Sotheby's debuts Bitcoin Ordinals auction with BitcoinShrooms collection
Sotheby's pioneering Bitcoin Ordinals auction runs through December 13, 2023.
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Renowned art auction house Sotheby’s is making history by hosting the first public sale of works from a Bitcoin Ordinals collection. The inaugural series titled “BitcoinShrooms” was created by pseudonymous digital artist Shroomtoshi.
Bitcoin Ordinals are the NFTs of the Bitcoin blockchain, taking advantage of its decentralized, censorship-resistant design and infrastructure. While similar to Ethereum NFTs in some ways, Bitcoin Ordinals benefit from Bitcoin’s decentralization and user sovereignty over its assets.
— Sotheby's Metaverse (@Sothebysverse) December 6, 2023
Ordinals represent a proof of concept within the Bitcoin network and are often referred to as “digital artifacts” rather than NFTs which are, by design, non-fungible. The process involves inscribing satoshis, the smallest units of Bitcoin, with digital content or machine-readable language, reflecting Bitcoin’s immutable nature.
This approach contrasts with traditional NFTs, especially regarding the lack of required royalty payments for sales. Consequently, Bitcoin Ordinals represent a significant deviation from conventional NFTs, often sparking debate within various Bitcoin communities.
“Digital artifacts are permissionless. An NFT which cannot be sold without paying a royalty is not permissionless, and thus not a digital artifact,” the project’s documentation explains.
The Bitcoin Ordinals project was begun by blockchain developer Casey Rodarmor, who hinged on the permissionless design of the Bitcoin blockchain as an initial concept to create digital artifacts.
The online auction, open now through December 13, marks the public debut of these unique and probably rare pixel art pieces that offer a whimsical yet educational guided tour of Bitcoin’s cultural and technical revolution.
The BitcoinShrooms collection’s standout pieces decode complex Bitcoin concepts like private key derivation and mining incentives through retro-themed pixel art mushrooms and clever cultural Easter eggs. Estimates for top works range between $20,000 to $30,000.
“The BitcoinShrooms collection is a pixelated recap of the first 13 years of Bitcoin, a homage to the 8-bit style of art that expresses a slight nostalgia for the 90s, a way to soil 10s of thousands of SSDs spread across the world with my art (->next level cyber-vandalism,” said Shroomtoshi.
The BitcoinShrooms sale enters a heated climate around the purpose and evolution of Bitcoin. Miners have prioritized maximizing transaction fee revenue lately, making them unlikely to restrict ordinal inscriptions despite complaints. On the other hand, Bitcoin developer Luke Dashjr sparked renewed debate by publicly decrying ordinals and other inscription projects as “spam attacks” on the Bitcoin network.
Notably, Bitcoin has recently surpassed Ethereum in terms of average transaction fees. This change highlights the growing interest and activity in the Bitcoin network, especially in the context of how Ordinals and other blockchain innovations have emerged of late.