As of this writing, 17,058,387 Bitcoins have been mined, 81.23% of all the Bitcoins that will ever exist. In total there will be 21 million Bitcoins after all mining is completed, which should occur around 2140. The relatively low rate of Bitcoin mining from here on out will be conducive to Bitcoin’s price rising.
A major benefit of Bitcoin is that its rate of production and total supply are hard-coded into its underlying program. This prevents inflationary money printing that is so often seen with fiat currencies. There have been recent examples of out of control money printing destroying fiat currencies and the economy of entire nations, such as Zimbabwe and Venezuela, where everyone who held their money in the national fiat currency lost their life savings.
With Bitcoin, such a crisis is not possible. In fact, part of the reason for Bitcoin’s long-term price rise is that the inflation rate from government’s printing fiat currency is far more than the inflation rate from Bitcoin mining, causing the price of Bitcoin to rise relative to fiat.
A fixed amount of bitcoins are minted for each new block discovery which occurs on average every 10 minutes. At the beginning, there were 50 bitcoins minted per block, and these were rewarded to miners who maintain and secure the network by cryptographically hashing transactions and organizing them into blocks. After every 210,000 blocks, the block reward halves, and with the block time of 10 minutes this is roughly every 4 years. The block reward has halved twice since Bitcoin was launched, and currently sits at 12.5 Bitcoins.
It is estimated that the block reward will halve again in late May 2020, at which point there will be 6.25 bitcoins minted per block. Block halvings will continue until there is 1 Satoshi (0.00000001 Bitcoin) minted per block, the smallest possible unit of Bitcoin. This will occur at the 33rd halving, at block 6.72 million. At the 34th halving at block 6.93 million, the block reward will drop to zero since a Satoshi cannot be divided in the Bitcoin protocol. At that point, the total bitcoin supply will be 21 million and no more bitcoins will ever be created.
Miners will continue to receive transaction fees even after the last Satoshi is mined, which will provide the needed incentive to maintain and secure the Bitcoin network. Considering the long-term rise in bitcoin’s price the transaction fees alone may be enough profit to maintain a healthy mining community by the time 2140 rolls around. Bitcoin may be compromised by attacks from quantum computers as early as 2027 though, so there is no way to know for sure if Bitcoin will still be used in 2140. A quantum cryptocurrency may very well succeed Bitcoin as the top cryptocurrency in the world out of necessity.
Even though 21 million bitcoins will be mined in total, the amount in circulation is less due to people losing private keys, willfully sending Bitcoins to burn addresses like 1BitcoinEaterAddressDontSendf59kuE, or sending Bitcoins to the wrong address. Theoretically, the supply of Bitcoin will decrease throughout time due to accidents, resulting in deflation.
Once again, quantum computers are a fly in the ointment when it comes to this if they arise like experts expect then they will be able to obtain private keys from public keys. If that happens all lost and burned bitcoins could be put back into circulation, but the cryptocurrency will be obsolete and worthless at that point anyways.
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