Who Has The Bitcoin? A Closer Look At The Bitcoin Supply
As evidenced by increasing retail ownership and historically high levels of long-term holders, it’s clear that bitcoin's supply is getting distributed more evenly across this vast array of adopters.
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Who Holds The Bitcoin?
Bitcoin’s public ledger comes with a unique level of transparency that includes significant information detailing where the bitcoin supply lives. With the help of address tracking, public announcements and some estimation across data sources, we can get a sense of where nearly 47% of total bitcoin supply is today. A considerable portion of bitcoin’s 21-million supply is estimated to be lost, which includes Satoshi Nakamoto’s coins. There’s useful data from both Glassnode and Chainalysis to suggest that nearly 4 million bitcoin has been lost.
Other large amounts of bitcoin are on exchanges, in the Grayscale trust, or in bitcoin miners’ wallets. Swaths of bitcoin have been accumulated by the likes of MicroStrategy, and more recently Tether. Some 5,500 bitcoin are locked up on the Lightning Network, while other sums exist as wrapped bitcoin (WBTC) on blockchains besides Bitcoin.
Most bitcoin estimates can be tracked on a routine basis when looking at examples, like known U.S. government-associated on-chain addresses from various bitcoin seizures, or when analyzing monthly production updates from public bitcoin miners, while other holding details can be much harder to come by. A private institution may have indicated bitcoin holdings years ago, but isn’t required to publicly announce updates of their stash. For example, in 2019, Block.one said they had 164,000 bitcoin, but this figure could be outdated since we don’t know all their addresses and it’s easy to assume they directed some of that capital into a new venture. Other instances include uncertainty around government holdings. China may have 194,000 bitcoin from seizure, but it’s difficult to verify if this number is current.
All that said, the below chart is a rough cut of available data that can be expanded upon and improved for better accuracy across different groups. These figures come from on-chain forensics, public SEC filings and balance sheet attestations.
Of the 2.3 million of bitcoin on exchanges, the majority resides on Binance and Coinbase. This wouldn’t include bitcoin in investment custody products like Grayscale and Coinbase Custody, for example. Binance’s share of bitcoin on exchanges has risen from under 10% in 2019 up to 30% today. The company is estimated to have nearly 700,000 bitcoin on their platform, which can predominantly be attributed to their derivatives marketplace dominance and their international presence, whereas Coinbase is mainly a spot exchange with a heavy U.S. presence.
Over time, the amount of circulating bitcoin supply on exchanges has reached 17.5% of circulating supply, reaching its peak in March 2020 before declining to just 11.89% today. We suspect that the trend of declining bitcoin on exchanges as a percentage of circulating supply will continue as bitcoin distributes across an increased amount of global adopters, thanks to sophisticated personal custody solutions becoming more mainstream and robust as time goes on.
Additionally, we can break the bitcoin supply down into cohorts of long-term and short-term holders. The long- and short-term holder heuristic filters out balances on exchanges from calculations and quantifies long-term holdings as coins that have not been moved in over 155 days. Shown below is a visual of the holder cohorts and the cutoff date for short-term holders to age into the long-term classification.
How do the current levels of long-term holders compare to previous times in Bitcoin’s history? Let’s take a closer look…