The true story behind Bitcoin’s famous Pizza Day of May 22, 2010 is quite different to the one you’ve been fed. It’s far stranger.
Today is the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin Pizza Day, when Florida man Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 BTC for two pizzas. Regarded as the first bitcoin purchase for real world goods, the May 22, 2010 transaction has entered crypto folklore. Laszlo made the supreme sacrifice, we are told, paying the modern equivalent of $45 million per Papa John’s pizza to kickstart the bitcoin economy. Mass adoption of bitcoin soon followed, the legend of Laszlo was sealed, and the rest is history.
Only it didn’t quite happen like that. Like all great stories, the heroics of Bitcoin Pizza Guy have been embellished over the years. The reality of what happened on that day a decade ago is far less dramatic than the version packaged by contemporary brands cashing in on crypto culture. And yet the truth, it transpires, is more intriguing than the fiction. In a bid to set the record straight while raising a slice to Laszlo, Bidl has compiled 10 facts you may not have known about that famous footnote in bitcoin history. This is the true story behind Bitcoin Pizza Day.
It Took Four Days for Laszlo to Find a Buyer Willing to Take 10,000 BTC
On May 18, 2010, Laszlo published his offer to buy two pizzas for 10,000 BTC. Because the bitcoin community was so small, and there was no framework in place for buying goods with BTC, it took four days for the deal to be concluded. Just four people responded to Laszlo’s offer at the time, and on May 21 he was forced to bump his thread, writing “So nobody wants to buy me pizza? Is the bitcoin amount I’m offering too low?” It was not until May 22 that the deal was completed and Laszlo proudly posted his bitcoin-bought pizzas for his fellow forum users to admire.
The Buyer of Florida Man’s Bitcoin Lived in Britain
Despite living in the UK, the buyer of Laszlo’s 10,000 BTC was able to arrange local delivery of the pizzas to the Florida man’s home. Not only did the Briton get a bargain on the 10,000 bitcoin, then valued at a total of $41, but he got a bargain on the pizza too, paying just $25 for the pair.
No One Paid the Purchase Any Attention at the Time
When Laszlo announced that he had successfully bought a tangible item with bitcoin, in the biggest demonstration yet of BTC’s value, you might have expected the kudos to flood in. In reality, hardly anyone noticed the deal, with just two forum posters congratulating him on the transaction.
Laszlo Unsuccessfully Tried to Make a Second BTC Purchase
In June 2010, Laszlo tried to purchase a used camera with BTC. There were no takers.
Laszlo Hanyecz Probably Wasn’t the First Person to Swap Bitcoin for Goods
At least one other person was trying to exchange BTC for wares at the same time as Laszlo, and it is likely that bitcoin was swapped in this manner prior to May 22, 2010. On May 20, for instance, one forum user declared their intention to accept BTC as payment for an MMO game called A Tale in the Desert. Laszlo was the first person to respond to the post, suggesting a way to integrate bitcoin payment into their website.
Laszlo Repeated His 10,000 BTC Purchase Several Times
The only person impressed by Laszlo’s deal in May 2010 was, it seems, Laszlo. Three weeks after the bitcoin purchase, he made an open offer to repeat the feat, promising 10,000 BTC for another pair of pizzas. Bitcoin was slowly beginning to gain traction, and in the weeks that followed, Laszlo was to dip into his stack of BTC on several occasions, using it to buy pizza. Finally, on August 4, 2010, he was forced to plea “Well I didn’t expect this to be so popular but I can’t really afford to keep doing it since I can’t generate thousands of coins a day anymore. Thanks to everyone who bought me pizza already but I’m kind of holding off on doing any more of these for now.”
Within Months, Laszlo’s Pizza Was Already Becoming Notorious
“Greetings from November 2010!” wrote one forum user in the original thread. “What’s it like to eat pizza for $2600? :)” By April 2011, the 10,000 BTC pizza purchase had reached $18,000.
The First Article Highlighting Laszlo’s Feat Appeared in 2011
“What is the world’s most expensive pizza?” was published on April 22, 2011. After detailing a $3,200 pizza covered in edible gold and lobster created for a charitable auction, it pointed out that Laszlo’s pizza purchase made less than a year earlier was now worth almost $20,000. By the time the one-year anniversary of Laszlo’s purchase rolled around, four weeks later, the price had jumped to $70,000.
Over the Years, Impostors Have Used Laszlo’s Name to Beg for Bitcoin
It became fashionable to larp as Laszlo, cashing in on his legend to scam coins off admirers of his noble deed. So bad was the spate of impersonations that Laszlo was forced to sign a message stating “I don’t do social media, the people pretending to be me on twitter/reddit/etc begging for donations are scammers.”
Laszlo May Have Indelibly Altered Bitcoin’s Timeline
If Laszlo Hanyecz hadn’t bought pizza 10 years ago, it’s likely that bitcoin’s timeline would have played out almost identically. After all, one guy rinsing 10,000 BTC on pizza in 2010 wasn’t responsible for the bubble that occurred in 2013, the mainstream mania of 2017, and the institutional interest that’s followed, surely? Probably not, and yet it is hard to shake the sensation that something clicked that day, setting in motion the rocket ride that was to follow.
One of the biggest problems with bitcoin back then – and which persists to this day – was making it relatable to normies. How do you explain magical internet money to grandma? Well, one way is by telling the story of the man who spent $20k/£1m/£100m on pizza because number go up. Everyone understands profit and pizza.
The anecdote that sparked 10,000 virginal Coinbase purchases, Laszlo’s transaction may have had a bigger impact on bitcoin – and thus the world – than we realize. If the Floridian hadn’t shelled out 10,000 BTC on Papa John’s in 2010, we may have had no retail FOMO. No Trump presidency. No coronavirus. Who knows what got shifted in the space-time continuum the day Laszlo laid down a fat stack of satoshis?
As one bitcoiner noted on the first anniversary of the event, “Maybe if we went back in time and saved those purchases, BTC would have peaked and fizzled already.”
10 years to the day Laszlo’s legend was born, another footnote in bitcoin history is being made. You’re reading it. Welcome to Bidl, a brand new crypto site. We’re unlikely to have the same impact on bitcoin as Laszlo Hanyecz, but that’s okay: we’ll settle for documenting the seismic moments that crypto’s next decade has to offer.
If you like what you’ve read so far, check out Bidl’s manifesto here. And while we’re toasting the ghosts of bitcoin’s past, feast your eyes on our pick of Bitcoin’s Greatest Mysteries and the best theories as to What the Hell Satoshi Nakamoto Is Up To Now. Check back here tomorrow and we’ll also have some crypto news to go with this entrée of bitcoin listicles.
Happy Pizza Day.