As of today, 6.25 BTC is mined roughly every 10 minutes. That translates to an average of 900 BTC mined per day. This number decreases every 4 years during a phenomenon called Bitcoin halving when Bitcoin production is cut in half. Because only 21 million Bitcoins can be mined, the last Bitcoins will be mined by the year 2140.
It does not necessarily mean that all Bitcoins will always be accounted for. In many cases, we have read stories of people losing access to their Bitcoins. These represent coins that have been lost forever because a passkey cannot be used to retrieve them.
According to Cøbra, the controversial co-owner of Bitcoin.org, there will come a time when more Bitcoins will be lost than will be mined each day. He exclaimed that this will create the scarcity that would actually increase the value of every currently recoverable Bitcoin. He also compared it to how gold could be worth more if more gold went out of circulation.
Eventually the rate of Bitcoins lost each day will surpass the rate of Bitcoins mined each day. At which point the supply will actually be shrinking. Imagine how much gold would be worth if each day some gold vanished into nothingness and forever went out of circulation.
– Cøbra (@CobraBitcoin) August 23, 2020
However, it will be difficult to know for sure how many Bitcoins have already been lost. In November 2017, at the height of the Bitcoin mania, Chainalysis estimated that they had potentially been lost and out of circulation. 2.56 million BTC. In an updated study in 2018, the firm said that 36% of the current supply (in circulation) could potentially be lost.
The keyword in all those statements is "potentially" because there is simply no way to accurately count the amount of Bitcoins lost. We know of reported cases of lost Bitcoins.
- 7,500 BTC on a hard drive dumped in a landfill.
- 553 BTC lost by a Reddit user.
- Over 1000 BTC from Quadriga CEO death (disputed).
- Gizmodo author who dumped a hard drive with 1,400 BTC on it.
- 8,900 BTC lost in a wallet backup fiasco in 2010.
Today, with all the options available to users, from hardware wallets to institutional custody, the chances of losing one's coins, while it is still happening, could be decreasing every year. This is just an inference based on the notion that there are more tools available to enable custody of cryptocurrencies.
At the same time, if Bitcoin is to significantly increase in value in the future, the chance that owners will be more careful is also higher.