Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that has a fixed supply of 21 million coins. Some projects “mint” tokens in time for the launch date, but Bitcoin requires miners generate blocks on the Bitcoin blockchain, receiving rewards in crypto for doing so. After the first Bitcoin blocks were mined in 2009, there was roughly 1.6 million BTC in circulation.
Since that time, as businesses have picked up crypto mining for profit and to develop the blockchain, more than 18.6 million coins have been in circulation from more than 677,000 blocks mined. Some experts estimate the last Bitcoin block will be mined by the year 2140, at which time many believe the demand for the crypto asset will far outweigh the fixed supply, driving up the price.
Overview for Fast-Readers
Bitcoin has a limited supply of 21 million coins
New Bitcoin is generated from mining blocks
Experts predict the last Bitcoin block will be mined in 2140
How many Bitcoins are there and will ever exist?
At the time of publication, Bitcoin has a circulating supply of 18,669,218 coins, mined from 677,083 blocks. The law of supply and demand seems to indicate that as fewer Bitcoin are available for purchase — due in part to crypto users and institutional investors HODLing assets in cold storage — the price may rise. There are 2,330,782 BTC remaining to be mined, with a total fixed supply of 21 million coins.
Supply is limited to 21,000,000 BTC
Bitcoin has a stipulation written into its core protocol that there will only ever be 21 million BTC produced. On average, miners are able to generate a block every ten minutes.
What happens during a halving?
Every so often, Bitcoin experiences a halving — an event which cuts the block reward for miners in half. Originally, anyone who mined a Bitcoin block in 2009 received a reward of 50 BTC. Since that time, the Bitcoin blockchain has undergone three halving events in 2012, 2016, and 2020, cutting the block reward to 25, 12.5, and 6.25 BTC, respectively. The next halving is expected in 2024.
Each halving event occurs once 210,000 blocks have been generated, so the 2012 halving occurred at block 210,000, the 2016 halving at block 420,000, the most recent event at block 630,000, and so on. Though this has been happening roughly every four years, the more miners who enter the space to produce blocks, the less time is required.
Potential risks of a limited BTC supply
Though there are more than 18.6 million Bitcoin currently in circulation, many of these coins have not left their wallets for years. Some of these include the roughly 1.1 million coins many believe were mined by BTC creator Satoshi Nakamoto, but others may be from lost Bitcoin.
A 2018 report estimates that there may be up to 3.8 million coins lost to crypto users. There are many ways this can happen: users can misplace their private keys, accidentally throw out their storage devices, or physical wallets or keys may be destroyed through water damage or fire. This effectively means that by the time the final block is mined in 2140, there may technically be a circulating supply of 21 million coins, but Bitcoiners may only have access to roughly 16 million, if not fewer.
Once the last Bitcoin block is generated, miners will no longer receive block rewards. Some believe they may still stay involved working on the Bitcoin blockchain by verifying transactions — fees could rise as the limited supply of coins potentially causes higher demand from crypto users.
FAQs about the number of Bitcoin
How much Bitcoin has already been mined?
18,669,218 Bitcoin have been mined at the time of publication.
How many new coins are mined daily?
Assuming miners generate a Bitcoin block roughly every ten minutes, this means they mine 144 blocks per day. Given a current block reward of 6.25 BTC, miners produce approximately 900 Bitcoin daily — though this is merely an estimate. Blocks can be generated slower or faster depending on mining companies.
How many coins are left to be mined?
There are 2,330,782 Bitcoin remaining to be mined.
When will the last Bitcoin be mined?
Many crypto experts estimate the 21,000,000th Bitcoin will be mined in 2140.
What happens when all the coins are mined?
In short, Bitcoin miners will stop receiving block rewards, as there are no more coins to produce. However, they may still validate BTC transactions.
Bitcoin’s limited supply of 21 million coins is part of the appeal of the asset for many in the crypto space. Though some have suggested the core protocol could be modified to increase the BTC supply should demand rise, this would require a developer to propose the change to the network, which an overwhelming majority of miners would have to agree on in addition to having the support of users and nodes. This is highly unlikely, but theoretically possible.
Because Bitcoin’s token cap is likely here to stay, crypto users may begin to see brokers and exchanges coming up short in offering BTC for sale as demand exceeds the rate at which blocks are generated. What this will mean for the price of the crypto asset is anyone’s guess. However, the law of supply and demand would seem to indicate that as long as there are people who want to buy Bitcoin, and the number of users and institutions who HODL increases, the price may go up as well.
Turner Wright did not buy Bitcoin before 2013, and has been making up his potential losses with freelance writing work for various crypto publications. He gets his inspiration from a combination of green tea, dark chocolate, and pressure.
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