First ever SMS message sold at French auction for €107,000

The message, which reads ‘Merry Christmas’ was sent on December 3, 1992 using the Vodafone network

22 December 2021
An image of the original code of the world's first text message taken from the Aguttes website

The SMS was sold by Aguttes auction house Pic: Aguttes auction house

By Connexion journalist

The first SMS (short messaging service) ever sent has been sold by Paris auction house Aguttes for €107,000.

The message reads ‘Merry Christmas’ and was sent by British software developer Neil Papworth to a Vodafone director called Richard Jarvis on December 3 1992, using the firm’s network. 

Mr Papworth had composed the text on a computer and sent it to an Orbitel 901, a predecessor of the mobile phone. 

One year later, in 1993, Nokia launched an SMS feature along with a distinctive beep tone to alert users to an incoming message.

It was not until 1999 that texts could finally be sent across multiple phone networks and their popularity spiralled towards the more than 22 billion such messages which are reportedly sent around the world each day. 

“The thing being sold is an acrylic structure,” said the Maison Aguttes Maximilien Aguttes. “Inside, there is a digital screen which shows the replica of the code which allowed this ‘Merry Christmas’ text to be sent.” 

The buyer, whose identity is as yet unknown, will also receive a non-fungible token (NFT), a unique unit of data associated with a particular digital asset, enabling collectors to trade in intangible artworks.

NFTs are becoming an increasingly recognisable feature of the art world, with one work, Everydays: the First 5 000 Days by American artist Beeple, fetching $69.3million at Christie’s auction house in March. 

Vodafone said that it would donate the proceeds of the sale to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The value of the SMS message had initially been estimated at €200,000.

In March, the first ever Tweet from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, which read ‘just setting up my twttr’ was also sold for over €2million at auction.

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