The question how much bitcoin does Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of the cryptocurrency actually has is frequently discussed and no one, never really got any clarification about it in the Bitcoin universe. For a long time, an investigation by Sergio Demian Lerner was considered the best estimate. Now, however, the cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX has released a new study that at least partially challenges Lerner’s estimates.
The first study was published by Sergio Demian Lerner in April 2013, when he argued that Satoshi Nakamoto has minted one million bitcoin since 2009. His claim was based on the fact that throughout the year 2009 the hash rate was relatively constant at about 7 million hashes per second, which was roughly the same as the first 14 days of bitcoin’s hash rate.
Accordingly, Lerner assumed that Satoshi was the only miner in the beginning. This thesis, however, met with great criticism in the Bitcoin community, as there was no reason to believe that Satoshi was the sole miner in the first 14 days.
Only a few days later, Lerner published a new study, which is still considered by many to be the best and most plausible study of the issue. In the study, he estimated the assets of Nakamoto at about one million BTC.
Learner’s new investigation was based on something called ExtraNonce. Although ExtraNonce is not a part of the Bitcoin protocol, it is an area in a Coinbase transaction. However, there is a formal specification about how the field is to be interpreted. Lerner took this digital “fingerprint” and examined it between January 3rd, 2009 and January 25th, 2010. The graph below by Lerner shows that one particular miner was particularly active during the period and also the first block after the Genesis block got dismantled (black dots).
I can not guarantee with 100 percent certainty that all black dots are owned by Satoshi, but almost all of them belong to a single entity, and this entity began with the mining of Block 1 and the same performance as the Genesis block.
What Results Does the BitMEX Study Provide?
Although the analysis of BitMEX largely coincides with the 2013 learner hypothesis, there are some points where BitMEX contradicts Lerner’s theses. BitMEX is timing this point in August 2009, when the stock market lost confidence in Learner’s study.
Basically, BitMEX has the same analysis as Lerner. The goal was to count the blocks that were obtained from each entity and allocate all the blocks. As a result, BitMEX writes that its own analysis used a variety of methods, including statistical analysis, random number generators, and even manual validation to allocate a few blocks. Nevertheless, BitMEX cannot guarantee the accuracy.
Until August 2009, they agree with Lerner’s theses. Afterward, BitMEX writes:
“After August 2009, the pattern partially collapses. The gradient of the slopes varies considerably (from 1.1 nonces per block to 10 nonces per block). At the same time, the heights are inconsistent and there are many big gaps between them. Although the picture still looks convincing, the evidence that the miner as a unit is too weak in our view. “
After analyzing ExtraNonce per block, BitMEX concludes that Satoshi could own only 740,750 of the estimated 1 million bitcoins. The evidence for the other 227,650 BTC in the original 2013 estimate is considered too weak to confidently connect with the creator. As a result, the BitMEX study states:
“In summary, although there are clear signs of a dominant miner in 2009, the evidence is much less certain than many have anticipated. Although a picture says more than a thousand words, pictures can sometimes be a bit misleading. Even if one is convinced, the evidence only supports the claim that the dominant miner could have generated significantly less than one million bitcoins in our view. Maybe 600,000 to 700,000 bitcoins are a better estimate.”