The term Bitcoin whales refers to the large holders of BTC. They are people, institutions, or platforms with a tremendous amount of money in their wallets in the form of cryptocurrency.
How many bitcoin whales exist, and how many BTCs they have
It is possible to quantify the whales of BTC; to do so, just consult Bitinfocharts.
The chart tells us that:
- The top 100 wealthy hold 15.02% of the total bitcoin supply, or 2.8 million BTC for $133 billion;
- The top 10 addresses have 6.04% of the wealth,
- The top 100 addresses have 15.02% of the wealth;
- There are over 2 million addresses that have at least $10,000 in bitcoin.
Who are the whales
Although bitcoin provides pseudo-anonymity, it is possible to trace the identity of some of these whales.
Again, Bitinfocharts comes to our rescue, showing us that some of the largest BTC addresses holders are the exchanges. Specifically, the richest is the Binance cold wallet, with over 288,000 BTC (equal to $13 billion). It is followed at a distance by the Bitfinex cold wallet, where more than 178,000 BTC are contained. In fifth and sixth place are two cold wallets belonging to OkEX, with over 80,000 BTC each. Also in the top 10 (9th place) is Huobi’s cold wallet with 73,000 BTC.
Then there are a few individuals who have accumulated an enormous amount of BTC to boast the definition of “whales.”
The first whale in Bitcoin history is Satoshi Nakamoto. He is said to have mined 1 million BTC in the cryptocurrency’s early days. But these BTCs are reportedly stationary in several wallets, suggesting that the mysterious bitcoin creator is dead. It happens that some of these dormant wallets wake up, but there are not enough clues to prove that it is really Satoshi making the moves ten years after his last public appearance.
The whales also include the Winklevoss twins. They owe their fortune to a maxi compensation obtained by Mark Zuckerberg at the time of the lawsuit that saw them opposed to the creation of Facebook. They invested part of that fortune in BTC. It was 2013. They made the right choice. Today, the value of those cryptocurrencies bought in unsuspected times would make the CEO of Facebook pale, and he is certainly not doing badly.
Investopedia also counts Tim Draper and Barry Silbert among the whales.
Tim Draper is considered one of the first “institutional” investors in Bitcoin. He bought 42,000 BTC that he lost with the hack of MT. Gox hack. Then he purchased 30,000 BTC in a judicial auction related to the failure of the first major cryptocurrency exchange.
Today he is convinced that BTC can be worth $250,000 by early 2023. And this justifies his maxi investment.
Berry Silbert is the founder of Digital Currency Group and a member of Grayscale and Coindesk. He has obviously made a business out of cryptocurrencies. Like Tim Draper, he bought 48,000 BTC at the Mt. Gox auction.
Among the institutions, we can mention one above all: Microstrategy. It made its first Bitcoin purchase in August 2020. Today it has more than 105,000 bitcoins in its portfolio, while its subsidiary MacroStrategy LCC, in turn, has 92,000 BTC. Michael Saylor’s idea so far has been a winner: make bitcoin the company’s primary reserve.
Whales and the market
But what happens when whales break into the market with their full weight? Technically, whales can manipulate the market. If a whale decides to make large bitcoin purchases, it can drag the market upward, causing FOMO to increase.
Conversely, if it decides to convert its BTC to cash, it can place large sell orders and increase the pressure. That triggers a chain of sales that drives the price of bitcoin down.
Ultimately, their role is by no means marginal. Especially with the continued entry of institutional investors, it is likely that the whales will play a significant role, even acting as “sharks,” taking advantage of the declines to make further purchases and increase their wealth.