Dec 10 (Business Insider) – Ownership of Bitcoin appears to be highly lopsided.
This has long been a source of consternation in the Bitcoin community, and people like the FT’s Izabella Kaminska have written extensively about the implications of this apparent cartel on prices — basically, they get to dictate them, and the rest of us are just price takers.
Now Finnish entrepreneur Risto Pietilä, an active member of on Bitcointalk.org, has offered an estimate of just how severe this ownership imbalance could be.
He based his calculations on data from Bitcoinrichlist.com, which has trawled through Bitcoin’s master ledger — the Blockchain — to offer a rough guide to distribution as well as activity on Bitcoin exchanges.
We ran the calculations by Martti Malmi, one of Bitcoin’s earliest developers, and he agreed they were basically sound. “The order of magnitude seems right,” he said in an email to BI.
So, as of Dec. 3., using a price of $1,000 (which is basically where we are now), and assuming 12 million Bitcoins in circulation, here’s the breakdown: 47 individuals own 28.9% of the approximately 12 million Bitcoins in existence so far. Another 880 own 21.5%, meaning 927 people control half of the entire market cap of the digital currency. Another 10,000 individuals control about a quarter. And the rest of us (around a million of us) get the crumbs (500,000 are out of circulation, whether through government seizure or people losing their passwords).
And here’s what that means in terms of ownership: those same 47 people each own at least $10 million-worth of Bitcoins. The mean net worth may be much higher. Another 880 individuals each own at least $1 million-worth of Bitcoin. About a million people own $10,000 or less worth.
Bitcoin is anonymous, so we don’t know who all the 47 individuals are — though some, like the Winklevoss twins and Roger Ver, have publicly identified themselves.
Bottom line: Bitcoin has made a fraction of people very rich. And then there’s the rest of us.