Crypto whale watching – keeping up with the big players in the game

by Carter Toni

In the intricate and ever-evolving world of investing, there’s no asset quite like crypto. Ever since they emerged on the financial scene, digital currencies have set new bars for the industry, introducing a completely novel, decentralized paradigm for money that could potentially transform the world as we know it. So, as with all bright and shiny objects, people have developed a special fascination for this innovative asset class and the promises it holds, with Bitcoin and Ethereum enjoying the highest levels of popularity. Checking the ETH price USD or the BTC price charts has become a daily activity for crypto enthusiasts around the world as the market volatility keeps everyone on their toes.

However, not all crypto investors have the same habits as they are not all created equal. Although tech advances and increased digitalization have made crypto easily accessible to everyone, it appears that much of the crypto wealth is not evenly distributed among investors but rather concentrated in just a few wallets owned by the notorious crypto whales. These entities that are highly discussed and yet remain wrapped in mystery seem to rule the cryptocurrency ecosystem. So, as the biggest players in the game, it makes sense to keep an eye on whales and analyze their activity in the market.

What are crypto whales?

Before we dive deeper into the crypto ocean, we need to provide a more accurate description of the creature that we’re about to study. Crypto whales or simply whales are terms that refer to individuals or entities (organizations, institutional investors, blockchain wallets) that own considerable amounts of digital currencies.

The definition is somewhat subjective since there are no clear standards as to what considerable amounts should mean. There are however unofficial guidelines that can provide some clarity in this respect. In the case of Bitcoin, for example, it is generally agreed that owning 1000 BTC or more is enough to earn someone the whale moniker.

Another thing you should know about crypto whales is that just like their namesake animal, they’re not what you would call a common sight. They swim in deep waters, navigating the depths of the ocean, and don’t engage with the smaller fish. Large investors usually keep their activity off exchanges, as that can cause great liquidity strains for these platforms. They prefer to conduct over-the-counter transactions and engage directly with other high-profile wallets.

Why is whale watching important?

Given the industry’s novelty, and the wide range of aspects influencing it, crypto prices are incredibly volatile and therefore notoriously difficult to predict. So, any factor that can impact their value and trajectory should be closely monitored, and whales qualify as a highly influential factor.

The fact that whales hold such vast amounts of assets means they have the ability to sway prices one way or another and cause a ripple effect in the market with a single transaction. On the one hand, the assets that are being locked up in whale wallets can create liquidity issues in the market since there are fewer coins in circulation, and that can push prices for that specific coin up. On the other hand, a whale that is dumping a large order at a low price can cause prices to plunge. In an already volatile market, such movements can cause even more chaos and uncertainty, which is not exactly beneficial for less powerful stakeholders.

Since crypto transactions are public and recorded on the blockchain, investors keep a close eye on whale activity, looking to spot the next big crypto trade so they can anticipate market movements and price swings. It can be argued that having a handful of entities manipulate prices as they see fit goes against the decentralization principles on which digital currencies were built. Nonetheless, the concentration of wealth cannot be controlled, so whether it aligns with the initial vision of crypto or not, it’s a reality that we need to accept.

Noteworthy crypto whales

Since whale watching is so important, one can’t help but wonder who we are supposed to watch. As you may assume, many crypto whales are not exactly eager to disclose their real identities or tell the world how many assets they hold in their accounts, and since blockchain technology allows users to stay anonymous, there’s not much one can do to bring whales to the surface.

However, some high-profile wallets have decided to step into the spotlight and let us in on their activity. And for whales who choose to lay low, there are various websites and crypto whale trackers tools that can help users identify and monitor large transactions, so they can gain insights into market sentiment and make better trading decisions.

But if you’re not too keen on investigating work, we can offer a quick rundown of the most notable crypto whales at the moment. Bitcoin’s mysterious creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, is believed to own approximately 1.1 million BTC, which obviously places him at the top of the list. Brian Armstrong, the CEO of the Coinbase exchange platform, has a crypto fortune amounting to nearly $6.5 billion. Michael Saylor, an entrepreneur and diehard crypto supporter, has amassed over $1 billion worth of Bitcoin. Chris Larsen, business executive and angel investor, has also made a name in the crypto sphere, holding approximately 5 billion XRP, valued around $37 billion. Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, is touted as one of the biggest ETH whales, although there is no exact information on his holdings.

It’s also worth checking the stats and seeing how things are going in terms of crypto wealth concentration. Looking at the two biggest cryptos by market cap, Bitcoin and Ethereum, market intelligence platform IntoTheBlock reports that 39% of Ethereum’s total supply is held by high-net-worth investors, while only 11% of Bitcoin’s supply is owned by whale addresses. The number of Bitcoin whales has also reached its lowest point since 2019, marking a steady decline in large investors, although the number of Bitcoin mega-whales (wallets with more than 10,000 BTC) remains fairly unchanged.

The dominance of crypto whales cannot be denied, so it’s worth keeping a close eye on their evolution and activity as the crypto industry continues to develop.

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