This year marks the ten-year anniversary of a Florida man and his “free” lunch. Well, in his mind, at the time, he wasn’t paying for anything; Laszlo Hanyecz was a programmer and a member of a rather niche community of enthusiasts riding the first wave of a major shift in emphasis on cryptocurrencies – namely Bitcoin, which was barely one year old.
While partaking in some mining of this first form of electronic cash and feeling a little peckish, Hanyecz decided to order some pizza – with bitcoin. Soliciting Bitcointalk, a Bitcoin-dedicated forum, he posed the following deal: “I’ll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas … maybe two large ones so I have some left over for the next day.” Whoever might take him up on the offer either could make it themselves and bring it to his house or order it for him from a delivery place, but what he was ultimately aiming for was “getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don’t have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a ‘breakfast platter’ at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you’re happy!”
One British Bitcointalk user, jercos, took him up on his offer. He would order two large Supreme pizzas from Papa John’s to have delivered to Hanyecz. That day – the 22nd of May 2010, otherwise known as Bitcoin Pizza Day – has, at least for Bitcoiners the world over, gone down in crypto-folklore not so much for the transaction but more the price. Hanyecz paid 10,000 bitcoin, which today is worth over US $96 million.
This is perhaps enough to induce mild angina. And as another Bitcoin user poignantly cautioned on the forum at the time, 10,000 bitcoin “is quite a lot” – in fact, around $41 on one of the first Bitcoin trading hubs, which means even jercos got himself a bargain, paying $25 for the pizzas. Hanyecz, however, remains unphased. “I wanted to do the pizza thing because to me it was free pizza,” he explained. “I mean, I coded this thing and mined bitcoin and I felt like I was winning the internet that day. I got pizza for contributing to an open-source project. Usually hobbies are a time sink and money sink, and in this case, my hobby bought me dinner … I was like, ‘Man, I got these GPUs linked together, now I’m going to mine twice as fast. I’m just going to be eating free food; I’ll never have to buy food again.’” Fair enough. Maybe.
Hanyecz would actually go on to procure several more pizzas over the years, spending about 50,000 bitcoin in total on the Italian dish. Now, using the historical maximum bitcoin price of $20,000, that would be a whopping US $1 billion. He has even recounted on one occasion being a little short on bitcoin for the purchase of two slices of pizza and persuading the seller to sell him a single slice for 6,000 bitcoin. “I wasn’t stingy with it. And I didn’t mind overpaying, or whatever,” he said. Hanyecz appears to have remained unphased with zero regrets to go down as that ”Bitcoin pizza guy” who spent $1 billion on pizza. To be fair, he makes a good point: “With 100,000 bitcoins, I would be [a billionaire] right now. But then I wouldn’t have gotten that pizza.”