Satoshi Mined the Genesis Block, Let’s Verify It

Satoshi Nakamoto mined Bitcoin’s genesis block on this day thirteen years ago. Included in the block was a miner subsidy of 50 BTC. This 50 BTC was the first coin to be released from Bitcoin’s 21 million supply, however it can never be spent.

In this article we cover what the genesis block is, how Satoshi mined it, and some of Bitcoin’s background. We go on to show you how you can verify this information for yourself. 

Lest we forget that today also marks the Proof of Keys Day. For the past four years January 3rd has been an annual celebration for dedicated bitcoiners, to remind HODLers to move their coins into secure storage. This is because exchanges, and custodial or hot wallets can get hacked. As the saying goes: not your keys, not your coins.


The Genesis Block and Bitcoin’s First Miners

In this first section we explain the genesis block and its context. In the following section we show you how to verify the genesis block, decode its secret message, and how you can view Bitcoin’s first transactions and wallets on a node or block explorer.

What is the Genesis Block?

Genesis means the origin of something forming. For Bitcoin the genesis block is the first confirmed block in its timechain. Satoshi likened the genesis block to a tree root from which a series of randomly discovered blocks would grow (i.e. Merkle tree, or hash tree).

In Bitcoin the blocks in the block chain hold transactions, and each block has information from the block preceding it. Blocks are labeled by their block height, which is the numerical value of their distance from the genesis block. Blocks are also referenced by their timestamp, but because timestamps can be out of order block height is preferred. Earlier versions of the Bitcoin’s software counted the genesis block as 1, but it was later amended to 0.

Bitcoin’s genesis block was hashed by the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto on Saturday January 3rd, 2009. This was six days before the official release of the Bitcoin Version 0.1 Alpha Client. Thus, most regard today as Bitcoin’s birthday, whilst some believe that its birth was on October 31st, 2008, the day that the white paper was released. 

After Satoshi mined the genesis block, the next block was mined on January 9th, 2009. Some bitconers theorize that the gap between block 0 and block 1 has a religious connotation. It may emulate the Jewish/Christian belief that the creation of Heaven and Earth took six days, from the Book of Genesis. Whether or not this is true, Satoshi didn’t have time to rest come the seventh day. He was the only miner, and he had to keep hashing until others joined the network.

Why Can’t Satoshi Spend the Genesis Coin?

This genesis block contained a coinbase (miner reward) of 50 BTC, equivalent to 5 billion sats, or over $2 million USD in today’s value. But it is unspendable. This is because when a node initializes its copy of the block chain, the genesis block is not included. Rather it is hardcoded to act as the base root to assist nodes to synchronize the block chain in a way that guarantees that all nodes start at the same beginning. 

More specifically, the genesis block is included in the block database but not in the transaction database. As a result, any attempt to spend the genesis block subsidy would be rejected by the nodes because the initial transaction is not found on the public ledger. Block explorers however may show the first transaction for illustration.

It is likely that Satoshi decided not to add this coinbase transaction to the global transaction database to promote transparency and fairness. By ensuring that the rewards in the genesis block cannot be spent, the block chain also remains immutable. If this initial coin was to be spent, the genesis block and subsequent blocks could be pruned, which would make it impossible for nodes to sync correctly or verify historical records from thereon. 

Satoshi Mined the Genesis Block

It is thought that Satoshi mined the genesis block with their own CPU, using a double SHA-256 hashing algorithm, the same way as we would today. However, there was no block header from a prior block. So, Satoshi preset the difficulty to 1, and assigned zeros for the previous block’s hash to indicate that it has no real value.  

On January 3rd, 2009, Satoshi’s proof of work trials were successful. Bitcoin’s first hash was found with two more leading zeros than was necessary for the given difficulty. Satoshi added this hash, its Merkle root, and nonce manually into Bitcoin’s code as the Genesis Block.

Hidden Message in the Genesis Block

Contained in the genesis block is a hidden message in its coinbase parameter hexadecimal. It reads: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”. Furthermore, Satoshi hid the same text in reverse on line 1616 of Bitcoin’s original code.

It seems that Satoshi was inspired to set the genesis block’s date to January 3rd, 2009, based on this newspaper heading. The British government had failed to stimulate the economy, and things were falling apart. Furthermore, Bitcoin’s white paper was released the same year as the 2008 ‘Great Recession’, brought on by deregulation in the United State’s financial industry, and dishonest subprime loans. Also, fractional-reserve banking, which began in 1971, meant that the US dollar was no longer backed by gold and was steadily losing value.

Satoshi was calling for something new, something better. Bitcoin was a digital currency secured by sound cryptographic principle. It caps the money supply to prevent inflation, relies on no centralized authority, and allows anyone to mine its supply or transact its coin through an anonymous P2P network. 

Contrarily, some bitcoiners feel that the encoded message only serves as proof that the genesis block was mined on January 3, 2009.

Satoshi the Miner

Satoshi mined the genesis block, and then remained the predominant ‘unknown’ bitcoin miner up until 2010. He has been dubbed ‘Patoshi’ by researchers. Over the first two years of Bitcoin’s existence, Patoshi was thought to be operating up to 48 CPU miners, plus one CPU to coordinate the hashing and protect against a 51% attack. These details were discovered by data scientists because the 48 machines hashed a different set range of nonces so that the hash work was not duplicated. This behavior creates a unique saw pattern in nonce data analysis. 

It also seems that Patoshi may have intentionally slowed down the block pace in the first years by intermittently unplugging his mining machines. This allowed room for other miners to join the network and receive BTC rewards. It also strengthened the system against a 51% attack by keeping Bitcoin’s block pace and coin issuance a little slower than schedule, at around 14 minutes per block instead of the target rate of 10 minutes.

Hal Finney and Martii Malmi, among others, also report participating in mining blocks alongside Satoshi in the beginning years. These early miners also joined coins so that they could sell them to other bitcoiners. For instance, 60,000 BTC, worth only a few dollars in 2009, took over a week to mine. So rather than give a buyer over a thousand single wallets with one 50 BTC coinbase reward in each, bitcoin was consolidated into new wallets.

The bitcoin that Satoshi mined up to block 54,316 was sent to wallets which remain untouched today. Bitcoiners continue to make small donations to these wallets as coin burns. According to Whale Alert the estimated combined value of these wallets is 1,125,150 bitcoin. This is worth $53,036,195,550 in today’s USD value. This would make Satoshi the 23rd richest person in the world according to Forbes. But, Nakamoto has good reason not to collect the coin. 

For instance, individuals who designed or used alternative currencies before Satoshi were punished. In the 1990s Bernard von NotHaus was charged with “conspiracy against the United States” for creating silver and gold coins known as Liberty Dollars. And, the operators of e-Gold, a digital currency backed by gold, were found guilty in 2007 of unlicensed money-transmitting which ‘enabled criminal activity’. Similarly, Bitcoin was the main currency used in the infamous Silk Road, a digital black market place from 2011-2013. Sadly, the main operator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, is serving two life sentences plus 40 years. 

Who Received the First Bitcoin?

Hal Finney received the first official bitcoin transaction from Satoshi, as he describes in 2013:

“When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away. I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them…The next I heard of Bitcoin was late 2010, when I was surprised to find that it was not only still going, bitcoins actually had monetary value. I dusted off my old wallet, and was relieved to discover that my bitcoins were still there. As the price climbed up to real money, I transferred the coins into an offline wallet, where hopefully they’ll be worth something to my heirs.”

Not only was Hal a miner with Satoshi, he also was active in the Cypherpunk community, helped to review Bitcoin’s code, reviewed its anonymity, and commented on its environmental drawbacks. He also created the Reusable Proof-of-Work, based on Adam Back’s PoW and Nick Szabo’s theory of collectibles, as a prototype for a digital cash. RPOW was a precursor to bitcoin. Most importantly, Hal was the first to trust Satoshi’s system and see its potential.

Unfortunately Hal passed away in 2014 from a genetic condition, but here are some of his most memorable quotes from the early days of Bitcoin. 

A collection of Hal’s Insights on Mining and Bitcoin: 

“Looking at ways to add more anonymity to bitcoin.” January 21, 2009

“Thinking about how to reduce CO2 emissions from a widespread Bitcoin implementation.” January 27, 2009

“Mining should not be too profitable (because nothing should be too profitable, the world doesn’t leave free money lying around). Therefore the price of Bitcoins can’t rise too much above the cost of mining (counting equipment depreciation among the costs of course).” November 30, 2010 

“Ultimately it’s good for the network for mining to be expensive. It makes it that much harder for a well financed attacker to dominate the network.” January 28, 2011

“The computational power of the network is proportional to difficulty; and it appears that difficulty is proportional to bitcoin price. It follows that unless bitcoins become substantially more valuable than they are today, the Bitcoin network will never be substantially more resistant to attack than it is today. For Bitcoin to succeed and become secure, bitcoins must become vastly more expensive.” March 18, 2011

Realized Value of Bitcoin

Two days after Bitcoin’s release, on January 11th, 2009, Hal shared that he believed that each bitcoin could reach $10 million. A year later, bitcoin was used as currency for the first time. On May 22, 2010 Laszlo Hanyecz purchased two Pappa John’s pizzas for around 10,000 bitcoin. At the time BTC was priced at $0.004 cents. Today these two pizzas would be worth nearly a half a billion USD. This event lead to the creation of the official Bitcoin Pizza Day, celebrated every year on May 22nd.

A Final Thought

On today, Bitcoin’s thirteenth birthday, we leave you with a review of Satoshi’s amazing creation by a highly regarded hacker and security expert, who tried to crack Bitcoin’s code but failed.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.” [Satoshi] “is a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language,… economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking… this guy is a genius… The way the whole thing was formatted was insane. Only the most paranoid, painstaking coder in the world could avoid making mistakes.” – Dan Kaminsky


Don’t Trust, Verify

Now that we have covered how Satoshi mined the genesis block and provided some background about Bitcoin, we will show you how you can verify this information.

Click on the links to see Bitcoin’s original code, genesis block, early transactions, and wallet addresses. Or use your own node.

Retrieving the Genesis Block

The genesis block hash can be found by using the node command ‘getblockhash’ for Block 0.

The genesis block can also be found in the following ways:

Tips:

Notice that the hash to the previous block is all zeros, indicating that it has no value. Thus we have verified that the genesis block has no ancestors.

The block explorer shows that the Merkle root of the genesis block is equal to the hash of the transaction in it. This is because a hash tree with one transaction results in that same transaction.

You can download block data in TSV format from here.

Retrieving the Genesis Transaction

We can verify that the genesis block mined by Satoshi is not in the Bitcoin database by using the ‘getrawtransaction‘ node query for its hash: 4a5e1e4baab89f3a32518a88c31bc87f618f76673e2cc77ab2127b7afdeda33b

It returns this error, even with -txindex=1 enabled.

{
   "result": null,
   "error": {
        "code": -5,
        "message": "The genesis block coinbase is not considered an ordinary transaction and cannot be retrieved"
    },
     "id": null
}

However, if you go to a block explorer, then the transaction is visible because it was added manually for illustration.

First Addresses and Reward

The first block reward went to this address: 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa. You can explore the transactions on the block explorer. Notice that people are still making donations to this wallet address today, presumably in honor of Satoshi.

To verify the coinbase subsidy is a little more tricky. This is because the coinbase in the genesis block is not considered an ordinary transaction. So it cannot be retrieved by querying ‘getrawtransaction’. 

You need to use the ‘getblock’ command and the hash of the genesis block that we found in the first part of this section: 000000000019d6689c085ae165831e934ff763ae46a2a6c172b3f1b60a8ce26f

You will also need to add a two at the end of the hash, or for the node client in the browser tick the ‘2 (json block w/ txs)’ below the block hash field. This will give you more detailed results about the genesis block. You can then verify that the coinbase reward value was 50: 

{
"value": 50,
 "n": 0,
 "scriptPubKey": {

Decode the Hex Message

The coinbase hex can be found in the genesis block here. If we convert the Hex to Text:

04ffff001d0104455468652054696d65732030332f4a616e2f32303039204368616e63656c6c6f72206f6e206272696e6b206f66207365636f6e64206261696c6f757420666f722062616e6b73

It becomes:

“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”

Additionally, the scriptSig line found here in the genesis block also hides the same message backwards. This is because no scriptSig input is needed as there was no previous block. If we convert the Hex to Text of: 

0x736B6E616220726F662074756F6C69616220646E6F63657320666F206B6E697262206E6F20726F6C6C65636E61684320393030322F6E614A2F33302073656D695420656854

It reads:

“sknab rof tuoliab dnoces fo knirb no rollecnahC 9002/naJ/30 semiT ehT”


Enjoy the rest of Bitcoin’s Birthday, and Proof of Keys Day!

Previous articleHow are Bitcoin’s Difficulty and Hash Rate Calculated?
Next articleBTC Hash Rate Gains in 2022
Your mining ally. Hashing away to find blocks. Supporting the Bitcoin network. Writing about interesting SHA-256 stuff.