Who Owns All The Bitcoin?
The origin of the cryptocurrency we know as Bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies has captivated our attention and everything about it, How do cryptocurrencies gain value, How Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are mined, How you store them, How you spend them. We speculate a lot about the future of this virtual, digital currency, and how it might have irrevocably changed the world of financial transactions as we know it.
The way that the Bitcoin currency has been designed means that there is a maximum limit of 21 million Bitcoin that can ever be available. It’s estimated that this limit will be reached around the year 2033.
While 21 million is the total limit for Bitcoin production, there is currently around 17.2 million already in circulation.
So who holds all of this Bitcoin? What are they doing with them? How much are they worth? What are they spending them on?
It is a little surprising to realize that it is the United States government which owns the largest Bitcoin wallet. More precisely it’s the FBI, and they control around 200,000 Bitcoin with a value of more than $2 billion.
This isn’t clever investing by the FBI. They seized control of these Bitcoins when they shut down various sites like Silk Road (as part of investigations into crime and terrorist activity that they believed was being paid for by Bitcoin).
While the FBI holds the biggest wallet of Bitcoin, they aren’t the largest holder of Bitcoin.
Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the programmers who created Bitcoin, is believed to hold around one million Bitcoin spread across a multitude of Bitcoin wallets.
The other Bitcoin holders of interest are the Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler. They made their money through Facebook, but have turned their attention to Bitcoin.
While we’ve talked about these Bitcoin holders who are probably the most significant players, this reflects a concentration trend across the entire currency recent analysis suggests that about 1000 people own a combined total of approximately 50% of all Bitcoins that have been produced.
What this extraordinary concentration of ownership means is that it will probably constrict the ability of the cryptocurrency to reach critical mass regarding the volume of transactions to become a viable form of payment on an international scale.
While we currently have a limited number of businesses who have the capability to accept Bitcoin as a payment method, it seems hard to imagine where the momentum for more companies to accept the cryptocurrency if there are only a small handful of consumers who are able or wanting to use them.
It is clear that a digital, virtual currency works. It is clear that the blockchain algorithm that enables Bitcoin can be used to have a sustainable cryptocurrency.
Perhaps it’s time to start working out how to get your hands on some Bitcoin, maybe you’ll not be in the top 100 bitcoin owners but will undoubtedly make a good investment.