Crypto Investing
6 Oct 2020

How Many Bitcoins Are There?

CoinSwitch Kuber

Bitcoins are not infinite: They are rare and valuable resources, much like gold or fossil fuels.

But while you can invest in heavy-duty mining equipment and mine gold and fossil fuels day and night. They are exhaustible in nature.

Meaning there is a limited supply in the earth’s crust, after which you will have to wait until they replenish over centuries.

Like our earth’s limited supply of natural resources, Bitcoins are exhaustible in nature too.

But by design, thanks to the shrewd calculations that went into formulating Bitcoin, the difference is:

With natural resources, you can’t predict quite when you’ll hit rock bottom and run out. However, in the case of Bitcoins, which you can ‘mine’ virtually by solving complex mathematical equations with super-powered computers to aid you, you’ll know exactly where to draw the line. You’ll know when to stop looking.

This is because the inventor of Bitcoins designed it so that there are precisely 21 million Bitcoins out there for you to mine.

Of these 21 million, approximately 18.5 million Bitcoins have already been mined to date, which leaves 2.5 million Bitcoins up for grabs if you’re thinking of becoming a Bitcoin miner.

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Bitcoin Miner’s Perspective: How Many Bitcoins Are There?

As a Bitcoin miner, you will have to decode elaborate mathematical problems on the Bitcoin network to mine a Bitcoin. But your job description doesn’t end there.

You will also have to document the Bitcoin ownership on the public ledger that runs on blockchain technology. The public ledger keeps track of Bitcoin transactions and conducts verification checks to ensure that there are no discrepancies or fraudulence in the Bitcoin network.

In exchange, you will receive Bitcoins every time you augment the blockchain ledger with a new transaction block. It basically looks like adding a new page to the public ledger that holds a record of every transaction made in Bitcoin history. So, with each new page, you add, you get an amount of Bitcoin called the block reward.

Sounds easy, right? 

Read on, and you’ll understand why it’s not as easy as it sounds.

As an individual, you cannot hope to make a profit mining Bitcoins because the competition is too fierce. Not to mention, equipped with extremely advanced technology.

The process is so expensive that even professional Bitcoin miners have to sell a chunk of the Bitcoins they mine to cover the operational costs involved.

Besides the many mining farms with state-of-the-art equipment to make you feel at a very unfair disadvantage.

There is also the fact that the Bitcoin network regulates its mining process through various parameters such as mining difficulty. Mining difficulty refers to how easy or hard it is for miners to find Bitcoins on the network.

After all, if the process were so easy, wouldn’t the resourceful miners out there have all 21 million Bitcoins out in circulation by now?

All this directly translates to making sure the next 2.5 million Bitcoins will take over a century to get mined.

Yes, you read that, right!

Experts predict, the last Bitcoin will get mined around the year 2140. And hence it is highly unlikely that we will be around to see the last Bitcoin unearthed.

So let us focus on the ones that are already up and running on the Bitcoin network.

Although there are 18.5 million Bitcoins in existence now, we cannot say that all 18.5 of these millions are in active circulation.

Most of this virtual currency is being used by traders to trade on crypto exchanges; some use it to exchange for commodities and services, while quite a few hold it and some have even misplaced it.

Misplacing Bitcoins

You might think it is impossible to misplace Bitcoins because they are virtual currency with no physical form. It’s not like you can carry it around in your jeans or drop it on the streets, so you can’t possibly lose it. Right? Wrong.

While it’s not possible to lose cryptocurrency in the technical sense of the word, you can still lose access to your digital wallet.

There have been instances of forgotten security measures keeping owners from their Bitcoins. Untimely deaths that result in digital wallets being locked away forever because their passwords were not known to the next of kin. You can always trace your bitcoins’ location, but you cannot access them if you lose your passwords.

There is yet another factor to consider when you think of the number of Bitcoins in circulation. Satoshi Nakamoto is also said to have mined a significant fortune for himself (or themselves). There have been many predictions about the amount Satoshi kept aside.

The winning vote on this goes to the popularly accepted analysis by Sergio Lerner, which claims that around 980,000 bitcoins belong to Satoshi, which accounts for almost a million coins that are not in circulation on the Bitcoin network.

There’s no need to worry about the number of Bitcoins because there are plenty of Bitcoins to go around as of now. And considering all the facts, Bitcoins will be around longer than we will.

But surely from any equation, the total supply of 21 million Bitcoin will never be enough for 7 Billion inhabitants of this blue planet, so you can very well guess where the price will go when the demand and supply pressure kicks in completely.

But what will happen to miners once this 21M limit is exhausted? Let’s find out.

Impact of Finite Bitcoin Supply on Bitcoin Miners

Even though we still have a century to go until the miners mine the last Bitcoin, there will still come a day when we will have all 21M Bitcoins mined. Buy Bitcoin at the best rate.

Will miners then become redundant? Not really.

Because even though there will be no block reward for miners for validating transactions. They are likely to continue validating new transactions on the network because of the fees attached to Bitcoin transactions. While the current Bitcoin transaction fee is a few hundred dollars per block, it could rise to thousands of dollars with increased network transactions.

Want to know more about crypto and bitcoin history read our blog about bitcoin and cryptocurrency biopics

And that is how miners will continue to thrive through the network fee.

FAQs on How many Bitcoins are there?

1. How many Bitcoins are left?

Out of the total supply of 21M Bitcoins, 2.5M Bitcoins are yet to be mined.

2. How many Bitcoins are mined per day?

Bitcoin mining is when miners solve complex computational problems on the network to create new bitcoins. Currently, around 900 Bitcoins are mined every day. Check the everyday BTC to INR rate.

3. Why is Bitcoin’s supply limit set to 21 million?

There are multiple theories about why Bitcoin is capped at 21 million, but the one derived from an email exchange between Nakamoto and Mike Hearn is the most prominent.

In the mail, Satoshi talks about aligning Bitcoin’s price to fiat currencies and used 0.001 BTC = 1 Euro as an example. And further adds that if Bitcoin remains a small niche, then the price per BTC will be much lower, and if a fair chunk of people adopts it, the value of each Bitcoin will rise.

During the same time, the entire world’s money supply stood at $21 trillion.

4. How many Bitcoins are currently in circulation?

Currently, we have around 18.5 million Bitcoin in circulation out of the total supply of 21 million Bitcoins.

Disclaimer : Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. The information provided in this post is not to be considered as investment/financial advice from CoinSwitch. Any action taken upon the information shall be at user's own risk.

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CoinSwitch Kuber

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