Who Owns All the Bitcoins?


Humanity has spent their relatively brief time on this planet chasing a variety of wealth—gold, spices, cocoa beans, even bricks of compressed tea—and modern humans are no exception. The monetary wealth of our planet is higher than it’s ever been, and with 2013 estimates clocking in at about $241 trillion, every one of earth’s seven billion or so people have a stake of around $35,000.

But the consolidation of wealth is nearly as old as humanity’s quest to acquire it. The quick review of the actual distribution of resources, currency, and goods paints a very different picture.

One of the least balanced distributions is that of beleaguered virtual currency Bitcoin. After a scandal involving the Internet’s “anonymous market” site Silk Road and a major theft leading to the bankruptcy of one of its largest exchanges, Bitcoin’s fortunes have careened as wildly as its market value. But it remains a popular investment opportunity, and while estimates vary regarding the total number of Bitcoin owners around the world, the general consensus holds that just one percent of total Bitcoin owners worldwide control between seventy and eighty percent of all Bitcoins.

The richest cream in this virtual crop is held by enigmatic Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto, who is estimated to have mined about a million Bitcoins in the currency’s early days. Runners up include the Winklevoss brothers (perhaps best known for their infamous lawsuit against Facebook) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which seized 174,000 Bitcoins when it shut down the first iteration of the Silk Road.

How will the distribution of Bitcoin wealth compare to other methods of payment in the wake of Mt. Gox and other hiccoughs in the wild ‘n’ wooly world of virtual currency? Only time will tell. But with the last Bitcoin primed for mining around 2140 or so, we’ve got plenty of time to see which movers, shakers, dreamers, and daredevils will reap the remainder of this virtual fortune.


PS. Be sure to checkout our post on bitcoin affiliate programs!

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