Bitcoin’s elusive creator Satoshi Nakamoto owns 1 million BTC, plus a corresponding number of BCH and other forked coins. That’s always been what we were led to believe, ever since a 2013 analysis by Sergio Lerner. A new analysis by Bitmex Research has now called that figure into doubt, suggesting that Satoshi’s stack, while still huge, may be smaller than previously thought.
Also read: Are You Ready for What Happens If Satoshi’s Coins Move?
Revised Estimate Slashes Satoshi’s 1 Million Bitcoin Haul by 30%
Calculating the number of bitcoins owned by Satoshi has always been something of a guessing game, with 1 million BTC – just under 5% of the total supply – attributed to cryptocurrency’s founding father. That figure was calculated by Sergio Lerner in a well-cited blog post stemming from 2013. He wrote: “I can’t assure with 100% certainty that all the black dots [in the diagram below] are owned by Satoshi, but almost all are owned by a single entity, and that entity began mining right from block 1, and with the same performance as the genesis block…Also this entity is the only entity that has shown complete trust in Bitcoin, since it hasn’t spent any coins (as last as the eye can see). I estimate at eyesight that Satoshi fortune is around 1M Bitcoins.”
On Monday, Bitmex Research, famed for its diligent and painstaking investigative reports, published a new post on the matter. It draws heavily on Lerner’s original research, but downwardly revises Satoshi’s holdings by some 30%. The technical rationale behind why the majority of blocks from Bitcoin’s early days can be attributed to one entity are outlined in the Bitmex blog in some detail. For the purposes of this summary, all that matters is the takeaway Bitmex Research arrives at:
Although there is strong evidence of a dominant miner in 2009, we think the evidence is far less robust than many have assumed. Even if one is convinced, the evidence only supports the claim that the dominant miner may have generated significantly less than a million bitcoin in our view. Perhaps 600,000 to 700,000 bitcoin is a better estimate.
Two Billion Dollars Wiped off Satoshi’s Fortune
Even if Bitmex Research is correct – and by its own admission it is hard to say for certain – Satoshi still has a good 700k BTC at his disposal. Thus the ‘loss’ of 300k BTC, despite amounting to around $2 billion, may seem immaterial in the grand scheme of things, given that it is assumed Satoshi’s coins will never be spent. However, the ownership of the 1 million BTC mined by an early adopter or adopters factors into a number of other calculations pertaining to coin distribution.
When calculating the number of bitcoins in circulation, for example, those 1 million BTC are written off along with coins whose wallets have been lost, as it is assumed that Satoshi’s coins will never move. That being said, even if 300k BTC stemming from 2010 belongs to someone other than Satoshi, those coins are still unlikely to move since they have remained static since they were first issued as a coinbase reward.
If it is assumed that Satoshi is a single entity who is not dead or in prison, a subsequent assumption that can be made is that those coins weren’t accidentally lost. Bitmex Research concludes its blog by quoting from Satoshi Nakamoto: “Why delete a wallet instead of moving it aside and keeping the old copy just in case? You should never delete a wallet.” Through 2009 and 2010, Satoshi chose not to spend his considerable stack of coins. His decision to continue that policy since going dark, as BTC rose exponentially in value, is surely a deliberate one. Should those coins one day start to move, it could cause all sorts of market panic. Until such a time, those bitcoins, be they 1 million, 600k, or somewhere in between, must be regarded as one of many mysteries that Satoshi left behind for the Bitcoin community to figure out.
Do you think it matters how many coins Satoshi owns and do you think they will ever be spent? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and Sergio Lerner.
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