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"Merry Christmas": First SMS sells for over 100,000 euros in Paris auction

The first text message ever sent, reading "Merry Christmas," was sold for 107,000 euros ($121,000) as a “Non-Fungible Token” (NFT) at a Paris auction house on 21 December 2021 by the British telecoms company Vodafone.

(Photo: Vodafone)

The world’s first ever SMS text message was sent on the Vodafone network in December 1992. Vodafone engineer Neil Papworth sent the SMS from his computer to a manager in the United Kingdom, who received it on his 2-kg "Orbitel" telephone – similar to a desk phone but cordless and with a handle.

The exclusive NFT guarantees ownership of a unique, detailed replica of the original communication protocol of the first text message ever transmitted. NFTs, are a type of digital asset that has surged in popularity this year, with NFT artworks selling for millions of dollars. Traded since around 2017, these digital objects, which encompass images, video, music and text, exist on blockchain, a record of transactions kept on networked computers. Each NFT has a unique digital signature.

The selling of intangible goods is not legal in France and so the auction house has packaged the text message in a digital frame, displaying the code and communication protocol

The auction has been conducted in Paris by Aguttes, the first independent auction house in France.

Auction house founder Maximilian Aguttes said: “The first printed book, the first phone call, the first email – all these inventions have changed our lives and communication in the world. This first text message received in 1992 is a historic testament to human and technological progress – we are delighted to be able to support the sale of this landmark piece of history for this cause.”

Vodafone will donate all proceeds from the auction to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.