The person in question was a Floridian programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz, who was also an early bitcoin miner.
Prior to the first bitcoin halving in 2012, each successful miner was rewarded with 50 BTC for discovering a new block. This meant one only needed to mine 200 blocks to earn 10,000 BTC, which wasn’t particularly difficult considering there weren’t that many people competing to mine them at that time.
Read more: How Does Bitcoin Mining Work?
On May 18, Hanyecz announced on a forum called Bitcointalk.org that he was looking to buy pizza – preferably two large ones – using bitcoin. He offered 10,000 BTC to anyone who would be willing to order, collect and bring them to him. Someone pointed out that he could get $41 for those bitcoins on a certain exchange website, which priced BTC at less than half a cent per coin.
In an interview with CBS in 2019, Hanyecz told Anderson Cooper he thought the transaction “made [bitcoin] real for some people. It certainly did for me”.
By May 21, he still hadn’t managed to find anyone to complete his bitcoin pizza transaction with. Then, finally, the next day someone took him up on the offer. A move that would later go down in history.
Read more: What Can You Buy With Bitcoin?
“I just want to report that I successfully traded 10,000 bitcoins for pizza.” The pizzas were made by Papa John’s, but Hanyecz had bought them secondhand from an 19-year-old named Jeremy Sturdivant (username "jercos").
Needless to say, those same bitcoins appreciated in value fairly steeply over the following decade. In fact, if Hanyecz had hypothetically sold his entire stash at bitcoin’s all-time high of $68,990, he could have made around $690 million – enough to buy 46 million large Papa John’s pizzas at $15 a piece.
In light of this historic event, the global crypto community comes together every year on May 22 to celebrate the first physical bitcoin transaction and to remind Hanyecz how he could’ve been one-tenth as wealthy as Melinda Gates.