As part of its ongoing “Natively Digital” series, Sotheby’s has opened bidding in a curated auction for these digital collectibles—known as Ordinals—inscribed on the Bitcoin blockchain.
The auction will run for ten days and features a broad selection of digital art from creators, including Shroomtoshi, Nullish, and Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, the artists who created the first NFT in 2014 (which Sotheby’s also sold).
Three “rare satoshis” will also be offered for sale; these fragments of Bitcoin were mined on important days in Bitcoin’s technical and economic history.
“Last month’s sale of three BitcoinShrooms was a test case to introduce Ordinals to the auction market,” says Michael Bouhanna, Sotheby’s head of digital art. “The resounding success of that sale was proof of the explosive growth of Ordinals as a new arena for artists and creators to expand the reach of digital art and collectibles and make a lasting imprint on the Bitcoin blockchain. As Ordinals continue to attract attention from collectors, this new avenue will expand the boundaries of how we conceptualize digital collectibles, as well as place a spotlight on the unique convergence of digital art and crypto culture.”
Shroomtoshi’s “Inscription 21” refers to the maximum number of Bitcoin that will ever be in circulation–21 million. The number is also linked to Shroomtoshi’s highly successful Bitcoin Shrooms collection, which featured 210 unique Shrooms and 12 Protoshrooms. And it is incredibly early, as inscription number 21.
“Inscription 21 was made at a time when there were literally me and four other early believers in the entire world inscribing on Bitcoin, so it was easy to predict what # your next inscription would be; now it’s basically impossible,” Shroomtoshi said in a statement.
“Brancher” by Jennifer and Kevin McCoy is a strong example of a work that could only exist in the digital realm. At its heart is a growth algorithm that constantly forks, creating an organic image that devolves into chaos—and then starts again. As a significant new work from the artists that minted the first NFT on Namecoin in 2014, “Brancher” has an estimate of $12,000-18,000.
Sotheby’s is offering a piece from Nullish’s “Antimatter” collection for auction. The collection, described by Sotheby’s as a “hand-typed generative art project that explores the abstract concept of antimatter through visual chaos,” consists of hypnotic, vibrating shapes that draw the viewer in. Nullish’s “Antimatter #4” is estimated to sell at $30,000-40,000.
FAR (Francisco Alaron) released “Genesis Cat” in collaboration with Taproot Wizards, a collective of Bitcoin enthusiasts who made history by inscribing a 4 MB image of a wizard into the largest block in Bitcoin history. “Genesis Cat” is the only 1/1 in an upcoming collection by FAR called Quantum Cats, which will be Taproot Wizards’ first public collection. The image of a cat made up of bubbles containing smaller cats, has received 27 bids and a $16,000 top bid at the time of this writing.
Des Lucréce’s “Benediction from Between Worlds” is hotly contested, with 19 bids received and a current bid of $55,000 as of this writing.
Highlights also include “Asprey Bugatti Crown Egg Number 10,” a parent child, cursed inscription from a generative art series of 111 unique outputs with a claimable physical egg designed by Asprey Studio’s chief creative officer Alastair Walker, and a powerful poem by Ana Maria Caballero, inscribed on Bitcoin in 2023 with an estimate of $5,000-7,000.
For the first time, Sotheby’s will also be offering three rare satoshis for sale. This is an unusual offering as the auction house typically offers non-fungible items. “Bitcoin is viewed as a fungible asset, where each satoshi is identical in value and function to another. However, the concept of rare sats introduces a layer of uniqueness and rarity, transforming ordinary satoshis into collectible, historical artifacts,” Sotheby’s explained in a statement.
One of the rare sats on offer is a Black Rare—the last sat ever created before the second Bitcoin difficulty adjustment occurred at block 4032. They are also offering a Rodarmor Rare Sat created in 2016, and a Black Uncommon Vintage Sat created in 2009.
One of the satoshis on auction was brought to auction in partnership with Sat Republic, which offered the first inscription tool for creating Ordinals on rare sats and launched Pizza Artifacts, the first collection of Ordinals inscribed on Pizza Sats (some of the satoshis that programmer Laszlo Hanyecz used to purchase two large pizzas for 10,000 BTC in 2010).
“Collecting rare and exotic sats is numismatics at its finest,” Sat Republic founder NFTSupply told nft now in an interview. “Collectors love to collect, and Ordinals have given collectors the opportunity to collect on the most decentralized and secure network in the world, Bitcoin,” he told us.
To NFTSupply, rare sats are an intrinsic part of the value of the Bitcoin upgrade that enabled Ordinals to exist. “When Casey Rodarmor created Ordinal theory, he introduced the idea of rare sats. These sats are often referred to as ‘Rodarmor Rarity.’ The Rare Sat we are auctioning off is one of the categories within Rodarmor rarity; it is the first sat mined in each bitcoin difficulty adjustment period. There are only around 400 that exist. Many have sold recently for 3+ BTC. Collectors value them because of their extreme rarity,” he explained.
The Sat Republic team took the time to educate the experts at Sotheby’s about rare sats. “After Sotheby’s did their genesis auction with Bitcoin Shrooms, it was clear that they were eager to learn more about Ordinals. After we educated Sotheby’s on rare sats and the massive community behind them, it was a no-brainer. Working with Michael and Jaclyn [from Sotheby’s] has been a fantastic experience,” said NFTSupply.
With their deep knowledge of Bitcoin history, Sat Republic put thought into choosing just the right sat to offer. “We decided to select a Rare Sat for a few reasons. Of course, one of which is the premium they trade for and their rarity. However, the macro environment couldn’t be more primed for such a sat to be auctioned. The Bitcoin ETF has finally been approved, and the Bitcoin Halving is coming in April. During the Halving, an ‘Epic’ sat, which is the first sat mined during a halving, will go into circulation. If sold, we anticipate it will go for $2.5 million to $10 million. Only four will exist,” said NFTSupply.
The Sat Republic team is confident that the market for rare sats will continue to grow. “Collectors love to collect. Collecting a rare sat is no different from a fundamental standpoint as collecting a rare coin. We think that in time, traditional collectors will flock to rare sats, and we believe that this auction will help accelerate the onboarding process,” said NFTSupply.