Current & Future Bitcoin Limits

Current & Future Bitcoin Limits

Bitcoin is, without a doubt, the most famous virtual currency available today, as well as being the most trusted cryptocurrency due to the infrastructure that surrounds the system.

A lot of this trust comes from the way Bitcoins are generated and the finite number that are said to be able to exist in the future. This leads to a common question that many people ask when they are interested in Bitcoin: how many Bitcoins exist so far, and how many will be created in the future?

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The Current Number of Bitcoins

As of July 12th, 2016, there are 15,750,000 Bitcoins. This is not an estimate; it was the true value as of the 420,000th block that was created by Bitcoin miners.

Since that exact moment, more Bitcoins have been mined, as new coins are generated roughly every 10 minutes from a new block being created.

All of these Bitcoins are stored in millions of wallets around the web. Most of the Bitcoins are active, but it’s assumed that a fairly large number have also been lost by the owners.

Unfortunately, anyone who has been careless with their Bitcoin wallets and lost the key codes for their coins has lost the actual coins themselves forever. Without these codes, the Bitcoins cannot be recovered and used again.

Rate of Bitcoin Generation

Bitcoin LimitsAs mentioned above, new Bitcoins are generated roughly every 10 minutes by miners, so how will this affect the total number of Bitcoins? To answer this, you must also know how much miners are rewarded for their efforts.

One reason the value of Bitcoins keeps increasing over time is because the rate of generation is cut in half every time 210,000 blocks are created, about every 4 years. The latest “halving” happened in July of 2016 as the 420,000th block was generated. This means a miner now earns less for their efforts when compared to before this halving event occurred.

Consequently, the rate of Bitcoin generation is now lower than it was before July. The original rate was 50 Bitcoins for every block. This got halved in 2012 to 25 Bitcoins per block, and now the rate of generation is 12.5 Bitcoins per block. In 4 years time, this will halve again, reducing the rate once more.

A Self-Regulated Bitcoin Cap

Every time the rate of generation is cut in half, it helps to ensure the currency’s value stays high, rather than decreasing as a result of excess production. This is because a smaller volume of Bitcoins are being generated to meet a high demand. In time, it is expected Bitcoins could exceed their current value of roughly $660 per 1 Bitcoin.

If you do the math, there is a total limit of 21 million Bitcoins being produced in total. Looking at the current rate of generation, as well as the algorithms in place, it’s clear there will never be more than this. Furthermore, there isn’t any incentive for anyone to change this.

Could This Cap Change?

However, it is possible this cap of 21 million Bitcoins could be changed in the future. After Bitcoin Limitsall, this is a self-imposed limit, created by those who operate in the Bitcoin community to mine and use the virtual currency. If enough of the community agrees, this limit could be increased or removed. It is even possible to re-program the coding of the currency to create more Bitcoins, or even stop the halving of the generation rate as well.

Another possible scenario to consider is the gradual loss of Bitcoins. Every time someone loses keys, these Bitcoins are essentially lost, yet no new coin is offered in its place. While this is a very minor incident, enough of these occurrences could result in a noteworthy portion of Bitcoins essentially being inaccessible or unusable.

That being said, as things stand, the community has a stronger incentive to maintain this cap. It’s this upper limit on Bitcoins that helps give the system more value and trustworthiness. If this is removed, this can cause people to lose trust in the system and dump their Bitcoins on the market, subsequently crashing the market, as well as Bitcoin values.

In the future, it is entirely possible that the 21 million Bitcoin cap may be changed. Yet, for now, it’s safe to say that nobody is going to remove this restriction, as we have already gotten 70% of these Bitcoins released already. It looks, then, that the current rate of production isn’t going to change any time soon.

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