As of August 2021, there are currently over 19,138,343.00 BTC in circulation – with millions of coins yet to be mined before bitcoin reaches its cap of 21,000,000.
Even owning 1 BTC at this point will see you holding a digital asset worth over $20,085 (as of 1 September 2022). For those early investors who may have bought into bitcoin back in June 2010 when one BTC was worth around $0.008, bitcoin’s rise has made them ‘bitcoin millionaires’.
So, just how much bitcoin do these ‘whales’ own, and who are they?
Who has the most bitcoin?
Much like your traditional company where the founder and creator tend to hold a large amount of stock, the individual with the most bitcoin is its founder, Satoshi Nakamoto.
Satoshi - whose real identity is unknown - was responsible for the bitcoin white paper released in 2008. Recent research suggests they hold between 1,000,000 and 1,100,000 BTC, gained through crypto mining between 2009 and 2010.
If Satoshi does hold 1,100,000 BTC, this would put their net worth at $39.6 billion, based on the current bitcoin price.
Interestingly, despite rumours of a sale in 2020, there has yet to be any conclusive evidence that proves Satoshi has sold any of their bitcoin. This has led to many speculating that Satoshi is either dead, or has lost the key to their bitcoin wallet. Indeed, in noting the risks of its business and the crypto economy in its SEC filing, Coinbase said the following factor could have a negative impact:
the identification of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous person or persons who developed Bitcoin, or the transfer of Satoshi’s Bitcoins;
Who else owns the most bitcoin?
Aside from its founder, notable holders of a large number of bitcoin include Chris Larsen - the co-founder of Ripple - and Micree Zhan, who co-founded the Bitmain cryptocurrency mining company (via Traders of Crypto). In 2019, they were believed to have net worths of $2.7bn and $3.2bn, respectively.
Alongside a number of venture capitalists, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss - the identical twins who gained notoriety after their Facebook lawsuit, dramatised in the 2010 film The Social Network - are also the owners of a large number of bitcoin. It is believed the Winklevoss' own 180,000 BTC, around 1% of all bitcoin, which they were able to buy due to a $65m compensation payment from that Facebook lawsuit.
The largest fund holding Bitcoin is Grayscale’s Bitcoin Trust, which has 643,572 BTC alongside Coinshares which holds around 42,980 BTC through XBT Provider’s exchange-traded products.
Previously, multiple government authorities held a large number of seized bitcoin. The Bulgarian government seized over 213,000 BTC in 2017 in a Southeast European Law Enforcement Center operation against organized, cyber-criminals. This would be worth over $7.6 billion in 2021 - some 11% of Bulgaria's GDP. However, the Bulgarian finance minister stated this haul was sold off to international investors over an extended period, as to not crash the market.
Similarly, the FBI confiscated 144,000 BTC from Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht when it shut the website down in 2013, which were then sold for $334 each.
READ MORE: How many cryptocurrencies exist in 2021?