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Vodafone auctions first ever SMS as an NFT in support of refugees


Vodafone auctioned a non-fungible token (NFT) replica of the code that sent the first ever SMS, a text saying “Merry Christmas” sent to Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis on December 3rd, 1992. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR.

World firsts are always historical landmarks. Elvis Presley’s first piano auctioned for six figures, an early prototype of Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle sold for $110,000, and the earliest Nike Air Ships worn by Michael Jordan received a record bid of $1.5 million. As we have seen over the last year, NFTs have enabled the auctioning of digital landmarks, blurring the lines between tangible and intangible assets. Vodafone’s first ever SMS auction is yet another example of this development.

The auction was carried out at Paris auction house Aguttes and sold for the equivalent of $121,000 in ETH currency. The winner of the bid did not want to disclose their identity.

One aspect of NFTs that enhances its value, especially those related to historical content, is confirmation of the item’s authenticity. When the first ever tweet was auctioned off, it was a straightforward process to confirm its validity. In this case, Vodafone’s CEO signed a smart contract certifying the authenticity and uniqueness of the item.

One matter that’s different with NFTs is the choice of being one of a kind. Physical historical items are unique by nature – Elvis Presley only ever had one first piano. In contrast, with NFTs, the brand or individual minting the digital asset is making a choice to make it unique.

Vodafone could have chosen to mint hundreds or thousands of replicas of the SMS instead of a single copy. And while Vodafone will not mint another replica, it is still conceptually possible to do so. These features emphasize that, while the lines between the value of physical and digital items have been blurred with NFTs, there is still a lot separating the two realms. 

“We’re proud to be bringing together a major technology innovation from our past with cutting-edge technology of today, to help people in desperate need of support,” said Vodafone UK CEO Ahmed Essam.

Meanwhile, L’Oreal is using NFTs in a campaign celebrating women, Pepsi launched a free NFT collection, and Poshmark launched a celebratory NFT for its ten-year anniversary.

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