Who owns the most bitcoins

Oct 2
Analytical services identify large cryptocurrency wallet holders by analyzing entire groups of addresses and transaction data. We discuss how reliable their assessments can be.
In late September, representatives of the analytical service Arkham claimed to have discovered a chain of cryptocurrency wallets belonging to the second-largest cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase. According to their estimates, the company holds approximately 5% of the existing Bitcoins, a quantity comparable to the number of coins associated with the creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto.

The company Arkham Intelligence has developed a platform for visual data analysis on popular blockchains. Using this platform, one can examine data about cryptocurrency wallets and fund movements, associating wallet owners and analyzing their actions. This can be applied, for example, by investors when studying the transaction history of successful traders or by exchanges and law enforcement agencies when tracking the movement and conversion of stolen cryptocurrencies.

According to Arkham's publication, in total, the group of wallets with 36 million addresses belonging to Coinbase contains Bitcoins worth around $25 billion as of the end of September. These wallets include both "hot" wallets, which are operational, and "cold" wallets used for long-term coin storage. In the largest of the identified "cold" wallets, there are approximately 10,000 Bitcoins, valued at around $265 million at the time of the publication. Additionally, according to analysts, the exchange holds about $2.6 billion in Ethereum (ETH) cryptocurrency.

The largest holders

It is widely believed that the anonymous creator of Bitcoin mined a substantial amount of bitcoins in the early years of its existence. Estimates vary from 600,000 BTC (equivalent to $13 billion) to 1.1 million BTC ($23.8 billion). Tracking the location of all these bitcoins is considered a challenging task due to their dispersion across numerous addresses, and the identity of Nakamoto himself remains undisclosed for 15 years, along with the exact amount of coins attributed to him.

Representatives from Arkham estimate that the creator of Bitcoin may hold between 750,000 to 1.1 million bitcoins, considering him the largest individual holder of the cryptocurrency. Among other identified significant holders of the first cryptocurrency by the company are Binance exchange, investment company Grayscale, or, for instance, broker Robinhood, which the company named as the third-largest Bitcoin holder.

The service also included the U.S. and Chinese governments in the list of the largest Bitcoin holders, with approximately 400,000 bitcoins stored in their wallets, including those confiscated from criminals.

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