Bitcoin (BTC), the original and largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, has garnered global recognition. Despite its decentralized nature, a select few individuals or entities, known as “whales,” wield considerable influence within the cryptocurrency realm.
Who are Bitcoin Whales? Crypto whales are entities possessing substantial quantities of a specific cryptocurrency, including BTC. Their impact on crypto markets is profound, as their actions can significantly impact the prices of various cryptocurrencies. Amer Vohora, CEO of SwissFortress, highlights the importance of monitoring whale activity in predicting market trends.
Role of Whales in BTC Markets: Whales play a crucial role in ensuring BTC’s liquidity, which refers to the ease of buying or selling bitcoin without causing significant price fluctuations. They deepen the market by executing substantial buy and sell orders, providing more trading options, and mitigating price volatility. Understanding liquidity dynamics, as emphasized by Nikita Buzov, CEO and Founder of Solace, allows for better market sentiment analysis.
Who Owns the Most BTC? Identifying the largest BTC holders can be challenging due to the anonymity of wallet addresses. However, as of 2023, Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, is believed to hold approximately 1.1 million BTC across 22,000 different addresses. Additionally, addresses linked to exchanges like Binance and Bitfinex feature prominently among the top holders.
According to the website, an extensive list of the top 10 bitcoin wallets looks like this:
A wallet address linked to Binance holding about $6bn worth of BTC (as of the time of writing, 15 September 2023) amounts to about 1.28% of the entire coins in circulation.
A wallet linked to Bitfinex, holding $4bn worth of BTC, amounting to 0.9% of the entire coins in circulation.
An anonymous wallet holding $3bn worth of BTC tokens (0.6% of entire coins in circulation).
A Binance-linked wallet also holds $3bn worth of BTC.
An anonymous wallet holding $2.4bn worth of BTC.
An anonymous wallet also holds $2.4bn worth of BTC.
An anonymous wallet holding $2.1bn worth of BTC.
An anonymous wallet holding $1.8bn worth of BTC.
A wallet linked to a Binance BTCB reserve holding $1.7bn worth of BTC tokens.
An anonymous wallet holding $1.5bn worth of BTC.
However, some names in higher leagues of the BTC Whale Hall of Fame include:
- Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase
- Michael Saylor, entrepreneur and CEO of MicroStrategy, who reportedly owns at least 17,000 BTC
- Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao
- Tech billionaire Tim Draper famously purchased 30,000 BTC at a discount when the U.S. Marshalls Service auctioned them off after seizing them from the Silk Road black market
- The Winklevoss Twins, of Facebook fame, bet heavily on BTC in 2012/2013.
According to River Intelligence, while Satoshi Nakamoto is estimated to be the biggest BTC holder, the asset’s creator is thought to have not used any of the assets, apart from “a few test transactions.”
The five biggest institutional BTC holders are:
- MicroStrategy Inc. holds 152,800 BTC tokens.
- Marathon Digital Holdings holds 12,964 BTC coins.
- Galaxy Digital Holdings holds 12,545 BTC coins.
- Coinbase Global Inc. holding 10,500 BTC tokens.
- Tesla Inc. holds 10,500 BTC coins.
Celebrity Bitcoin Owners: Celebrities owning BTC normalize cryptocurrency holdings and draw attention to the industry, promoting wider adoption. Prominent celebrity BTC holders include Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Mike Tyson, Maisie Williams, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West.
Countries and Bitcoin Reserves: Countries like El Salvador and the Central African Republic have adopted BTC as legal tender, paving the way for wider cryptocurrency integration. While national BTC holdings remain modest, they signal a potential shift towards a more democratic ownership distribution.