Inactive Bitcoin Supply Reaches 4-Year High, Pointing to Bullish Sentiment

A majority of bitcoins haven’t moved in at least a year, according to on-chain data, signaling investor confidence amid macroeconomic uncertainty.

AccessTimeIconJun 15, 2020 at 6:22 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:51 a.m. UTC

On-chain data indicates crypto investors aren’t taking profits but are holding on despite uncertain economic conditions and bitcoin’s strong performance. 

At the time of publication, 60.63% of all bitcoins have not moved in at least a year, according to data from Glassnode. This data suggests bitcoin ownership is consolidating, and investors who bought at the cycle bottom in 2018 have been reluctant to take profits and relinquish their bitcoin holdings. It’s been over four years since a percentage of supply this large has been inactive. 

One method to analyze inactive bitcoins has been to group them by the length of time they’ve been inactive. Called “HODL Waves,” this data analysis was pioneered by Austin, Texas-based Unchained Capital to display macroscopic shifts in bitcoin ownership and use. It may also give a sense of investor preferences.

Each wave — one day, one month, six months, two years, five years, etc. — represents the period of time in which a percentage of the issued supply has not been used in a transaction, or, in other words, has been inactive. 

The term “HODL” represents the behaviour of die-hard bitcoin investors who chose to hold bitcoins with practically no intention of using or selling those coins. Thus, each wave visualizes what percentage of the bitcoin supply has been “HODLed” and for how long.

Percentage of issued bitcoin supply inactive for at least one year
Percentage of issued bitcoin supply inactive for at least one year

Dhruv Bansal, co-founder and CSO at Unchained Capital, explained that this HODL Wave data suggests investors “who bought bitcoin on the way down from $6,000 to $3,000 in 2018 are still holding it despite the tremendous gains since then and the recent economic turbulence.”

Curiously, the two age segments that have grown the most are coins held for more than 10 years and those held for two to three years, which are up 31% and 26% year to date, respectively. In 2020, the two- to three-year band represents coins held from the 2017 market all-time high to present.

Bitcoin HODL waves one year or greater (June 2016 to May 2020) broken down by wave
Bitcoin HODL waves one year or greater (June 2016 to May 2020) broken down by wave

Every bitcoin investor might not intentionally HODL though. Speculating on the two- to three-year band wave’s growth, Yassine Elmandjra, cryptocurrency analyst at ARK Investment Management, told CoinDesk his “guess” is growth in this coin age group could, among other things, be a function of retail investors “who bought at the peak and lost their Trezor [wallet] or can’t log into Coinbase.” 

Despite an extremely volatile Q1 2020 and ongoing macroeconomic uncertainty, an increasing amount of dormant bitcoins confirms that buyers still believe in their investment more than ever. 

According to Bansal, “If you believe bitcoin's price history repeats or at least rhymes, then this may be a bullish sign, the market consolidating into strong hands as macro trends highlight bitcoin's value proposition.”


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