“We are the new, wealthy elite, gentleman,” wrote Atlas, an early adopter of bitcoin on a popular web forum dedicated to the digital currency. And perhaps that’s the reason bitcoiners love keeping an eye on the top wallet holders, bitcoin’s ‘rich list,’ – the ‘bitcoinerati’, if you will.
As bitcoin prices flirt with all-time highs, we took the opportunity to highlight the biggest wallets in bitcoin. Knowing who controls bitcoin wallets is not easy, but the open source community around the cryptocurrency has gathered information to best determine the nature of the top wallets.
Also Read: €140,000 Tesla Bought for Bitcoin in Finland
Who’s Who: From FBI to Silk Road
There are many threads and articles online discussing bitcoin’s ‘rich list.’ Bitcoiners collect information on the biggest bitcoin wallets from public sources, people and institutions who have disclosed their holdings and share it. A Bitcoin top holder (sometimes purposely misspelled ‘hodler’ as an inside joke) might be an early adopter, gambling site owner, exchange operator, investor, government agency, and the list goes on. As bitcoin bulls, some hold bitcoin with long-term price speculation in mind as might a safe haven-seeking goldbug. Due to the nature of bitcoin, the identities of many such holders is speculative.
Bitcoin founder himself Satoshi Nakamoto has yet to transfer one of his 980,000 bitcoins. Nobody knows how, if at all, satoshi lives. Media outlets including Newsweek and Wired have purported to uncover the real satoshi, but such claims remain unvalidated. Satoshi, the first to mine bitcoins, did so throughout 2009. Whether or not he mined or bought and sold the digital currency with other wallets is unknown.
The graph above is extracted from data in the blockchain. The machine charted here, represented by the black lines started mining from the genesis block, and with the same performance. It’s assumed this is satoshi. Bitcoin’s founder could hold as many as 1,814,400 BTC. Of these holdings, 1,148,800 BTC remain unspent (63%). Spending these transactions could help towards revealing the wallet holder, and thus Mr. Nakamoto.
So, where are Satoshi’s bitcoins? Knowing Mr. Nakamoto’s wallet addresses is tough to know. His coins were mined to automatically and randomly generated addresses. It’s thus also tough to know if Mr. Nakamoto is alive and trading or has liquidated some of his fortune. (perhaps through an intermediary, like a lawyer)
To this day, individuals send bitcoins to the genesis block (sometimes with public notes of gratitude). This address reaped bitcoin’s first mining reward of 50 bitcoins.
Other top holders include (or have included) recognizable names like Silk Road administrator Dread Pirate Roberts, Roger Ver, Mark Karpeles, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Erik Voorhees, Gavin Andresen, Max Keiser, and others. Their bitcoin holdings range between 20,000 and 350,000. Knowledge of holdings is largely dissected in the English-speaking world, which might affect findings.
First Recipient Now Cryopreserved
Hal Finney, a computer scientist known as the first person to receive bitcoin in a transaction (sent by satoshi), is believed to have held a substantial stash of bitcoin, but it’s not known what’s come of these holdings. (many believe the family liquidated Mr. Finney’s bitcoin position) Mr. Finney, an active runner at one point, passed away in 2014 after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He was cryopreserved after his passing.
“When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away,” posted Mr. Finney. “I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test.”
San Francisco man Ross Ulbricht, widely accepted as administrator of the original Silk Road, is also considered a top holder. The Silk Road generated approximately 615,000 bitcoins before agents apprehended Mr. Ulbricht in a San Francisco library. The FBI gained access to a 144,000 bitcoin wallet, arguably making them a top holder of the coin. The agency controls another wallet with approximately 30 bitcoins.
Just how much Mt. Gox exchange CEO Mark Karpeles holds is unknown. A thorough audits of Mt. Gox profits and losses, would need to be conducted publicly to know how much he owns.
Bitcoiners working on the case posit that Wikileaks, the controversial whistleblowing service which once lost access to the banking system and thus its funds, holds approximately 2,500 bitcoins. With a public balance of 1,000 bitcoins, it’s known Wikileaks provides private addresses for large donations where other funds are believed to be received and held. Wikileaks is conjectured to the be 202nd largest bitcoin holder.
Some identities simply can’t be known and can only be tied together via circumstantial evidence. This address, containing approximately 66,233.74 bitcoins, received bitcoins from nine other accounts.
Bitinfocharts.com highlights the biggest bitcoin addresses at any given time. These wallets mostly received the bitcoins in transactions and could be the wallets of companies in the bitcoin space. The first wallet on the list received its first coins in late 2015. The fourth largest wallet, according to the website, received the first coins of its nearly 80,000 in 2011, and has received coins through December 2016.
A New Elite?
Many powerful people have spoken well of bitcoin. Indeed, many of the most powerful people in the world, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former Vice President Al Gore, PayPal founder Peter Thiel, real estate mogul Warren Buffett, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, who once held a meeting of bitcoiners (who referred to themselves as the ‘Bitcoin Illuminati‘) on his private island.
If Atlas is right – and some bitcoin holders become the “new, wealthy elite” – the ‘bitcoinerati’ may one day be the new 1%.
What do you think about the ‘Bitcoinerati’? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Sergio Lerner and Bitinfocharts.com
Whether you’re a beginner or a long-time bitcoin player, there’s always something interesting going on in the bitcoin.com Forums. We are proud free speech advocates, and no matter what your opinion on bitcoin we guarantee it’ll be seen and heard here. We don’t censor.