When most people hear about NFTs, they often associate them with Ethereum or possibly Solana. However, NFTs have expanded to many other blockchain networks, including Bitcoin.
Bitcoin NFTs may surprise many, but the network has quickly gained traction for creators and holders of digital collectibles. NFTs on Bitcoin are unique and do not have as straightforward tokenization processes as can be found on other networks. However, the Bitcoin blockchain provides an opportunity for NFT security, stability, and scalability.
In this article, we will explain what Bitcoin NFTs are, how they are created, and what NFT infrastructure currently exists in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Does Bitcoin Have NFTs?
Yes, Bitcoin NFTs have been around for a while but have experienced exponential growth within the last few years.
The first NFT collection ever released on Bitcoin was called “Rare Pepes.”
Created in September of 2016, Rare Pepes predated the term “NFT” and much of the digital collectible hype. These tokenized assets were minted by using Counterparty, an open-source protocol built on top of Bitcoin. At that time, Counterparty was one of the very few platforms for generating NFTs. Its scripting language was fairly limited, which gave Rare Pepes less flexibility and utility than present non-fungible tokens.
Bitcoin does not natively have the capabilities to create non-fungible tokens on its own. At its core, Bitcoin’s protocol is remarkably simple. While this simplicity enables a high degree of decentralization, security, and stability, it takes away from its overall programmability. Most notably, the Bitcoin blockchain lacks complex smart contracts, and therefore, the inherent ability to create non-fungible tokens.
How Do NFTs on Bitcoin Work?
As previously stated, Bitcoin’s base layer has limited programmability, making NFTs on the mainchain difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
A recent example of this is the Ordinals protocol. Bitcoin Ordinals are generated using a new numbering scheme that ascribes a number to each satoshi (sat) on the Bitcoin network.
Through Ordinals, sats are assigned a number in the order they are mined, allowing for exact tracking and verification. Even if a sat moves to a different wallet, its ordinal number stays the same.
In addition to Ordinals and other base layer innovations, NFTs can be created with layered solutions that are built on top of Bitcoin.
These layers can execute smart contracts and ultimately settle transactions on the base layer. Layers make minting and exchanging Bitcoin NFTs relatively inexpensive, sustainable, and scalable.
Bitcoin layers with smart contracts and NFT functionality include Stacks, RSK, and Liquid Network. In this article, we will focus on Stacks, which is the most extensive Bitcoin NFT ecosystem.
Bitcoin NFT Utility
Like non-fungible tokens on other blockchains, Bitcoin NFTs have use cases that differ from that of ordinary tokens.
Digital art and music - Art pieces and audio can be turned into exclusive digital tokens by which holders prove sole ownership on the blockchain.
Collectibles - Other digital items can have value through utility or scarcity, and can represent affiliation with a Bitcoin DAO.
Gaming - Things such as in-game items can be converted into assets owned by players, creating a full in-game economy. These types of blockchain video games are often referred to as play-to-earn.
Virtual real estate - Unique tokens are an important part of the metaverse and the growth of virtual land.
Identity - Identification can be used with NFTs through decentralized identity and domain names.
Real-world property - Any asset, such as real estate, cars, physical art, and other objects can obtain authenticity and ownership on the blockchain in the form of an NFT.
Bitcoin NFTs with Stacks
Stacks is a layer that brings smart contracts and decentralized applications to the Bitcoin network. Through its Proof-of-Transfer (PoX) consensus mechanism, Stacks blocks are directly connected to Bitcoin blocks by reusing its Proof-of-Work mechanism. This ensures that every block's history is resolved on and secured by Bitcoin.
NFTs powered by Stacks are written in Clarity - the protocol’s novel smart contract language. Clarity offers the highest security without altering the code of the mainchain. While these tokens are created on the Stacks layer, they are ultimately settled on and secured by the Bitcoin base layer.
Issuing, buying, selling, and exchanging NFTs within the Stacks ecosystem is easy thanks to its vast number of applications across the network.
Let’s look at some of the existing infrastructure for NFTs on Stacks.
Stacks Wallets for Bitcoin NFTs
Non-fungible tokens on Stacks are transacted in the network’s native token, STX. In most cases, the easiest way to collect Bitcoin NFTs powered by Stacks is by using a native digital wallet. Currently, two Stacks wallets with NFT compatibility.
Bitcoin NFT Marketplaces
An NFT marketplace allows users to create and collect digital assets. Marketplaces on Stacks exist at the Bitcoin layer, while all transactions have final settlement on Bitcoin.
Gamma is the leading open marketplace for purchasing Bitcoin-secured NFTs. Gamma’s collections include more than just digital art. The platform now supports a .btc domain marketplace for Web3 digital identities.
- Bitcoin NFT creation tools
- Gamma profile customization
- NFT auctions
- BNS and .btc marketplaces for digital identities
- Hiro and Xverse wallet compatibility
HeyLayer is a Web3 launchpad that makes it easy for brands and creators to mint, manage, and distribute NFTs. HeyLayer’s platform provides simple on-ramps to new crypto users through fiat payment methods and no-code minting tools.
- NFT-minting APIs
- No gas fees for minting
- Customized storefronts
- Credit card and Hiro Wallet payments
- Easy royalty setup
Powered by Byznation, TradePort is a feature-rich, cross-chain marketplace for trading and collecting NFTs. TradePort’s platform provides NFTs traders with insightful tools and data to explore new projects and manage their collection.
- Support for Stacks and NEAR
- No code smart contracts
- Portfolio view with advanced metrics
- Hiro wallet compatibility
NFT Projects on Bitcoin
Megapont Ape Club
Megapont Ape Club is the most popular Bitcoin NFT project on Stacks. These digital collectibles are part of the larger Megapont ecosystem, which is a fictional universe home to a bunch of Earth species mutants. Megapont has its own token, MegaCoin, and its own marketplace.
- Launch Date: October 2021
- Items in Collection: 2,500
- Lifetime Trading Volume: >4.4M STX
Satoshibles are an NFT collection portraying Dorian Nakamoto, who is the person who was once speculated to be Satoshi (the creator of Bitcoin). Satoshibles have had an uncommon history, as they originated on Ethereum as ERC tokens. Eventually, the team developed a cross-chain NFT bridge, which let Satoshible holders transfer their art from Ethereum to the Stacks blockchain. By using the StacksBridge, moving your Satoshible between the two chains is simple with a MetaMask wallet on Ethereum and a Hiro wallet.
- Launch Date: January 2021
- Items in Collection: 5,000
- Limetime Trading Volume: >1,891 ETH + 101K STX
Bitcoin NFTs have come a long way since their inception. After Rare Pepes, thousands of non-fungible tokens were minted on Bitcoin, and extensive infrastructure was created to support the growth of Bitcoin digital collectibles. Now, layers like Stacks with fully expressive smart contracts enable more utility and security for non-fungible tokens powered by Bitcoin. This is especially important as more developers look to grow the Bitcoin community through additional Web3 infrastructure.
Whether you are a creator or collector, Bitcoin is a network to consider for NFTs. Users can have even more peace of mind knowing that their digital assets are ultimately secured by the most trusted and decentralized blockchain.