Back when the Bitcoin blockchain launched in 2009, nobody was sure whether this new form of currency would take off. In fact, some cryptographers were giving away 5 BTC per user per day on “Bitcoin faucet websites” just to get people interested in this novel technology. Fast-forward to the present day, and it’s clear cryptocurrency is going mainstream. The global crypto market cap passed $1 trillion in 2021, and it’s getting easier each year to buy, sell, and use virtual currencies.
However, not every crypto statistic is “sunshine and roses” for the blockchain industry. In fact, some lost Bitcoin statistics could serve as cautionary tales for newcomers. Take a peek at three major Bitcoin statistics in 2023 to better understand the current state of the market and the significance of wallet safety strategies.
Bitcoin Statistics in 2023: Three Insane Recent Findings on Bitcoin
There Are 67 Million Bitcoin Wallet Addresses With Over $1
Although transaction data on blockchains like Bitcoin is public, it’s tricky for blockchain analytics firms to determine how many individual users there are on the Bitcoin Network. Even when researchers identify all of the BTC addresses on-chain, they don’t know whether some users hold more than one address or whether the Bitcoin in an account is “dormant” due to an unexpected death or lost access.
Despite these difficulties, Bitcoin statistics from BitInfoCharts suggest there are 67 million Bitcoin wallets with a balance of over $1 in BTC as of 2023. This doesn’t mean there are 67 million Bitcoin users, but it gives an estimate of how many wallets might currently be active on the Bitcoin Network.
Data from the analytics firm Glassnode also suggests more people have been “stacking sats” throughout 2023. In fact, Glassnode reported that the number of Bitcoin wallets holding at least 1 BTC surpassed 1 million for the first time in May 2023.
20% of All Bitcoin in Circulation is Lost
According to our analysis 20% of all Bitcoin currently in circulation is likely lost. To arrive at this figure, we’ve used a methodology that involved scanning all addresses on the Bitcoin blockchain. Using transaction and age metrics we’ve found that 3.84 million BTC haven’t been moved for seven years or more. With current circulation at 19.48 million BTC this equals a share of 20%.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many of those Bitcoin are being hoarded, how many might be recoverable and how many will be lost forever. As most “missing” Bitcoin are from the very early days of the technology, when the value was very low, it stands to reason that the corresponding private keys have long been forgotten.
When evaluating the results, it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve not accounted for any Bitcoin lost within the last seven years. It’s also worth noting that our figures ignore Bitcoin that have been hacked or stolen as those remain in circulation.
Based on a benchmarking with prior research we’ve found that our numbers are in line with previous expert studies. Considering Bitcoin’s price is approximately $26,000 at the time of writing, the 3.84 million lost BTC represent a value of around $100 billion.
28% of Bitcoin in Circulation Hasn’t Moved in 5 Years
When we applied the same methodology and analysis to a five-year time horizon we discovered that 5.49 million Bitcoin haven’t been moved for five years or more. With current circulation at 19.48 million BTC this equals 28% of all Bitcoin currently in circulation.
It goes without saying that just like in the case of the seven-year time horizon, it’s not possible to differentiate between the Bitcoin owned by someone playing a very long waiting game and those whose owners have lost their private keys.
When assessing these effects, it’s important to consider that we’ve not accounted for any Bitcoin lost within the last five years. As in the case of the seven-year time horizon our figures ignore Bitcoin that have been hacked or stolen as those remain in circulation.
In dollar terms, 5.49 million Bitcoin represents over $140 billion at the price of $26,000 at the time of writing.
Notable Cases Of Lost Bitcoin in Crypto History
As Bitcoin’s value began to soar over the past decade, more stories of people who lost access to BTC fortunes started to circulate. While it’s unknown how many people lost their BTC forever, there are a few famous cases that have made international headlines:
Back in 2013, the Welshman James Howells threw away a hard drive containing 8,000 BTC after clearing out clutter in his office. Today, the IT specialist is trying to work with local authorities in Newport, South Wales, to get permission to search a dump with AI-powered robotics and (hopefully) retrieve his crypto fortune.
The German software engineer Stefan Thomas forgot the password for an IronKey hard drive containing 7,002 BTC. Although Thomas has two tries to guess his password, he told media reporters he’s accepted that his fortune is probably out of his hands.
The entrepreneur Gerald Cotten is best known for running the unregistered Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX and mysteriously dying of a heart attack in India without passing on the private keys to the exchange’s wallets. Despite the official story of Cotten’s demise, many conspiracy theorists believe Cotten faked his death to escape legal scrutiny. Most reports suggest that the crypto funds locked on QuadrigaCX are worth nearly $250 million.
How To Avoid Losing Bitcoin: Crucial Crypto Safety Tips
Although crypto wallet recovery services can help people get into lost wallets, it’s always best to take preventive measures to reduce the odds of getting in this position. Everyone can take a few simple and proactive steps to secure their cryptocurrency.
Write seed phrase and private key: When setting up a crypto wallet, write the seed phrase or private key associated with your account and double-check every word is spelled correctly and in the proper order. Also, please put these copies of your seed phrase or private key in a secure location only you can access, such as a locked safe or a security deposit box.
Use hardware wallets for extra security: Although software wallets are convenient, keeping the bulk of your cryptocurrency on cold wallet solutions like hardware devices is safest. Since hardware wallets like Trezor and Ledger aren’t connected to the Internet, hackers have a harder time breaking into these units versus software wallets.
Establish a legal crypto transition for beneficiaries: The sooner you establish how to pass your cryptocurrency to beneficiaries, the better. Meet with a professional lawyer and include a provision on your cryptocurrencies and private keys in a formal will.
Co-founder and CTO Bruno is a crypto native. Long before the public hype around Bitcoin, Ethereum & Co, Bruno was already active in the crypto field. The idea for ReWallet came to him a few years ago when he lost access to his own wallet.