As of June 2022, there are about 2 million bitcoins (BTC) left to be mined, which means that there are nearly 19 million currently in existence.
Bitcoin has gained popularity as an investment in recent years, because of its unique design and underlying technology.
Part of what gives Bitcoin value is that it has a limited supply. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence, each of which can be divided into 1,000 millibitcoins (mBTC), 1,000,000 microbitcoins (μBTC), or 100,000,000 Satoshis. Additional bitcoins can’t be created, and existing bitcoins can’t be destroyed, they can only be lost.
The 21 million bitcoins are released into the market over time through the process of mining. When the mining process first began, numerous bitcoins were released, and over time, fewer and fewer bitcoins get released. It will take until about the year 2140 for all the bitcoins to be mined and available for trade.
Let’s dive into the details of how many bitcoins have been mined, the future of the bitcoin market, and what this means for investors.
How Many Bitcoins Have Been Mined as of the First-Half 2022?
The majority of bitcoins have already been mined. As of June 2022, 19.07 million bitcoins were mined, leaving only 1.93 million left to be mined.
Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency that is released into the market through a process called mining (more on the mining process below). Anyone can become a miner and purchase a computer that solves complex mathematical equations — equipment that is imperative for mining.
As these equations are solved, they verify transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. As a reward for keeping the bitcoin ledger up to date and verifying transactions, miners receive bitcoins as a reward.
How Many Bitcoins Are Mined Each Day?
As of the first-half 2022, approximately 900 bitcoins were mined each day globally.
Every 10 minutes, miners verify one block of bitcoin transactions. The current reward for verifying one block of bitcoin is 6.25 bitcoins. So, approximately 900 bitcoins are released into the market every day. However, approximately every four years, the reward for mining a block of transactions gets cut in half, in an event called “halving.” The last halving event took place in May 2020, which resulted in the block reward being reduced to 6.25 bitcoins.
It’s because of the halving events that it will take until the year 2140 for all bitcoins to be mined. When bitcoin mining first started, the block reward was 50 BTC per block, but each bitcoin was only worth pennies.
Once all the bitcoins have been mined, miners will still receive mining fees as an incentive to keep their equipment running.
Although the bitcoin supply is technically 21 million, about 4 million bitcoins have been lost forever. Bitcoins can be lost if their owner loses the private key to a paper wallet or other cold storage wallet, or if the bitcoins are stored on a hard drive or their wallet that gets lost. A private key is required to send the bitcoins from one wallet to another, so without it, the bitcoins can’t be used or sold. Many bitcoins were lost in the early days of the cryptocurrency, because owners weren’t as careful when the coins were only worth pennies.
Cold storage wallets are the most secure way to store bitcoins, as they are offline and not held on an exchange, which can be vulnerable to hackers. But it’s important to keep cold storage wallets in a safe place, as well as backups of the private keys, otherwise bitcoins can be lost forever.
In addition to lost bitcoins, thousands of bitcoins have been stolen over the years. In 2014, the Tokyo crypto exchange, Mt. Gox was hacked, during which 850,000 bitcoins were stolen. And in 2016, the Hong Kong based Bitfinex exchange was hacked and the thieves made away with 150,000 stolen bitcoin. Although these bitcoins are still in the market, they generally aren’t in circulation — thieves don’t want to get caught, so instead of selling the bitcoin, they might hold them in wallets instead.
Some investors who bought into the Bitcoin market early on own a significant portion of the available bitcoins. Investors who own enough bitcoin to affect the market when they buy or sell are called “whales.” About 1,600 entities currently own about 5 million of the available bitcoins, approximately 28% of the total supply.
The purported creator (or group of creators) of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, has held 1 million bitcoins in their wallet since Bitcoin’s inception, without ever moving any of them. Although some whales do sell and spend their bitcoins, they mainly hold on to most of them, which essentially removes them from the market.
While it is difficult to know for certain the exact number of BTC in circulation today, the best calculation is that, as of June 2022, there are slightly less than 19 million of circulating bitcoin. This figure does not account for the lost, stolen, and held bitcoin.
More About Bitcoin Mining
Every transaction that happens using bitcoins gets stored on a ledger called the blockchain. This ledger is similar to any bank ledger that keeps track of balances and transactions.
In order to ensure that the blockchain stays up to date and accurate, miners use computer equipment to solve complex equations in a process called mining. When these equations are solved, they verify transactions on the blockchain.
Why There Is a Limited Supply of Bitcoin
When Bitcoin’s creator(s) designed its protocol, they decided to create a limited supply of BTC. Limiting the number of bitcoins creates a built-in level of demand and value for Bitcoin. The limit was partially in response to the currency system of the U.S. dollar (USD), which does not have a limited supply. Because the USD is controlled by centralized authorities — like the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) — the Fed can decide to print more money and take other actions that potentially could result in inflation or other economic issues.
If there were an unlimited supply of BTC, it would be difficult for the cryptocurrency to gain any momentum as a valuable asset. Limiting the supply creates demand. Similarly, if all the BTC were mined within just a few years, excitement about Bitcoin might fade quickly. Further, Bitcoin would not have the chance to be built out as an industry or viable currency.
How Bitcoin’s Supply Compares to Other Coins
One of the main differences between the various cryptocurrencies available on the market is their maximum supply and creation process. Below, we compare Bitcoin and five other popular cryptos based on these two attributes.
[Cited in alphabetical order. All data are of July 2022.]
1. Bitcoin (BTC)
Maximum supply: 21,000,000
Amount in circulation: Approx.19,093,556
Creation process: Bitcoin (BTC) — defined in 2008 in a whitepaper, and launched in 2009 — is acclaimed as the world’s first cryptocurrency. BTC is a peer-to-peer (P2P) independent network. All participants are considered equals on the Bitcoin network, and all transactions occur directly between them, without the need for an intermediary (like a bank) to permit or facilitate them.
BTC’s mining process is the mechanism that creates new coins. As transactions are relayed across the network, they get picked up by miners and packaged into blocks, which in turn are protected by complex cryptographic calculations.
2. Cardano (ADA)
Maximum supply: 45,000,000,000
Amount in circulation: Approx. 33,752,565,071
Creation process: ADA supports the smooth functioning of smart contracts while also ensuring the network’s security and performance. Its unique architecture employs a dual-layer system, which is distinct from most other blockchain platforms. Its settlement layer (CSL) allows ADA token holders to send and receive transactions almost instantly at low fees, while its computational layer (CCL) serves as the foundation for the rest of Cardano’s functionality.
Cardano is used by agricultural companies to track fresh produce from field to fork, and other products built on the platform allow educational credentials to be stored safely. Many compelling use cases for ADA are coming to the fore — with the potential to better our economy and society.
3. Dogecoin (DOGE)
Maximum supply: No maximum cap
Amount in circulation: Approx. 133,000,000
Creation process: DOGE has gained notoriety for being heavily engaged with social media. DOGE’s functionality differs from Bitcoin’s proof-of-work (PoW) protocol in a number of ways, one of which is by using Scrypt technology. DOGE has a block creation time of one minute, and the maximum supply is uncapped, which means that there is no limit to the number of DOGE that can be mined. You can mine DOGE either alone, or by joining a mining pool using Windows, Mac or Linux, and with a GPU.
4. Ethereum (ETH)
Maximum supply: No maximum cap
Amount in circulation: Approx. 122,000,000
Creation process: Ethereum (ETH) has pioneered the concept of a blockchain smart contract platform. Smart contracts are computer programs that automatically execute the actions necessary to fulfill an agreement between several parties on the internet. They were designed to reduce the need for trusted intermediates between contractors, thus reducing transaction costs while also increasing transaction reliability.
Ethereum’s blockchain was designed, theoretically, to make any program more robust, censorship-resistant and less prone to fraud by running it on a globally distributed network of public nodes.
5. Litecoin (LTC)
Maximum supply: 84,000,000
Amount in circulation: Approx. 70,711,344
Creation process: Litecoin (LTC) was created based on the Bitcoin (BTC), and features many of BTC’s properties. However, it differs in terms of the hashing algorithm used, hard cap, block transaction times, and other factors. Litecoin has a block time of 2.5 minutes and extremely low transaction fees, making it suitable for micro-transactions and point-of-sale (PoS) payments. LTC features many of the same properties as Bitcoin, and was intended to be a lite version of BTC.
Litecoin was released via an open-source client on GitHub in 2011. Since then, it has exploded in both usage and acceptance among merchants, and has counted among the top ten cryptocurrencies by market capitalization for most of its existence.
6. XRP (XRP)
Maximum supply: 100,000,000,000
Amount in circulation: Approx. 48,343,101,197
Creation process: Unlike Bitcoin or Ethereum, the XRP Ledger (XRPL) is a decentralized, public blockchain led by a global developer community. It uses a unique Federated Consensus mechanism as its method of validating transactions. Transactions are confirmed on the XRPL through a consensus protocol, in which designated independent servers called validators agree on the order and outcome of XRP transactions. All servers in the network process each transaction according to the same rules, and any transaction that follows the protocol is confirmed instantly.
All transactions are public and transparent, and anyone can operate a validator. There are currently more than 50 validators on the ledger, operated by universities, exchanges, businesses, and individuals around the world.
What Will Happen After All the Bitcoins Have Been Mined?
Once bitcoin mining is finished — possibly in 2140 if mining protocols don’t change — no new bitcoins will be introduced to the market. While miners will still make money in transaction fees, those fees may or may not be enough of an incentive for miners to want or be able to continue their operations.
If transaction fees increase, buyers, and sellers might be discouraged from using Bitcoin. If miners no longer keep the network running, Bitcoin could collapse completely, or it could shift to being run by a centralized entity.
Some have argued that bitcoin’s supply cap will come up for debate during the next 100 years, or after 2140. If Bitcoin does become an important part of the global economic system, the limit of 21 million coins could become problematic.
Moreover, other parts of the Bitcoin blockchain likely would change in the coming decades, as they already have before. There could be changes to processing times, transaction fees, hard forks, and other elements of the protocol. It’s possible that Bitcoin could function entirely differently in 100 years; that it would have disappeared entirely by then; or that it would still be functioning the same way it is today.
Can Bitcoin’s Supply Limit Change?
No, Bitcoin’s Supply Cap Cannot Change
The main reason that BTC’s supply limit can’t change is because this proviso is built into Bitcoin’s architecture, into its community governance rules, and its incentive system for miners. The hard cap of 21 million BTC has a positive effect, as it increases the coins’ scarcity, which in turn raises their value.
When a product’s supply is said to have “absolute scarcity,” it means that the product’s supply is finite; no matter how much demand there is for it, no one can produce more. It’s stipulated as part of a cryptocurrency’s charter. The only output value that can change is Bitcoin’s. No matter how much energy is spent mining BTC, its maximum amount will always be 21 million.
And the only way to circumvent this is for a crypto to completely reinvent itself, creating new rules and new mining incentives.
But Why Is the Number of Bitcoins Limited?
Many believe that Bitcoin‘s 21 million hard cap was a side effect — either conscious or inadvertent — of its creator(s)’ two initial key decisions: 1) Bitcoin would add new blocks to its blockchain on an average of every 10 minutes; and 2) that the reward paid to miners (starting with 50 BTC) would be cut in half every four years. These parameters cemented the 21 million cap into the very structure of BTC. When the cap is met it cannot be exceeded, and unless Bitcoin becomes a new entity — for example, by merging with another company — then the protocol we now know as Bitcoin would die.
Others think that BTC’s 21 million supply limit is more of a mathematical coincidence than a conscious choice.
Investing in Bitcoin
You may be interested in investing in bitcoin while the market is still young. Or perhaps you want to stick with more traditional investments like stocks and precious metals. Either way, there are useful tools available to help you get started. SoFi offers cryptocurrency trading in an easy-to-use phone app.
On SoFi Invest®, investors can trade cryptocurrencies with as little as $10. Their first purchase of $50 or greater will get them a bonus of up to $100 in bitcoin. See full terms at sofi.com/crypto. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Cardano can be traded 24/7. Plus, SoFi takes security seriously and uses a number of tools to keep investors’ crypto holdings secure.
How many Bitcoins are left to be minted?
As of June 2022, there are approximately 2 million bitcoins (BTC) left to be mined.
Why is there a cap of 21 million BTC, not more or less?
The creator(s) of Bitcoin specified that the maximum amount of Bitcoin should not exceed 21 million.
How long does it take to mine one Bitcoin?
Technically, when we speak of mining BTC, we mean one block of Bitcoin, not one single coin as in a USD coin. It takes about 10 minutes to mine one block of BTC.
How many bitcoins can be mined per day?
On average, 144 blocks of new BTC are mined per day. And each block contains 6.25 BTC.
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