London (AFP)

Cryptocurrencies, a $ 1,000 billion market?

This is what some market observers think, who compare the capitalization of bitcoin and its little sisters to stock market giants like Google and Tesla.

But the anecdotes of early amateurs who despair of finding their bitcoins, lost on a hard drive accidentally thrown away or on a USB key with a forgotten password, illustrate the disappearance of a large number of these currencies, which reduces the size of the active market.

To calculate the capitalization of cryptocurrencies, simply multiply the number of "coins" issued by its value - over 18 million bitcoins to almost $ 40,000 (the all-time high is at $ 42,000), or nearly 700 billion dollars. dollars, for example.

For sites like, which compare bitcoin to stock market assets, after quadrupling in value in 2020, bitcoin is worth almost as much as Facebook, a little more than Chinese giant Alibaba, and is the ninth most expensive asset in the world. .

JPMorgan analysts compare this capitalization to that of gold: the yellow metal market for financial purposes represents $ 2.6 trillion, bitcoin would simply need to reach $ 146,000 to compete with it.

- Missing bitcoins -

Enough to strangle those who doubt bitcoin, a decentralized asset with no direct connection to the real economy: an article in the daily Financial Time underlines that some bitcoins have already disappeared from circulation.

According to the press, an American developer thus lost the password of a USB key where he had 7,002 bitcoins (approximately 280 million dollars) while a Briton begs his municipality to help him find his hard drive, inadvertently dumped in a city landfill with £ 200 million in bitcoin there, promising a 25% bitcoin reward.

“Most of the lost bitcoins were acquired” during the few years following the mining of the first bitcoin in January 2009, explains to AFP Philip Gradwell, economist at Chainalysis, who estimates that nearly a fifth of the bitcoins in circulation are on addresses from which they have not moved for more than five years.

Industry players were more amateurish, prices lower: until 2013, bitcoin was worth $ 100 at most.

According to Mr. Gradwell, "one or two million of these bitcoins belong to Satoshi", the pseudonym behind the creator of the cryptocurrency.

- "Fry menu" -

Besides these potentially lost bitcoins, many investors do not participate in daily trading, and invest for the long term.

The recent boom in the market would only cover 5 million bitcoins, adds Gradwell.

Patrick Heusser, in charge of trading at the Swiss broker Crypto Broker, also believes that the volume of exchanges, observed by looking at the activity on the blockchains of various cryptocurrencies, is a better index than the capitalization: "there are currencies like ethereum and litecoin ", respectively with capitalizations of around 138 billion and 10 billion dollars.

"The activity is abounding on the ethereum blockchain, while it is completely dead on the litecoin", which has only seen its value rise due to the wider interest in cryptocurrencies, he explains. .

Some "reports compare the capitalization of bitcoin to that of gold, but I don't think that's very useful data for assessing the health of the market," he comments.

After part of his career trading traditional currencies, he considers the cryptocurrency market promising but still "small fry" compared to other financial markets.

While many investment funds have taken an interest in cryptocurrencies in 2020, the volatility of bitcoin is for the moment encouraging financial institutions to devote a limited portion of their portfolios to it, still mainly made up of stocks and bonds.

© 2021 AFP