What are Bitcoin Ordinals?

General Wallet Use

15 min

In 2023, Bitcoin Ordinals breathed new life into the Bitcoin ecosystem, sparking excitement and optimism when it was needed most.

As interest waned and market prices dipped, the introduction of Bitcoin Ordinals jumpstarted a fresh wave of enthusiasm, paving the way for more innovative developments. Ordinals renewed a sense of possibility within the Bitcoin community. So, what are Ordinals all about?

How Did Bitcoin Ordinals Begin?

The story of Bitcoin Ordinals began in the creative mind of Casey Rodarmor, who introduced a groundbreaking new concept to the cryptocurrency world. Rodarmor was on a quest for innovation and looking to unlock new possibilities for the Bitcoin network.

Rodarmor had been conducting extensive research and experimentation before Ordinals ever launched. When the Ordinals protocol was launched on the Bitcoin blockchain in January 2023, it marked a significant milestone in the evolution of Bitcoin. It also offered a glimpse into a future where digital assets could be imbued with unprecedented levels of granularity and distinction.

Put simply, Ordinals are a numbering system that assigns unique values to individual Bitcoin satoshis — the smallest units of Bitcoin. This system allows for the inscription of arbitrary data and metadata directly onto the Bitcoin blockchain. Each satoshi is marked with a distinct identity. The emergence of Ordinals not only introduced a novel way to interact with Bitcoin, but also paved the way for something no one dreamed was possible: Bitcoin “NFTs" right on the L1. Creating a way to make sats practically non-fungible was a significant milestone in the evolution of digital assets on the Bitcoin blockchain.

How do Bitcoin Ordinals and Inscriptions Work?

Understanding the mechanics behind Bitcoin Ordinals is important to highlight the transformative power they had on the cryptocurrency landscape. Let's delve into how this innovative protocol works.

Ordinal Theory vs. Ordinals

Ordinal theory is the system by which numerical values are assigned to individual Bitcoin satoshis. This bestows each with a unique identity. Ordinals theory forms the foundation Ordinals are built on. Ordinals themselves, on the other hand, are the satoshis which get inscribed with data and placed immutably on the blockchain.

What are Inscriptions?

Inscriptions play a pivotal role in imbuing satoshis with additional layers of information and identity. These inscriptions serve as collections of arbitrary data and metadata, allowing users to attach valuable context or creative expressions directly onto specific satoshis. In other words, the process of "minting" inscriptions is actually a Bitcoin transaction that is recorded on the L1 of the blockchain.

This process not only enhances the individuality of each satoshi, but also opens the door to a myriad of creative possibilities within the Bitcoin ecosystem. Ordinal inscriptions are at the heart of the protocol.

NFTs vs. Digital Artifacts

The concept of Bitcoin NFTs may appear similar to the traditional non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on blockchains like Ethereum. But there are some key differences between the two. In the context of Bitcoin Ordinals, NFTs are more accurately described as digital artifacts. Each of these artifacts bears a unique inscription that adds layers of significance and value.

An NFT generally represents digital artworks or collectibles stored off-chain or on a layer 2. Bitcoin inscriptions, however, add information directly onto a satoshi, which lives on-chain. This enables a level of security and immutability that traditional NFTs don’t have.

What Can Ordinals Wallets Let You Do?

In order to make use of Ordinals, you need a crypto wallet that integrates with the Bitcoin blockchain. Wallets are important to access the many use cases of Ordinals.

Connect to Marketplaces

Wallets serve as a gateway for users to connect with Ordinals-enabled marketplaces, giving seamless access to an array of desirable Ordinals. Wallets like Leather wallet provide an intuitive interface and robust marketplace integration. They allow users to explore, discover, and engage with Ordinals-based assets much easier than ever before.

Mint Ordinals

Minting ordinals is the process of inscribing unique data and metadata onto individual Bitcoin satoshis. This transforms them into distinct digital artifacts with inherent value and significance. This process, facilitated by the Bitcoin Ordinals protocol, allows users to inscribe text, images, multimedia, and more to individual sats.

By minting Ordinals, users can create verifiable records of ownership, authenticity, and provenance directly on the Bitcoin blockchain. In order to complete this process, a Bitcoin wallet is an important tool.

Buy and Trade Ordinals

Wallets also empower users to participate actively in the vibrant Ordinals market. Buying and trading Bitcoin NFTs is easy with the right wallet. Through its intuitive user experience and robust features, Leather enables users to engage in dynamic exchanges. This also helps build the growing and thriving ecosystem of digital creativity and value exchange.

Send and Receive Ordinals

With a wallet, users can also send and receive Ordinals directly to each other, peer-to-peer. Like any P2P crypto transactions, sending Ordinals from one wallet to another is completely trustless and does not require a third party.

For all things related to Ordinals ownership and trading, Leather has become the top choice for many crypto users.


In just a matter of months, Bitcoin Ordinals managed to completely shake up the crypto landscape. They opened new avenues of innovation and sparked a Cambrian explosion of project development on Bitcoin.

This is especially true as the Ordinals protocol continues to evolve. Now, recursive inscriptions have enticed even more Bitcoin users to explore how Bitcoin Ordinals work and explore the potential impact they have on the base Bitcoin blockchain. The protocol has also inspired the creation of additional tokens on the Bitcoin blockchain like BRC-20, contributing to a growing ecosystem where BTC isn't the only asset catching Bitcoin users' attention.

Whether you're looking to buy and sell Bitcoin Ordinals or mint your own Ordinal NFT, the Ordinals landscape has broadened considerably. The impact of Bitcoin Ordinals has led users to speculate what could be in store for everything from Bitcoin wallets to the protocol's employment in Bitcoin DeFi. Ultimately, Ordinals were a breakthrough for the Bitcoin ecosystem and the crypto community at large.

Connect to web3 applications built on Bitcoin with the Leather browser extension. Install Leather – the only wallet you need to tap into the multilayered Bitcoin economy – today.

This article was updated on 3/13/24

This article was updated on 3/13/24