Cryptocurrency Whales: Richest BTC and Altcoins HODLers

Cryptocurrency Whales

Blockchain technology offers great opportunities for monetary analysis, which are not available in traditional finance. Modern tools of on-chain analytics allow us to find out the real balance of power between whales and small market participants. It’s also easy to find out how the distribution of assets among large coin holders is changing in front of significant price changes.

Who Are the Crypto Whales 

The largest whale is the creator of Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto,  who supposedly owns 1 million coins, which is almost 6% of the current cryptocurrency issue. This has no official evidence, which only adds emotion and a pinch of suspense to the future prospects of the industry.

There are real organizations that own a large amount of digital money, various financial institutions and hedge funds, for example, Pantera Capital or Bitcoin Investments Trust. They do not participate directly in the cryptocurrency market through trading platforms, such exchanges are suitable only for retail investors.

There are several ways in which whales control the market. One tactic is the rinse and repeat cycle: a large player starts selling a large amount of digital money at a price lower than the market. This causes a panic, the price drops sharply, after which the initiator buys assets at the most favorable rate and as a result remains in the black, then the cycle may repeat.

This is only one of the ways to influence the digital money market. There are many opinions and assumptions about how whales can control the crypto world; many of them are nothing more than theories. 

Due to the relatively small market capitalization of $134 billion and the lack of legal control, this industry is ideally suited for various kinds of manipulations. This is what still prevents the launch of the Bitcoin-ETF. A new financial instrument will be launched as soon as the industry becomes more mature and transparent.

Whales Related to the Recent Cryptocurrency Collapse

In March 2020, the cryptocurrency market doubled after the stock market and lost $60 billion in capitalization. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic and panic on traditional exchanges, manipulations of the cryptocurrency whales, the major holders of Bitcoin, are called among the reasons of collapse.

Whales affected the fall of the market on February 20. Then, in a very short time, BTC fell in price by $500 – from $10,100 to $9,600. In the following days, the market tried to regain its position, but another collapse began simultaneously with the stock market.

On March 8 and 9, the whales began to move their assets to exchanges. Data provided by CryptoQuant, a blockchain analysis firm, shows that the flow of funds to large exchanges or deposits began to grow at a higher rate on March 8. One possible reason is the coordinated action of the whales, which initiated the massive sale of the asset.

Cryptocurrency Distribution

What is the current situation with the distribution of wealth among popular coins? We’ve analyzed the article by Nate Maddrey and the Coin Metrics Team and ready to show you the cryptocurrency distribution on the digital coins market. 

Bitcoin (BTC) Distribution

In the beginning, the BTC was concentrated among several individuals, but over time, it was scattered across millions of addresses. The Bitcoin share held at large addresses (with a balance of at least 1/1 of the total supply) peaked at 33% in February 2011.

In February 2020, only 11% of the total supply was stored at such addresses. At the same time, the percentage of proposals held by small addresses with balances of 1/10 million or less has been growing steadily since 2011.

The share of supply held by large addresses decreased before a significant price increase – from late 2011 to early 2013. A similar process took place in December 2018, which was probably caused by the redistribution of funds on Coinbase cold wallets.

btc distribution
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro

Ethereum (ETH) Distribution

Unlike Bitcoin, the initial distribution of Ethereum (ETH) occurred via crowdsale. At first, the ETH offer was heavily concentrated on large wallets, but over time the distribution became even. 

The percentage of supply at large addresses (at least 1/1,000 of the total supply) peaked at around 60% in July 2016. The volume held by these addresses decreased significantly when an ICO bubble blew from the end of 2017 to 2018. In February 2020, about 40% of the total ETH supply was stored at such addresses. The share of coins at relatively small addresses (from 1/100,000 of the total supply or less) has been growing steadily since 2016.

eth distribution
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro

Litecoin (LTC) Distribution

In 2013, Litecoin had several noticeable drops in the number of coins held by large addresses (at least 1/100,000 of the total supply). This happened just before the price surge in December 2013, during 2017 and before the peak in January 2018. Almost 46% is still focused on large LTC addresses. Bitcoin, as mentioned above, has a figure of 11%.

ltc supply
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Bitcoin SV (BSV) Distribution

During a hard fork, such networks inherit the distribution of offers from Bitcoin. That is why forks at first could seem relatively evenly distributed. However, unlike Bitcoin, the offer of Bitcoin Cash (BCH) over time has become increasingly focused on large addresses.

When Bitcoin Cash separated from the Bitcoin network in August 2017, approximately 14% of its offer was at large addresses. At least 1/100,000 of the total coin supply was stored on each of them. In February 2020, over 29% of BCHs were located at large addresses.

bch distribution
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro

The share of Bitcoin SV (BSV) on addresses with a balance of at least 1/100,000 remained almost unchanged, if you do not take into account the significant decline in February 2019 and a sudden increase in June 2019.

In 2018, when BSV appeared, about 26% of the total supply of the new coin appeared at the corresponding addresses. In February 2020, this figure was around 24%.

Ripple (XRP) and Stellar (XLM) Distribution

Ripple (XRP) and Stellar (XLM) are networks based on a system of accounts, behind which there are formal organizations that control a significant part of the offer. About 85% of the total number of XRP tokens is located on addresses with a balance of at least 1/100,000.

xrp supply
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro

Approximately 95% of XLM is stored at addresses with a balance of at least 1/100,000 of the total offer. This is largely due to the fact that the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) holds more than half of all coins (29.4 billion XLM).

In Autumn, SDF burned 50% of the total XLM supply, reducing it to 50 billion coins. However, after sending it to the address for burning, these coins are still displayed on the blockchain as part of the total monetary mass.

xlm supply
Source: Coin Metrics Network Data Pro


The publicity of transactions in the Bitcoin blockchain allows you to monitor the largest wallets. For many investors, the actions of whales are a signal to buy or sell. In the first two months since the beginning of 2019, they have increased assets in cryptocurrency by $576 million, although they have been inactive for several years before.

The total balance of 102 addresses, which store from 10,000 to 100,000 BTC, now exceeds 2,290,000 BTC. This may be a positive sign for the digital money industry, as players of this level will not invest hundreds of millions of dollars if they are not sure about the prospects for making a profit. Therefore, such a movement of funds is used for some additional market analytics and forecasts.

The further the blockchain industry develops, the larger and more transparent it is, the less space will remain for manipulations and various conspiracy theories. In just 10 years, the industry has taken a huge step in development, so the future of cryptocurrencies is becoming more obvious.