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How Many Bitcoins are There and When Will They All be Mined?
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Bitcoins are out there for the taking. That’s right - every day successful Bitcoin miners are using computer hardware to earn Bitcoin by contributing to the Bitcoin network.
But did you know that the amount of Bitcoin that exists increases every single day?
Right now there are just over 17.6 million Bitcoins in circulation, but this number continues to slowly grow.
The most amount of Bitcoins that will ever exist is 21 million – that’s the total supply. When 21 million Bitcoins are in circulation no more will be released.
When will all the Bitcoins be mined?
There is a finite amount of Bitcoins. One day every Bitcoin will be mined and from then, no new Bitcoins will be introduced.
To figure out approximately when this will occur, we have to look at the Bitcoin mining rate.
As time goes on, the rewards miners receive for mining Bitcoin diminish. Mining rewards half every 210,000 blocks mined.
When Bitcoin was first started miners could receive 50 BTC as a reward for mining a block. The first “halving” occurred in 2012, cutting the reward to 25 BTC. In 2016 it fell to 12.5 BTC. Currently it is expected that the next halving will occur in May 2020 - dropping the reward to 6.25 BTC.
If the Bitcoin protocol remains the same and halving is consistent, Bitcoin is expected to reach the total supply cap in 2140 – still more than 100 years to go.
What will happen after all Bitcoins are mined?
When the final Bitcoin has been mined, the reward for miners will drop drastically.
Transaction fees will continue to exist, which incentivize miners today and will continue to do so when there aren’t any more Bitcoins to mine.
Bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, addressed this issue in the original Bitcoin whitepaper with the following statement:
“Once a predetermined number of coins have entered circulation, the incentive can transition entirely to transaction fees and be completely inflation free.”
Bitcoin should continue to function once every coin is mined.
Bitcoin’s block creation rate generally doesn’t change, so the date estimate for when the last Bitcoin will be mined should be accurate. The amount of miners doesn’t cause an increase in block creation, while Bitcoin scales the difficulty according to the hash rate to maintain a consistent block creation time of around 10 minutes.
If you have ever stored Bitcoin yourself, you will be aware of the complexities of Bitcoin wallets. Remembering how to access your funds, or even where you have stored them, really matters.
While the total supply of Bitcoin is technically 21 million, there is a portion of this that is lost and completely irretrievable. Blockchain and cryptocurrency is highly secure, so when they are gone, they are gone – it’s built this way.
Granted, most of the lost Bitcoins have already been lost. For the most part this is due to individuals acquiring a large amount of Bitcoin when they were worth next to nothing and forgetting about them.
Nowadays, less Bitcoin is lost because the coins are valuable and cared for in a different way.
You may have heard the famous example of the British man who lost 7,500 Bitcoin by throwing away a harddrive, only to realize after the fact. The search for the harddrive proved ineffective. That’s 7,500 Bitcoins gone for good.
Perhaps most importantly though is the significant amount of Bitcoins owned by the creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. The total amount is disputed, thought to be anywhere up to 1 million, but more likely is somewhere between 600,000-700,000 Bitcoins. That’s a lot!
Satoshi’s Bitcoins have never moved and are assumed to be lost. If these Bitcoins were to be moved, it could have a detrimental effect on the whole market.
So, while the total supply will technically reach 21 million one day, the total supply will never account for the Bitcoins that are irretrievable.