When the price of Bitcoin reached a then all-time high of roughly $20,000 in December 2017, many programmers, gamers, tech nerds, financial gurus, and others became millionaires and billionaires. Early adopters who bought the crypto asset before February 2011 were the last ones able to secure BTC at a price under $1. Even those who got into the market as late as 2017 could still have seen a twenty-to-one return on their initial investment.
There haven’t been many similar investment opportunities to get in on the ground level and see such a high return on an asset after such a short time. Though some investors bet heavily on internet stocks during the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, many of these ended up crashing quickly. Many crypto experts have said Bitcoin, while still undoubtedly a volatile asset, is unlikely to go to zero again. There are many cryptocurrency exchanges out there these days that allowed Bitcoin and other cryptos to become mainstream.
Overview for Fast-Readers
- Because the price of Bitcoin stayed under $1 for two years following the genesis block, many average investors were able to acquire the crypto asset for pennies, if not for free in certain online promotions
- Many crypto experts suggest Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto holds the most BTC, 1.1 million coins
- Though there are only a handful of true “Bitcoin billionaires,” many retail investors became millionaires following the 2017 bull run
- The wallets with the most Bitcoin are cold wallets connected to major exchanges including Binance, Huobi, OKEx, and Bitfinex, though some are long-term HODLers
Anyone who made a $50 investment in Bitcoin prior to the crypto asset reaching parity with the dollar would have seen their holdings reach $1 million or more during the 2017 bull run. Though there were high profile figures in business and finance who got into the space early, the 2017 bull run was unique in offering a wide variety of retail investors the chance to achieve millionaire status.
Though now a staunch proponent for Bitcoin Cash, Roger Ver was an early Bitcoin adopter and investor and the CEO of Bitcoin.com until August 2019. The entrepreneur’s BTC holdings are unknown, but many estimates put them at far more than $1 million.
Kids got rich as well
Erik Finman, a teenager who invested $1,000 in Bitcoin back in 2011 when the price of the crypto asset was roughly $12, saw his crypto earnings increase significantly. Those holdings were worth more than $1.6 million at the peak of the 2017 bull run, and now more than $4.8 million. He reportedly made a bet with his parents that he would have to attend university if he were a millionaire by 18.
However, the sudden price surge four years ago also saw many new millionaires unable to claim their holdings. One famous story is that of a Welsh man named James Howells. In 2013, the IT worker reportedly threw away a hard drive which contained 7,500 BTC mined in 2009. Howells has made many attempts to recover the lost crypto — now worth $440 million — without success.
It’s no contest as to who holds the most cryptocurrency. Whether Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto is a single pseudonymous person or a group of programmers, the wallets believed to be connected to him reportedly contain more than 1.1 million BTC, worth roughly $65 million assuming a price of $58,541. Even at the peak of the 2017 bull run, Satoshi’s crypto holdings — mined largely before 2010 — were worth more than $20 billion.
Though only a small group of people was behind the initial development of Bitcoin and its whitepaper, other early adopters were able to capitalize on the crypto assets low price in the early 2010s. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins who claimed to be behind the original idea for the social media giant Facebook, reportedly purchased Bitcoin as early as 2012. Though it’s unclear exactly how much BTC the two are HODLing, some estimates put the twins’ crypto at more than $1 billion each.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper bought 29,656 BTC for $19 million from the United States Marshals Service, who was auctioning Bitcoin connected to the now defunct online marketplace Silk Road in 2014. Assuming he has continued to HODL these assets for seven years, his Bitcoin would be worth $1.7 billion at the time of publication. Matthew Roszak, chairman and co-founder of blockchain firm Bloq, has also reportedly achieved billionaire status following the early 2021 bull run.
More recently, institutional investors like business intelligence firm MicroStrategy and electric car manufacturer Tesla have entered the crypto space by purchasing millions of Bitcoin as a reserve asset. Tesla’s initial $1.5 billion BTC investment in early February when the price of the crypto asset was roughly $41,000 has netted the company more than $500 million in earnings.
However, as MicroStrategy bought 38,250 BTC for $400 million prior to the most recent bull run — and seems to be planning to buy more — its crypto earnings have increased by more than 400%. The holdings from the firm’s initial Bitcoin purchase are worth more than $2.2 billion at the time of publication.
If there’s one phrase to describe newbies’ and outsiders’ feelings on the crypto space, it’s FOMO — fear of missing out. Many crypto retail investors express concerns about entering the market too late to become a millionaire or billionaire as those who put money into Bitcoin in the early 2010s were able to do. However, even people buying BTC in early 2021 have seen a two-to-one return on their investment, with few indications that the price will go to zero or crash as it did in March 2020.
Many people got rich in 2017. Though some experts say it’s unlikely for Bitcoin to fall under $1 again, the market still holds many possibilities for retail investors.