Circulating Supply, Max Supply, and Total Supply Fully Explained
If you’ve used our cryptocurrency price tool or any similar tools, you’ve probably noticed mentions about coins’ supplies. In this guide I’ll explain the meanings of Circulating Supply, Max Supply, and Total Supply. I’ll also explain why these metrics are so important for cryptocurrency investors to understand.
Circulating Supply is the current amount of a cryptocurrency that’s both been mined (or created) and is technically available to use. However, it does not include coins that can be created, but have not yet been created. It also does not include known created coins that are currently being held in escrow.
In the case of Bitcoin, there’s a maximum of 21 million coins that can ever be created, but currently only 17.28 million of them have been mined.
Unfortunately, we won’t ever know the exact amount of coins in circulation, because it’s impossible to know how many of them have been lost. It’s been estimated that 4 million Bitcoins have been lost, largely from early adopters. Despite this, circulating supply is still our best way of estimating available coins.
Circulating supply (CS) is used to find a cryptocurrency’s market cap by multiplying CS by the price of a coin. This important metric is commonly used as the most accurate way to determine the size of cryptocurrencies. The larger the CS of a coin, the lower it’s price will typically be.
The image below shows the impact of supply on price. If Bitcoin (BTC) and Ripple (XRP) currently had the same market cap, Bitcoin would be worth $6,416, whereas XRP would only be worth $2.78523. This is due to the fact there are 39,792,720,000 more XRP in circulation than BTC.
In the case of cryptocurrencies like Ripple XRP and many ICO tokens, pre-mined or already created coins that are not accessible are not included in the CS. They are however included in the total supply.
Total Supply is the current amount of a cryptocurrency that has already been mined or created. Unlike circulating supply, coins are not required to be available for use. This number also removes any coins that have been knowingly burned or destroyed.
Total Supply (TS) includes coins that are locked for various reasons including:
- Pre-mined coins that are kept out of circulation by founders (like XRP).
- Tokens locked in smart contracts until a specific date or event is achieved (many ICO projects).
Total supply is an important metric to consider when investing in cryptocurrencies, especially when there’s a large discrepancy between TS and CS. Be sure to look into when and how the non-CS tokens will enter circulation. A large influx of tokens could significantly decrease prices.
While TS includes all coins currently in existence, it does not necessarily indicate the maximum number of coins that can ever be created.
Max Supply is the total amount of a cryptocurrency that can ever be mined or created, but they do need to already exist. This number is typically hard coded and would require a hard fork of a cryptocurrency’s blockchain to change.
Cardano (ADA) is an example of a crypto that has three different supply metrics. There are currently 31,112,483,745 ADA to have ever been created (Total Supply), 25,927,070,538 ADA available to use (Circulating Supply), and 45,000,000,000 ADA that can ever be created (Max Supply).
In the case of ADA, investors need to be aware the circulating supply will nearly double over time.
Like I discussed with TS, you should always explore how future tokens will be created, when there’s a discrepancy between CS and max supply.
While most cryptocurrencies have a max supply, that’s not the case for all coins. Ethereum is one such example of a coin with no max supply that plans to continue with steady inflation. Assuming nothing was to change with Ethereum, new coins would continuously be created by miners forever.
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