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Bitcoin Halving – A Beginner’s Guide

By: Ofir Beigel | Last updated: 1/13/21

What is the Bitcoin Halving? What does it mean? When does it happen? What happens to the value of bitcoin when it does happen? In this post I’ll answer these questions and more.

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Bitcoin Halving  Summary

Every 4 years on average (210K blocks) the reward granted to Bitcoin miners for adding a block to the blockchain is cut in half. The Bitcoin halving was designed by Satoshi Nakamoto to keep Bitcoin’s inflation in check.

Since the halving basically cuts the supply of new Bitcoins in half, many believe this event will have a dramatic effect on Bitcoin’s price.

That’s the Bitcoin halving in a nutshell. If you want a more detailed explanation Halving keep on reading, here’s what I’ll cover:

  1. What is the Bitcoin Halving?
  2. When Will the Next Halving Occur?
  3. The Halving’s Effect on Bitcoin’s Price
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Conclusion

1. What does Bitcoin Halving Mean?

To understand what The Bitcoin Halving is, you must first understand the basics of Bitcoin mining. In short, new Bitcoins come into the world as a reward for miners whenever they mine a Bitcoin block.

When Satoshi Nakamoto set up the rules for the Bitcoin protocol he stated two important things, among others:

First, that the supply of Bitcoin is finite and limited to 21 Million. Second, that the number of bitcoins generated per block i.e. the reward is set to decrease by 50% every 210,000 blocks.

How long does it take for Bitcoin to be halved?

Since 6 blocks are found on average within an hour and halving happens once every 210,000 blocks, then every 4 years (give or take) there will be a halving event.

This basically means that the mining reward will be reduced by 50% from what it used to be. For example, if today each miner receives 6.25 Bitcoins for solving a block, after the next halving event they will receive only 3.125 Bitcoins and so forth.

Of course the fact that 21 million Bitcoins have been generated doesn’t mean that there are actually 21 million Bitcoins that can be spent. You need to take into account that there are many lost Bitcoins which will never be recovered (it’s assumed that 1/3 of the Bitcoins mined until today were lost).

Why should we even have a halving event?

Why the change? Why not keep the reward the same? Isn’t that unfair to the miners? The answer to that question lies in the law of supply and demand.

If the coins are created too quickly, or there’s no end to the number of bitcoins that can be created; eventually there will be so many bitcoins in circulation that they would have very little value.

Vitalik Buterin, the lead developer of the Ethereum project, wrote an op-ed piece for Bitcoin Magazine and explains the need for slowing the distribution of bitcoins through halving this way:

“The main reason why this is done is to keep inflation under control.

One of the major faults of traditional, “fiat”, currencies controlled by central banks is that the banks can print as much of the currency as they want, and if they print too much, the laws of supply and demand ensure that the value of the currency starts dropping quickly. 

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is intended to simulate a commodity, like gold. There is only a limited amount of gold in the world, and with every gram of gold that is mined, the gold that still remains becomes harder and harder to extract.

As a result of this limited supply, gold has maintained its value as an international medium of exchange and store of value for over six thousand years, and the hope is that Bitcoin will do the same.” 


2. When Will the Next Halving Occur?

Since we know the average block generation time (10 minutes) we can estimate that the next halving event should occur somewhere around February 2024.

There are websites that show you a countdown until the next event.

Having said that, some community members have noticed that in fact, since the creation of Bitcoin, a new block has been created every 9 minutes and 20 seconds on average and not every 10 minutes as presumed.

This is 7% faster than the presumed time of 10 minutes.


3. How Will the Bitcoin Halving Affect Bitcoin’s Price?

Of course the main question people want to know is “will this affect Bitcoin’s price?” and the answer is “nobody knows”.

In 2016, a week after the halving event, not much happened to the exchange rate of bitcoin against the US dollar. While bitcoin was trading at around 650 US dollars at the time of the event, a week later the rate was about 675, so not much of a change.

Additionally, on November 28th 2012 the first Bitcoin halving occurred when block 210,000 was solved. Back at the time Bitcoin’s price was $13.42 and the halving didn’t seem to affect the price that much. Indeed, shortly after Bitcoin’s price spiked to $230, but many attribute that to the Cyprus bailout.

Still, there are arguments in favour of two scenarios – either the price will rise, or nothing will change.

Some claim that the halving event is well known to the community and therefore will not surprise anyone or cause a major change in Bitcoin’s price.

Others claim that due to shortage in “Bitcoin supply” the price is bound to climb as demand will increase. However no one seems to think that the halving may lower the price of Bitcoin in any way.


4. Frequently Asked Questions

What Year Will the Last Bitcoin be Mined?

Following the halving math, the final number of Bitcoins will be roughly 21 million (20999999.9769 to be exact) by the year 2140.

Will Bitcoin Mining Ever End?

No. As long as Bitcoin exists mining will be needed. Once all Bitcoins are mined miners will continue to be compensated through transaction fees.

How Many Bitcoins are Mined per Day?

On average 144 blocks are mined each day (24 hours a day * 60 minutes per hour / 10 minutes per block) which means that 1,800 Bitcoins are mined per day on average.


4. Conclusion

Bitcoin was designed to be valuable. To support this the specific rules were set.

There will only ever be a specific number of Bitcoins in existence  (21 million) and inflation is kept in check by slowing its distribution through the process of halving.

I hope this gives you a better idea of what bitcoin halving is, and why it’s an important feature of what gives bitcoin its value.

You may still have some questions or comments. If so, just leave them in the comment section below.

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37 comments on “Bitcoin Halving”

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    1. It is actually going to be the year 2140, not 2040. At that stage, there won’t be adding any new blocks to the blockchain because at that time, all the 21 million bitcoins will have been mined and placed in circulation.

    1. Nick Marinoff

      We won’t really know until we get to that point. A lot can happen in 119 years. Perhaps by then bitcoin will be mainstream and it will lose its value, or since it’s all mined and there isn’t anymore, it will become more valuable due to its rarity. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

      1. why would you even care whtat will happend in 100 years, just make your mony now, your wasting your brain thinking about that, unlles you plan on becomming 150 years old.

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