Bitcoin could have failed spectacularly. So could have that hot technology company – like many other failed companies. Without Bitcoin Pizza Day, perhaps no one would have stepped up to use what Bitcoin's creator Satoshi Nakamoto called peer-to-peer digital cash as a medium of exchange and bitcoin would still be floating around as valueless, magic internet money for nerds (in concept alone).

So thank you to these pizza pioneers, Laszlo Hanyecz and Jeremy Sturdivant, for kicking off the bitcoin economy.

With their transaction, part of the foundation for bitcoin having real monetary value was established, to which all bitcoiners should be grateful.

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George Kaloudis is a research analyst and columnist for CoinDesk.