Since its creation just over a decade ago, Bitcoin’s price has risen far and fast, becoming one of the best-performing assets in recent years. That’s naturally led to curiosity among owners of the cryptocurrency: how much Bitcoin do you need to have stashed away to be considered a substantial holder?
One yardstick by which this can be measured is the “1% Club”; that is, someone in the top 1% of Bitcoin holders worldwide. Of course, pinning down exactly what that means can be a challenge. Figures cited range from as low as 0.28 Bitcoin to 15 Bitcoin.
In February 2002, Jake Levison, an analyst for Blockworks Group, tweeted that, “If you own 0.28 BTC, you’re statistically guaranteed to be in the richest 1% of the world in BTC terms.”
If you own 0.28 BTC, you're statistically guaranteed to be in the richest 1% of the world in BTC terms.
Stack sats fam#BTC
— Jake Levison (@jakelevison) February 18, 2020
Levison’s reasoning is that “if you own 0.28 BTC, only 1% of the world will ever be able to own more than you.” The rationale behind the figure, as former Google product director Steve Lee tweeted in 2018, is that if you divide Bitcoin’s 21 million hard cap by one percent of the then-current world population of 7.5 billion, you get… 0.28.
Of course, that doesn’t take into account the fact that not all 21 million Bitcoin have been mined yet, or the fact that there are millions of lost Bitcoin that skew the figure, or the fact that Bitcoin isn’t evenly distributed among addresses.
From now until the end of time.
My tweet was saying that if you own .28 BTC, only 1% of the world will ever be able to own more than you. Hence putting you in the top 1%.
— Jake Levison (@jakelevison) February 18, 2020
That’s just one calculation, though; another rival theory suggests that you’d need a much larger investment of 15 Bitcoin to join the 1% club. At today’s prices, that’s over $100,000.
According to a chart published by Blocklink, 15 Bitcoin is the magic figure. Blocklink reached this conclusion by disregarding wallet and address data, and assuming no lost Bitcoin in its calculations of 25 million Bitcoin owners. The study also reportedly considered power law applied to the distribution of Bitcoin wealth, which was seen as equivalent to global wealth.
At the time of their study, in 2018, Blocklink also claimed that 225,000 Bitcoin owners held this amount of Bitcoin, making the 1% club pretty exclusive.
However, different studies make different assumptions, and because there is no precise or transparent way of identifying who owns which addresses, it’s actually very hard to know how much Bitcoin you would need to enter the crypto community’s elite.
Bitcoin’s “invisible whales”
It’s possible to approximate, but landing on precise figures is difficult because the data gets skewed by changes in the exact number of Bitcoin holders, the total of lost Bitcoin, and the total number of wallets.
For starters, multiple Bitcoin addresses can belong to the same person. Secondly, many crypto exchanges and other investment companies hold Bitcoin, but do so on behalf of their customers. “I think there might be quite a few invisible whales in Bitcoin,” Elias Strehle, researcher at the Blockchain Research Lab, told Decrypt.
“I would also add that this limits the explanatory power of on-chain data to determine Bitcoin adoption and the concentration of Bitcoin wealth in general,” said Ingo Fiedler, co-founder at Blockchain Research Lab, also in conversation with Decrypt.
Who is in the Bitcoin 1% club today?
It’s very hard to identify exactly who is currently in the Bitcoin 1% club, and how much of that 1% they can claim.
With that said, however, this chart, published by Bit Info Charts, gives us some good data as a starting point. According to the chart, there is at least one address out there that can claim membership of the Bitcoin 1% club.
Based on these figures, the single address at the bottom of this table owns 1.23% of the total Bitcoin in circulation, with a BTC balance of anywhere between 100,000 and 1,000,000.
For the sake of argument, it might also be theoretically possible for one individual address in any of the above categories to also own 1% of the total amount of Bitcoin in circulation. However, this would only be possible if the highest point in the Bitcoin balance range was enough to produce such a large share of total Bitcoin. Obviously, the top group that holds a range between 0 and 0.001 is currently out of the question.
Even still, as pointed out by the Blockchain Research Lab above, the same person can own multiple Bitcoin addresses, so this methodology wouldn’t necessarily produce accurate figures.
Does it matter how many people are in the Bitcoin 1% club?
Ultimately, trying to establish exactly how much Bitcoin is needed to break into the 1% club involves a little bit of estimation.
Regardless of where you land on these calculations, the importance of being a part of this club depends primarily on Bitcoin’s value at the time.
During Bitcoin’s famous Christmas bull run in 2017, being a part of Bitcoin’s elite 1% would have carried literally double the weight it does now, because Bitcoin’s value was almost double its current price.
If Bitcoin ever hits those near-$20,000 highs again, we might expect a few more Bitcoin owners to brag about their elite club membership.