Cryptocurrency Markets- concentrated and top heavy
April 14, 2018
Distrust in fiat currency, controlled by a state, was one of the principal motivations in designing of the Bitcoin protocol. It was designed to be a decentralized system of creation of new money by a transparent computational algorithm. Any person participating in the currency’s ecosystem can run this algorithm on a computer and generate new money. It is supposed to be a currency created by the people for the people and therefore a currency of the people. It is a currency of future when true democracy will prevail. hereherehereherehere
But what is the reality? Who owns the bulk of these virtual currencies? To get an answer to this question, I looked into data about the distribution of these currencies amongst the participants in this technology game. The result of this exercise is truly revealing.
Data: We have collected data from the website https://bitinfocharts.com/top-100-richest-bitcoin-addresses.html which gives “Rich List” of some selected 9 currencies. We collected data as on 11th April, 2018. The market cap of these 9 currencies was 58.8 per cent of total market capitalization in terms of US dollar on that date. On the data date, the total market capitalization of virtual currencies (excluding tokens) was 261 billion US dollar. So one can say collected data is adequately representative of the virtual currency ecosystem. The website has grouped data by value of coins held against each address. An address having , say 0.001 bitcoin (BTC), would be grouped in the bucket “0 to 1 BTC” bucket. For some cryptocurrencies , the number of coins held in an address may be very large as their market value is much smaller as compared to that of Bitcoin. So the number of class intervals for coins held would be higher than a highly valued cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. To keep the results compact we have collapsed crypto wise class intervals into a common 3 classes. The following table gives a summary of distribution of value in US dollar and number of addresses across these class intervals.
Table 1: The distribution of addresses in terms of value of coin held and number of addresses for various class intervals of value of coins for each address.
Share of each group of addresses below in total number of addresses
Share of each group of addresses in total market value of outstanding coin in USD
(USD) per address
<=1 full Coin per address
1 -100 coins per address
More than 100 coin
less than or equal to1Coin
1-100 coins per address
> 100 coins
It is obvious from the above table that only few addresses, each having more than 100 coins per address account for the bulk of total market capitalization of each currency. Bitcoin which the highest market capitalization of all circulating coins is also concentrated in a small number of addresses. The table 2 below clearly indicates how a few big market players have completely taken over each currency market.
The US tax authorities as well as Commodity Future Trading Commission have designated as “commodity” and not currency. From that perspective, this commodity market is highly monopolistic and susceptible to market manipulation by few large traders. It is high time that anti-trust authorities in the developed economies wake up to this reality and take appropriate actions in the interest of average participant in these markets.
Table 2: The number of addresses and value held by top bracket by number of coins held per address
Number of addresses in the highest bracket
Market value of coins held by addresses in the top bracket (million USD)
Share of these addresses in outstanding market value of the respective Coin
Dr. A.K.Nag was a senior executive of the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank and the monetary authority of the country. He was also one of the main architects of the RBI's enterprise wide data warehouse, a pioneering effort for any central bank anywhere and many other such one-of-its-kind projects.