How Many Bitcoins Are Left?

Last Updated January 11th 2022
5 Min Read

Bitcoin is the primary cryptocurrency, and looking back at 2009 when it was created, the coin has come a long way. Currently, Bitcoin has gained the nickname of “digital gold”, and some of its features are similar to gold. Like gold, Bitcoin is also mined. However, the difference is that while gold is mined from the earth, Bitcoin is mined through technological processes. 

When Satoshi Nakamoto invented Bitcoin, he or she developed a source code that capped Bitcoin’s supply. As such, Bitcoin has a maximum supply of 21 million coins. New Bitcoins are added into the circulating supply at a fixed rate of one block after ten minutes. Furthermore, the number of Bitcoins released with each block is halved after every four years. 

Bitcoin’s Maximum Supply Is 21 Million 

Bitcoin’s supply is capped at 21 million coins. Once all these coins are mined, the supply of Bitcoin will be exhausted, as no more additional coins can be added into supply. However, Bitcoin developers could make amendments to this mechanism and increase Bitcoin’s supply. 

One of the most heated crypto debates is what will happen after the 21 million Bitcoins are mined. So far, around 18.9 million Bitcoins have been mined, which means that less than 2.1 million coins are remaining to join the current circulating supply.

Whilst the maximum supply has been capped at 21 million, there is no certainty that this will be actual supply, as it could be much less. Some coins will be left unclaimed such as when people lose their private keys or when someone dies without leaving their private keys to another person who can access them later. Hence, the current circulating supply and the maximum supply of Bitcoin will be less when these factors are considered. 

Bitcoin Mining Rewards 

Bitcoin has been in existence since 2009, which means that the 18.8 million coins in circulation have been mined in the past ten years. With only 2.2 million coins remaining, the final stages of Bitcoin mining seem to be here. However, the small remaining number does not mean that the mining will be over in the next few years. The timeline of when Bitcoin mining will be over is somehow complex. 

Bitcoin mining involves a process that rewards miners with several Bitcoins after a block has been validated successfully. The process of Bitcoin mining changes with time, depending on various factors. When Bitcoin was launched in 2009, miners were rewarded with 50 Bitcoin. In 2012, the amount was halved to 25 Bitcoins. In 2016, the amount was halved again to 12.5 Bitcoins. 

The recent halving happened in February 2021, where miners would receive 6.25 Bitcoins for every block mined. Going by the current BTC value as of February 24, 2021, this number of coins is equivalent to around $312,500. This system reduced the number of Bitcoins earned after mining to lower the inflation rate. 

Bitcoin halving will happen again after four years, and the process will continue until the last Bitcoin is mined. Going with these calculations, the last Bitcoin will be mined in around 2140. Whilst this was the plan provided by Satoshi Nakamoto, there is still a chance that the mining protocol will change and new mining mechanisms will be formulated. 

However, what remains certain is that the Bitcoin mining process will continue to offer rewards to miners. Whilst this reward has decreased over the years, the value of Bitcoin has increased, which means that miners will continue making great gains if the values of the coin continue making an upswing. The reward is reduced to ensure there is control over the circulation of new coins. 

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Effect Of Bitcoin Supply Cap On Miners 

One of the main groups that will be affected once all Bitcoins are mined is Bitcoin miners. After the 21 million maximum supply is achieved, miners will no longer earn block rewards from the Bitcoin network. Hence, this will reduce the amount they earn on the network. 

However, even after this supply has been achieved, Bitcoin miners will still earn from the network through a transaction fee charged when a miner actively participates on a network to validate new transactions. 

These transaction fees are currently low and cannot compare to the amount earned through Bitcoin mining. Currently, the amount earned from validating transactions on the network ranges between a few hundred dollars. Nevertheless, this transaction fee is expected to rise over the years as the number of transactions on the Bitcoin network increase and as the price of Bitcoin increases. This will position Bitcoin transaction fees under the same guidelines of taxes, as the system will function as a closed economy. 

Factors To Consider 

Despite the debate and all the speculations put forward regarding the end of Bitcoin mining, the process is expected to end more than 100 years from now. Towards the end of the mining process, miners will have adjusted from this activity, as they will be earning rewards that are representative of small portions of the remaining Bitcoin. The reduction in the reward size will mean that miners will have already started looking for new alternatives before the end button is pressed in 2140. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Bitcoin network could also change significantly before 2140. Bitcoin has grown tremendously in just the ten years it has been in existence. New mechanisms, protocols and new ways of processing transactions could be added to the network, which will affect the mining process. 

Not to mention, Bitcoin’s adoption has largely grown over the years, as this coin is now being used as a means of payment and has even been adopted as a medium of exchange. Recently, a Bitcoin Law was passed in El Salvador that allows Bitcoin to be used as legal tender. Major Wall Street banks have also opened up investment classes involving Bitcoin to meet the increased user demand. Payment giant firms such as PayPal and Visa have also endorsed Bitcoin. Such major developments have happened in ten years, which shows there is much that could change about Bitcoin in the next 100 years.

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