What Are Bitcoin Ordinals? A Complete Guide to Bitcoin NFTs

Bitcoin Ordinal NFTs are arguably one of the greatest things to happen in the history of NFTs. As exciting as it is, it’s a lot to comprehend. This beginner’s guide breaks it all down for you. You’ll learn exactly what an Ordinal NFT is, how it works, along with how to buy, store, and create your own.

What Are Bitcoin Ordinals “NFTs”?

Bitcoin Ordinals Explained for Beginners

Bitcoin Ordinals are individual satoshis inscribed with data that are created directly on the Bitcoin network. This data includes the media necessary to create NFTs and requires no additional token or chain.

Casey Rodarmor launched the Ordinals protocol on January 21, 2023, which quickly led to a surge of interest in Bitcoin and these new types of NFTs.

To fully understand how Ordinals work, first, you must understand that a Bitcoin can be split into smaller units to facilitate transactions, these units are called satoshis (sats) and are the smallest denomination of a Bitcoin. One Bitcoin is made up of 100,000,000 sats.

In a Twitter Spaces hosted by Rob, Casey explained that Ordinals aren’t as complicated as many make them out to be.

Casey said: “It’s literally kind of like caveman technology. It’s kind of the simplest thing I could think that could work, and I kind of think everybody—if they noodle on it enough—can kind of figure out how everything works.”

He went on to say that you can think of Ordinals and Inscriptions as two layers.

“You can really think of Ordinals and Inscriptions as being two layers. The base layer is Ordinanls, and what Ordinals give you is this way of viewing Bitcoin such that you see each sat as having an identity, and you see each sat as being trackable.”

Additionally, Rodarmor made it clear that Ordinals don’t require any changes to Bitcoin, rather it’s just a different perspective.

“But it is not part of Bitcoin, it is a way to look at the existing Bitcoin blockchain through a certain lens. And when you view it through that certain lens, you see the individual sats and they have all these amazing properties, but it’s not part of Bitcoin and it doesn’t require any changes to Bitcoin to work—it’s just a different way of viewing what’s already there. So what ordinals provide you is a trackable sat.”

Normally when using Bitcoin, sats are smashed together in each coin to create one big sat mess. This makes it near impossible to identify individual sats. But, Ordinals enables you to see sats on the network as unique individual sats with added extras like names, rarity levels, and other features.

What Are Bitcoin Inscriptions?

A Bitcoin Inscription is a layer of data attached to a single satoshi. An inscription can be any type of content such as a jpeg, png, svg, which is similar to how NFTs on Ethereum are created. Hence, inscriptions enable you to create Bitcoin NFTs that exist fully on-chain.

Once it’s attached to a sat using Ordinals, you can send any sat to a normal Bitcoin address using sat control. You can also lock it and store it in any wallet.

That said, the wallet used requires “sat control”. The only wallet that can do this is called ORD (github.com/casey/ord). Although ORD is the only wallet to currently offer sat control, Casey said it wouldn’t be difficult for other wallets to implement the function.

How Do Bitcoin Ordinals Differ from Ethereum NFTs?

An image comparing the difference between and Ethereum NFT and a Bitcoin Orginal.
Ethereum NFT compared to Orginal NFT

NFTs on Ethereum are usually not stored entirely on the blockchain, unlike Ordinals. The information linked to an ETH NFT is kept on an Interplanetary File System (IPFS), which is separate from the blockchain where the token is stored. Ordinals remain fully integrated within the Bitcoin blockchain.

Casey believes that NFTs are “incomplete” because a majority of them rely on off-chain data. As a result, he refers to Bitcoin Ordinals as digital artifacts, not NFTs.

Creator royalties are another aspect that NFTs on Ethereum offer and Ordinals do not. Rodarmor said that an Ordinal “is intended to reflect what NFTs should be, sometimes are, and what inscriptions always are, by their very nature.”

So although Ordinals share some similar qualities as NFTs on Ethereum, like the ability to add media to a specific token, Ordinals are different in that they are fully integrated into the Bitcoin blockchain.

Pros and Cons of Bitcoin Ordinals

Considering Ordinals are still in their infancy, there are several pros and cons to consider before getting involved. That said, some of the cons will likely dissipate over time.

Pros of Bitcoin Ordinals

Media is stored on-chain

Arguably the most significant feature of Bitcoin Ordinals is the fact that they’re stored completely on-chain. This means an Ordinal will live indefinitely on the Bitcoin blockchain. The only way your Ordinal would disappear is if Bitcoin seized to exist.

No additional token required

Since Ordinals require no changes to the blockchain itself, the implementation of the protocol remains simple and without the need to rely on anything but the blockchain itself.

Bitcoin is Extremely Secure

Bitcoin is the most secure blockchain to exist. Prior to Ordinals, Ethereum was undoubtedly the most secure network used to buy, sell, create, and store NFTs. But, now that Bitcoin has similar capabilities, it has become an instant competitor.

Cons of Bitcoin Ordinals

Slow and Complex

Buying, selling, and creating an Ordinal is still much more complicated than doing so on Ethereum. Moreover, it can several hours or even days to receive an Ordinal once it has been sent.

No marketplace (yet)

There are no Ordinal marketplaces, yet. Currently, the only way to buy an existing Ordinal is directly from the holder. However, with the high demand for these digital artifacts, I’d imagine a marketplace will be launched sooner than later. 

We’ll make sure to update this article when that happens.

Poor UI and UX

Whether you want to buy an Ordinal or create your own, the user interface and experience are both extremely poor. It’s not as easy as downloading a wallet, heading to a marketplace, and tapping the “Buy Now” button, like with Ethereum NFTs.

It’s a bit more complex than that. But don’t worry, we’ll get into all of that below.

You can lose your Ordinal

It’s true. The likelihood that you’ll lose your Bitcoin Ordinal is high if you don’t know what you’re doing. Again, this could change as new platforms are created to simplify the process. But until then, you have to be careful.

How to Buy, Create, and Store Bitcoin Ordinals

Step 1: Set Up Your Sparrow Wallet

To start holding Ordinals, you’ll need a special kind of Bitcoin wallet that’s capable of receiving these digital artifacts. That’s where Sparrow Wallet comes in!

Here’s how to get started:

  • Go to the Sparrow Wallet website.
  • Find the download link that matches your computer’s operating system.
  • Download and install Sparrow on your computer.

Step 2: Make Your Wallet Ordinal-Compatible

Once you’ve got Sparrow installed, you need to follow a few more steps to make sure your wallet is set up to receive Ordinals.

Luckily, there’s a helpful tutorial on Github that will walk you through everything you need to know. Just make sure you don’t send any regular Bitcoin (BTC) to this wallet, as it’s only meant for receiving Ordinals.

Step 3: Choose How You’ll Get an Ordinal

Now that your wallet is ready, there are three options for getting your hands on an Ordinal NFT:

  1. Run a node and create an Ordinal yourself (if you already run a Bitcoin node, you probably already know how to do this).
  2. Find an Ordinal owner and buy one directly from them.
  3. Use a service that will create an Ordinal for you.

If you choose option two, the best place to look for Ordinal projects is on Discord. Simply join the Ordinals Discord, check out the “link-your-project” channel, and connect with the collection creators directly. 

Just be careful, as buying Ordinals is still a very new and risky process that requires a lot of trust and caution.

Step 4: Use a Service to Get Your Ordinals

If you don’t want to run your own node, but still want your own Ordinal, there are a few services that can help you out.

  1. The Satoshibles NFT collection team has created the Ordinals Bot to simplify the inscription process.
  2.  Gamma also offers an Ordinal inscription service. 

To use either of these, you’ll need to provide the address of your Sparrow wallet, along with the amount of Bitcoin (BTC) you need to pay for the inscription and any service fees. The cost can vary, but it’s typically between $50 and a few hundred dollars.

Once you’ve sent the BTC, all you have to do is wait! It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to receive your Ordinal, so be patient.


Are Bitcoin Ordinals NFTs?

Yes, Bitcoin Ordinals are NFTs that exist entirely on-chain and have media attached to them. Due to their permanent nature, they’re more often referred to as digital artifacts.

Where Can I Buy Bitcoin Ordinals?

You can buy an Ordinal directly from the seller or from an Ordinal marketplace. Popular Ordinal marketplaces include Ordswap, Ordinals Market, and Gamma.

What’s the Most Popular Bitcoin Ordinals Project?

The most popular Bitcoin Ordinal collection is “Ordinal Punks”. This is a generative PFP collection that is fully on-chain on the bitcoin blockchain and minted within the first 650 inscriptions.

Are Bitcoin Ordinals Safe?

Bitcoin Ordinals are generally safe. However, there’s a risk of losing your NFT if you fail to set up your wallet properly. Also, there’s always a risk of being scammed.

Should I Buy a Bitcoin Ordinals “NFT”?

Only buy an Ordinal NFT if you accept the risk of losing NFTs, money, or getting scammed. The future of Ordinals is uncertain as they are in their early stages.

Where Can I View Inscribed Ordinals?

You can view all the Inscribed Bitcoin Ordinals on ordinals.com. You can search by recently inscribed, blocks, transactions, outputs, and sats. For the full guide, visit the website.

Categories NFT
About Alex Gomez

Alex is a professional writer based in the U.S. focused on the blockchain industry. With years of experience, he contributes to some of the most recognized publications such as Yahoo, ONE37pm, and others. He previously worked for Gary Vaynerchuk as his NFT editor before going all-in on Cyber Scrilla.

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