How Much Bitcoin Has Been 'Lost' Forever?

Jun. 21, 2017 1:30 PM ETCOIN-OLD, GBTC, BTC-USD19 Comments
Martin YK Li profile picture
Martin YK Li
268 Followers

Summary

  • Bitcoin has a controlled supply, meaning that the amount of coins that can be mined are finite.
  • The amount of Bitcoin actually in circulation is far lower than the amount of Bitcoin in existence, due to accidental loss or willful destruction.
  • Of the 16 and a half million Bitcoin that have been mined so far, it is estimated that up to 25% have been lost for good.

Bitcoin has a controlled supply, meaning that amount of coins that can be created are finite. The Bitcoin protocol is designed in such a way that new Bitcoins are created at a decreasing and predictable rate. The number of new Bitcoins created each year is automatically halved over time until Bitcoin issuance halts completely with a total of 21 million Bitcoins in existence.

Projected Bitcoins Short Term

Date Reached BTC/block Year (estimate) BTC in Circulation BTC Increase from Prev. Entry BTC % of Limit
2009-01-03 50.00 2009 0 ~ 0%
2010-04-22 50.00 2010 2,625,000 Infinite 12.500%
2011-01-28 50.00 2011 5,250,000 100.00% 25.000%
2011-12-14 50.00 2012 7,875,000 50.00% 37.500%
2012-11-28 25.00 2013 10,500,000 33.33% 50.000%
2013-10-09 25.00 2014 11,812,500 12.50% 56.250%
2014-08-11 25.00 2015 13,125,000 11.11% 62.500%
2015-07-29 25.00 2016 14,437,500 10.00% 68.750%
2016-07-09 12.50 2016 15,750,000 9.09% 75.000%
12.50 2018 16,406,250 4.17% 78.125%
12.50 2019 17,062,500 4.00% 81.250%
12.50 2020 17,718,750 3.85% 84.375%
6.25 2021 18,375,000 3.70% 87.500%
6.25 2022 18,703,125 1.79% 89.063%
6.25 2023 19,031,250 1.75% 90.625%
6.25 2024 19,359,375 1.72% 92.188%

(Table Data Source: en.bitcoin.it)

As of June 20, 2017, Bitcoin has reached a total circulation amount of 16.4 million coins, which is about 78% of the total amount of Bitcoin that there ever will be in existence.

(Image Source: Blockchain.info)

The theoretical total number of Bitcoin, 21 million, should not be confused with the total spendable supply. The total spendable supply is always lower than the theoretical total supply, and is subject to accidental loss as well as willful destruction. As a side note, while the number of Bitcoin in existence will never exceed 21 million, the money supply of Bitcoin can exceed 21 million due to fractional-reserve banking.

So how much Bitcoin exactly has been lost? It's a pretty tough question considering there

This article was written by

Martin YK Li profile picture
268 Followers
Student at UC Berkeley studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Interested in computer hardware manufacturers.

Disclosure: I am/we are long BTC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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