Urban dictionary defines “whale” as “in sales terms, a whale is a prospect that is significantly larger than an organisation’s average customer”.
In cryptocurrency, a “whale” has come to mean a large holder of a particular coin.
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While Bitcoin is often marketed as the most decentralised form of money out there, there also exist a few investors which hold vast amounts. In this piece, we look at some statistics around the individual investors, governments and institutions that control significant amounts of Bitcoin.
Top Bitcoin whale stats – Editor’s picks
- Satoshi Nakamoto was world’s 14th richest person at Bitcoin’s all-time high
- The top 10,000 individual investors control about one third of Bitcoin’s supply
- Every citizen of Norway owns about $3.80 of Bitcoin through the Norwegian Government Pension fund
- The US government is thought to own 214,000 Bitcoin, over 1% of the total supply
- Less than 2% of addresses contain more than one Bitcoin
- The Chinese government owns 194,000 Bitcoin, equal to 0.92% of the total supply.
25 Bitcoin whale stats
1., Satoshi Nakamoto possesses 5.2% of the total Bitcoin supply
Perhaps the biggest whale of them all, Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of Bitcoin and, in a lot of ways, the cryptocurrency industry. In the early days post launch in 2009 and 2010, Nakamoto was one of very few users of the network, allowing him/her/them to mine an estimated 1.1 million bitcoins, equivalent to 5.2% of the total supply.
2. Satoshi Nakamoto was the world’s 14th richest person at Bitcoin’s all-time high
Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $68,789 in November 2021. This put Satoshi Nakamoto’s wealth at 75.7 billion. Looking at the Forbes rich list, this would place Nakamoto as the 14th richest person in the world. Of course, not only is the 1.1 million bitcoins an estimate, but we don’t even know if Nakamoto is one person (source: Forbes).
3. Satoshi Nakamoto would become the world’s richest person if Bitcoin were to hit a price of $165,000
At time of writing, the world’s richest person is French business magnate Bernard Arnault, who recently overtook Elon Musk. According to Forbes, he is worth $181.8 billion. Were Bitcoin’s price to rise to $165,000, Satoshi Nakamoto would overtake him.
4. The top 10,000 individual investors control about one third of Bitcoin’s supply
Bitcoin is known for its decentralisation, but there are a collection of investors who own a massive chunk of the supply. The top 10,000 own over one third of all Bitcoins (source: NBER).
5. Approximately fifty miners control half the mining capacity of Bitcoin
Critics often point towards the heavy concentration of miners as concerning, given it has security implications for the network. 0.1% of miners, meaning approximately fifty miners, control half the mining capacity of the entire Bitcoin network. Theoretically, these miners could collude to launch a 51% attack on the network – although in reality, the economic incentives mean that this remains unlikely (source: NBER).
6. Top 10% of Bitcoin miners control 90% of the mining capacity
Building on the aforementioned stat, the top 10% of miners control a staggering 90% of the mining capacity on the network.
- The top 5 mining pools control 95% of the mining capacity of Bitcoin
7. The top 5 mining pools control 95% of the mining capacity of Bitcoin
Miners get paid in Bitcoin if they win the right to validate a block. Due to the variance of revenue that this causes, many miners prefer to join pools and split the awards pro rata. I put together the below graph to show the growth in power of these big mining pools (source: IntoTheBlock).
8. MicroStrategy owns 0.68% of the Bitcoin supply
Microstrategy, the software company co-founded by Bitcoin lover Michael Saylor, owns a staggering 130,000 bitcoins – good for 0.68% of the total circulating supply. (Source: Michael Saylor).
9. MicroStrategy has an average purchase price of $30,369 on its Bitcoin
Michael Saylor has continued to purchase Bitcoin. The most recent purchase at time of writing was for 301 bitcoins at an average price of $19,851.(Source: Michael Saylor).
10. MicroStrategy is down about $1.81 billion on their Bitcoin purchases
MicroStrategy’s 130,000 Bitcoin cost $3.98 billion at an average price of $30,369. As of today’s prices, the Bitcoin is worth $2.17 billion, meaning a loss of $1.81 billion.
11. Block (formerly Square) own 8,027 bitcoins, 0.04% of the total circulating supply
Block, the technology conglomerate founded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, owns 8,027 Bitcoin. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, its 8,027 bitcoins worth $134 million at time of writing. (Source: buybitcoinworldwide.com).
12. Every citizen of Norway owns $3.80 of Bitcoin
The Norwegian Government Pension Fund invests oil profits on behalf of the nation’s 5.4 million citizens. Through its 0.92% stake in MicroStrategy and its 0.44% stake in Block, the fund indirectly owns 1,231 bitcoins. This means each citizen of Norway technically owns $3.80 of Bitcoin (0.00022762573 Bitcoin). (Source: nbim.no)
13. Tesla owns 10,725 Bitcoin
Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company owns 10,725 Bitcoin. This is after selling 75% of its stake over concerns about the environmental impact of mining. (Source: Tesla earnings report).
14. The Luna Foundation Guard spent 80,000 Bitcoin on May 16th, 2022 – the biggest spend of bitcoins by any single entity or individual in one day.
The Luna Foundation Guard, set up to defend the peg of the UST stablecoin, which was paired to fellow top-10 coin LUNA, spent 80,000 Bitcoin in an ill-fated last-ditch attempt to save the peg as the Terra ecosystem collapsed.
15. The US government is thought to own 214,000 Bitcoin, over 1% of the total supply
The latest seizure of Bitcoin came last month, when the US government scooped 50,000 Bitcoin in relation to the illegal marketplace Silk Road. Not much is known about the government’s stash, but it is thought to sell the Bitcoin off intermittently in public auctions. (Source: cryptonews)
16. 110 addresses hold more than 10,000 Bitcoin
These 10,000 Bitcoins are 12% of the total supply. (Source: bitinfocharts.com)
17. Less than 2% of addresses hold one Bitcoin or greater
One Bitcoin is a massive hurdle for most these days, despite it being worth pennies little more than a decade ago. Today, less than 2% of the addresses have reached this mark. (Source: bitinfocharts.com)
18. Over 24,000 Bitcoin addresses contain over one million dollars
In terms of Bitcoin millionaires, there are over 24,000 addresses containing at least one million dollars worth of Bitcoin. Of course, individuals could own more than one address (and certain addresses could be split between many, such as exchange addresses). (Source: bitinfocharts.com)
19. The biggest wallet in the world holds 250,000 Bitcoin, worth over $4 billion, and belongs to Binance
This wallet contains 1.3% of the total supply, worth over $4 billion. It is a cold wallet belonging to the exchange Binance.
20. Galaxy Digital own 40,000 Bitcoin, the second biggest stash of Bitcoin of any public company
Galaxy Digital, the financial services company focusing on digital assets, is second to only MicroStrategy. (Source: buybitcoinworldwide.com)
21. Coinbase holds 9,000 Bitcoins
Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange that went public during the pandemic, holds 9,000 Bitcoin on its balance sheet, the eighth largest holdings out of public companies. (Source: buybitcoinworldwide.com)
22. Chinese company Block.one own 140,000 Bitcoin, the biggest holding of any company in the world
While MicroStrategy own the most out of any public company, Block.one, who are a private company from China that developed the cryptocurrency EOS, owns 140,000 Bitcoin (compared to MicroStrategy’s 130,000), making them the company (known, at least) to own the most Bitcoin. (Source: ByBit).
23. El Salvador owns 2,381 Bitcoin, 0.01% of the total supply
The El Salvadoran government currently owns 2,381 Bitcoins bought at an average price of $43,357. That means the Salvadoran taxpayer has lost over $63 million. (I visited there this summer, if you’re interest in reading about my experience!). (Source: buybitcoinworldwide.com)
24. The Chinese government owns 194,000 Bitcoin, equal to 0.92% of the total supply.
The Chinese government owns 194,000 Bitcoin, following a seizure related to a PlusToken scam in 2020. (Source: CoinDesk)
25. Finland sold 1,889 Bitcoin this year and donated the proceeds to Ukraine
The Finnish government sold 1,889 Bitcoin this year for $47.4 million at an average price of $25,000 per coin. The stash was built up via narcotic seizures and was donated to the humanitarian effort in Ukraine. (Source: Arabnews.com)
Bitcoin may be the closest thing out there to a decentralised asset, but it is important to note that there does remain a lot of coins locked up by top wallets.
Some of the biggest owners above – the Chinese government, Satoshi Nakamoto, MicroStrategy, Block.one – own enough Bitcoin to cause significant market impact were they ever to sell in one go. Elsewhere, the consolidation of mining is also worth keeping an eye on.
These factors do present a layer of risk for Bitcoin, as the liquidity is not enough to absorb selling pressure of this scale without a substantial drop in price, should anything happen to these parties.
Yet despite this, Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper, published back in 2008, remains an incredible technological breakthrough, and the father of the concept of decentralisation in the monetary sphere. It’s just important to see that like everything in life, Bitcoin is not perfect.