Who Owns the Most Bitcoin?
Table of Contents
- All bitcoin is controlled by private keys. The owner of a private key owns the bitcoin controlled by that key
- Ownership of bitcoin, even in large quantities, does not confer any control over the Bitcoin network
- The five wealthiest bitcoin addresses collectively own more than 778,627 BTC
- Microstrategy owns more bitcoin than any other publicly traded company
Who Owns Bitcoin?
Satoshi Nakamoto is the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, but he doesn’t own the Bitcoin project, nobody does.
Bitcoin is software ran by a decentralized network, which means no single party is in control of the set of rules in the software. These rules must be agreed upon by the network participants in order for them to transact.
Who Owns The Most Bitcoin?
Satoshi Nakamoto not only invented, but also kickstarted Bitcoin, by being the first miner to create blocks of transactions. It is estimated that Satoshi mined more than 22,000 blocks starting from January 3rd 2009, and received more than one million bitcoin in cumulative block rewards for his work. As a result, Satoshi is estimated to hold the largest bitcoin cache, more than 1 million BTC, valued at approximately $23 billion today. This bitcoin is not stored in one address, but spread across those roughly 22,000 addresses. None of it was ever spent besides a few test transactions. Satoshi left the project in 2010 and hasn’t been heard from since.
Bitcoin Wealth Distribution
Over time, bitcoin ownership has become distributed in strata based on total bitcoin wealth. These categories are based on the total number of bitcoin located at an address.
The amount of bitcoin that each stratum of addresses owns in relation to the entire bitcoin supply fluctuates over time. Today, only five bitcoin addresses contain 100,000 - 1,000,000 BTC for a total of 778,627 BTC. The next 92 largest owners, who range from 10,000 - 100,000 BTC, own a total of 2,169,396 BTC. These wealthiest 97 addresses account for 14.15% of the total supply. Bitcoin addresses with 10,000 or more bitcoin are sometimes referred to as whales.
Not including Satoshi, five bitcoin addresses contain more than 100,000 bitcoin each. The five addresses with the most bitcoin belong to Binance, Bitfinex, MicroStrategy, and another address, whose identity is unknown. These five addresses collectively own more than 778,000 bitcoin. The exchange addresses represent the holdings of many individual investors who are not holding their own keys.
Companies Holding the Most Bitcoin
Companies can use corporate savings, called a treasury, to buy bitcoin. The benefit of this strategy, employed by companies such as Microstrategy, Tesla, and Galaxy Digital Holdings, is to protect their savings against inflation and negative-yield bonds.
Large corporations who can issue corporate bonds with low interest rates also have the opportunity to create cheap debt and use the funds to purchase bitcoin. In theory, as the dollar’s value decreases with inflation and bitcoin continues to store value, paying off fiat debt will require fewer bitcoin. This strategy is similar to buying on margin or using leverage.
Collectively, public companies own more than 216,038 BTC, equal to 1.029% of the total supply. The ten public companies holding the most bitcoin on their balance sheet hold nearly 200,000 BTC total.
Microstrategy, led by Michael Saylor, holds more bitcoin than any other public company. Microstrategy has acquired more than 131,000 BTC, which represents roughly 0.689% of the total supply. Microstrategy has purchased bitcoin with both their corporate treasury and through bond offerings. These bonds have an extremely low interest rate and can be redeemed either for equity in Microstrategy or for fiat. This tactic allows Microstrategy to acquire bitcoin cheaply and beyond the capacity of their corporate treasury.
Tesla, Inc. holds than 10,800 BTC, a 0.051% share of the total supply, after previously selling over 31,000 BTC. The third-largest bitcoin holding by a public company is Galaxy Digital Holdings, which owns 16,400 BTC.
Private companies own roughly 174,068 BTC, about 0.829% of the total supply. Block.one, a Chinese corporation, is the largest private owner of bitcoin. Block.one reportedly owns 140,000 BTC, representing 0.667% of the total supply.
Indirect Bitcoin Exposure
Indirect bitcoin exposure is one investment method for investors seeking to gain exposure to the bitcoin price without directly purchasing bitcoin. Some investors also believe they can reduce risk by investing in an extensive portfolio with many bitcoin-related assets. A Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) may contain equities and other bitcoin-related assets that result in a more diversified portfolio. Bitcoin ETFs track the price of bitcoin, albeit imperfectly. Some proposed ETFs are based on bitcoin futures and other derivative products.
ETFs own a combined 816,379 BTC, 3.88% of the total bitcoin supply. The largest bitcoin ETF is Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC), which owns 654,600 BTC, or nearly 3.2% of the total supply. In total, ETFs, public and private companies own almost 1.5 million BTC, more than 7% of the total supply.
Retirement accounts are another popular method for indirect exposure to bitcoin. A growing number of custodians offer financial services and Traditional or Roth IRA products that can include bitcoin.
Governments Holding the Most Bitcoin
Governments across the world own an estimated 259,870 BTC, representing 1.237% of the total supply. Reports claim that Bulgaria holds more than 213,519 BTC, and members of the Ukrainian government privately hold roughly 46,351 BTC. The United States government sold bitcoin recovered from the Silk Road in 2015 that would have been worth several billion dollars today, and they currently hold another cache of almost 70,000 BTC, which they are expected to sell in the near future. The U.S. Marshals Service auctions bitcoin seized by the FBI and other government agencies on its website.
Total Bitcoin Supply
There can never be more than 21 million bitcoin. For that reason, percent ownership of the total bitcoin supply can be safely calculated using the hard cap of 21 million.
However, some models use the total supply of bitcoin excluding the more than 1,000,000 BTC that Satoshi Nakamoto received in block rewards and the estimated 3-4 million coins that are lost forever. This places the total supply of bitcoin closer to 18 million rather than 21 million. Regardless of the model used, there is a strict upper limit on the number of bitcoin that will ever exist. Therefore, all bitcoin owners can be confident that their share of bitcoin will never be diluted below a certain percentage.
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