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One of Bitcoin’s most important features is its fixed supply and set, programmatic schedule of “supply shocks.” This characteristic of monetary policy makes bitcoin unique from any other asset in history.
Like how there is no plural form of “gold,” we will use “bitcoin” when referring to one bitcoin or more than one bitcoin.
How Many Bitcoin Are There?
There are currently 18.6 million bitcoins in circulation, but this exact number increases every 10 minutes as new blocks are mined. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence, leaving just over 2.4 million left to be mined.
However, the amount of bitcoin created every 10 minutes in these blocks is “halved” every four years (more on this later). Once miners reach the 21 million totals, the supply will be exhausted.
Just like how miners physically extract gold from the Earth, Bitcoin miners digitally extract bitcoin via computational power.
These miners support Bitcoin’s foundation by solving complex math problems that make the payment network secure and the transaction ledger accurate.
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Why is there a Limit on the Number of Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is the only known commodity in the universe that has a deterministic and fixed supply. Scarcity creates value, and Bitcoin’s fixed supply makes it a deflationary asset (or a hedge against inflation).
The problem with the US dollar and other fiat currencies is that the government can decide to create more of it out of thin air, which decreases its purchasing power.
Bitcoin is not susceptible to this kind of manipulation because it has a programmatic, predetermined supply.
Learn More: How to Buy Bitcoin
The incoming daily supply of new Bitcoin is predetermined by its code, written by its creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin’s set schedule of “supply shocks” every four years changes how we model its price.
We know Bitcoin’s supply behavior today and its plans for the year 2095.
This kind of certainty and predictability in its supply distinguishes it from other assets, like stocks, that can issue more shares at will. With one side of the equation handled, all that remains is calculating its demand.
Learn More: Bitcoin Halving
Bitcoin’s Halving History and Future
Pre-Halving Era: January 3, 2009, to November 28, 2012
- 50 new BTC created every 10 minutes
- 10,500,000 BTC mined in this period
1st Halving Era: November 28, 2012, to July 9, 2016
- 25 new BTC created every 10 minutes
- 5,250,000 BTC mined in this period
2nd Halving Era: July 9, 2016, to May 2020
- 12.5 BTC created every 10 minutes
- 2,625,000 BTC mined in this period
3rd Halving Era: May 2020 to 2024
- 6.25 BTC created every 10 minutes
- 1,312,500 BTC will be mined
4th Halving Era: 2024-2028
- 3.125 BTC every 10 minutes
- 656,250 BTC will be mined
5th Halving Era: 2028-2032
- 1.5625 BTC every 10 minutes
- 328,125 will be mined
…And so on until 100% of Bitcoin are mined.
What Happens to Bitcoin After All 21 Million Are Mined?
Estimates suggest that the last Bitcoin will be mined around the year 2140, but Bitcoin’s code could allow more to enter the supply.
This change requires more than 51% of Bitcoin owners to agree, but it is generally accepted that this supply increase will never happen.
It would take tens of millions (soon to be hundreds of millions) of people to agree. This level of large-scale, global coordination is unlikely.
Miners will still be needed after all bitcoins have been mined to validate new transactions on the blockchain.
Maintaining the network’s security will require immense amounts of computational power. Miners will be rewarded for providing this service by collecting translation fees.
Related: Is Bitcoin a Good Investment?
Bitcoin Supply FAQs
How many Bitcoins are left?
There are 18,592,775 total bitcoins in existence and 2,407,225 left to be mined. This brings us to the grand total of 21 million bitcoin that will ever exist.
How many Bitcoin are mined per day?
We are in Bitcoin’s third halving period (2020-2024), so 900 new Bitcoin are created per day. The daily incoming supply will decrease in Bitcoin’s next halving period.
Related: What is Cryptocurrency?
How long does it take to mine 1 Bitcoin?
The best-case scenario takes 10 minutes to mine one Bitcoin, but this ultimately depends on things like computing power, the type of equipment used, and the competition.
It is rare for miners to process 1 BTC in this amount of time, though. It can take a complex mining rig almost 30 days and up to $73,000 to mine 1 BTC.
What happens when Bitcoin runs out?
This is a popular question in the crypto community and heavily disputed. Whether or not Bitcoin becomes a true medium of exchange will affect the answer to this question. Regardless, miners will still be needed to solve mathematical proofs to support transactions on the blockchain.
One thing we nearly know for certain is that the supply of Bitcoin will be exhausted once its 21 million are mined.
What is Bitcoin Halving?
Miners are rewarded in Bitcoin for supplying the computational power required of the Bitcoin network. The amount that they are rewarded is “halved” every four years. We are currently in Bitcoin’s 3rd halving era, and miners are rewarded 6.25 BTC for each new block created.
How many Bitcoin have been lost?
Approximately 4 million are lost, and around 1 million were stolen in various exchange hacks. So, while there are 18.6 million Bitcoin “currently in circulation,” roughly 28% of it is lost or stolen. This leaves the total supply of around 13 million.
How much Bitcoin do the whales own?
As of early 2020, approximately 5 million Bitcoin belong to around 1600 whales. These estimates indicate that Bitcoin whales own about 28% of the total circulation.
Bottom Line: How Many Bitcoin Are There?
To summarize, there are only 21 million bitcoins available, and as the resource becomes scarcer, it is harder to mine. The mining halving rate slows down the rate at which bitcoin can be mined and is resource intensive.
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