Bitcoin Halvings: A look into the past and future

A comprehensive analysis of Bitcoin halvings and their implications, along with predictions for the next expected event

By Ahmed Azzam | @3zzamous | 13 July 2023

15 July _ Bitcoin Halving
  • Bitcoin halvings refer to the reduction of the block reward that cryptominers receive for adding blocks to the blockchain

  • There has been three Bitcoin halvings so far and the next halving is expected to happen in April 2024

  • The previous halvings have caused significant market movements by increasing both the value of the cryptocurrency and the interest from investors

What is a Bitcoin halving?

When cryptominers add new blocks to the Bitcoin blockchain, they are rewarded with a portion of the currency. This is called the block reward. Bitcoin halvings are an integral part of the Bitcoin protocol as they reduce the block reward by half every 210,000 blocks. However, due to the dynamic nature of the Bitcoin blockchain it’s hard to accurately predict the precise timing of future halvings.

The time it takes to add a new block to the Bitcoin blockchain can vary, although the protocol aims for a block time of 10 minutes. To maintain this target, the mining difficulty automatically adjusts in response to the rate of block additions. If blocks are mined too quickly, the difficulty increases, and if they are mined too slowly, the difficulty decreases. These adjustments take place approximately every 2016 blocks, or roughly every two weeks.

In the world of Bitcoin, the halving events have become highly anticipated moments that often spark significant market movements. There has already been three halvings of bitcoin, and as the next one is on the horizon, it's worth examining the history of these events and exploring their potential impact on the future of the world's most popular cryptocurrency.

The first Bitcoin halving occurred in November 2012, followed by the second in July 2016, and the third in May 2020. While it is impossible to forecast the exact duration for adding blocks to the Bitcoin blockchain, most estimates suggest that the next Bitcoin halving will occur in early April 2024. As the halving approaches, the accuracy of these estimates tends to improve.

The future of Bitcoin halving is of great interest to investors, traders, and enthusiasts alike. While past performance does not guarantee future results, the historical patterns surrounding halvings have instilled optimism within the Bitcoin community. The reduced block rewards resulting from halvings contribute to the scarcity narrative of Bitcoin, fuelling expectations of increased demand and, consequently, a potential surge in its price.

History of Bitcoin halvings

The path of Bitcoin's halvings has been characterized by significant milestones, price volatility, and a growing interest from various investors.

To gain a better understanding of the significance of Bitcoin halvings, let's have a look at the previous halvings. It becomes evident that each halving event has been accompanied by a substantial surge in the price of Bitcoin. In other words, the price at each subsequent halving has exceeded the price observed during the previous event.

The pre-halving period

Before Bitcoin's historic first halving event in 2012, a period known as the pre-halving era shaped the early days of the cryptocurrency. This phase, which spanned from Bitcoin's launch on January 3, 2009, to November 28, 2012, witnessed significant developments and laid the groundwork for the digital asset's future.

During this period, the Bitcoin protocol awarded cryptominers with a generous block reward of 50 BTC. Notably, the enigmatic figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin's pseudonymous creator, played an active role in mining Bitcoin and amassed a substantial amount of the digital currency. Estimates suggest that Nakamoto potentially mined between 750,000 and 1.1 million BTC, rendering them one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet if they are still alive.

Key figures from the pre-halving period:

  • Block reward: 50 BTC
  • Bitcoins mined: 10.5 million
  • Highest price: $29.6
  • Lowest price: $0.06

The first halving

On November 28, 2012, the Bitcoin network witnessed its inaugural halving event, effectively reducing the block reward to 25 BTC. This marked the beginning of the first halving cycle, coinciding with Bitcoin's rise to prominence in mainstream circles. Notably, Bitcoin gained attention for its utilization on dark web marketplaces such as Silk Road during this period. Additionally, the collapse of the Mt. Gox cryptocurrency exchange garnered significant media coverage.

Key details of the first halving:

  • Halving date: November 28, 2012
  • Block reward: 25 BTC
  • Bitcoins mined: 5.25 million
  • Highest price: $1,170
  • Lowest price: $12.4

The second halving

The second Bitcoin halving occurred on July 9, 2016, ushering in a new era with a block reward of 12.5 BTC. This phase witnessed heightened competition for Bitcoin in the cryptocurrency market as Ethereum emerged as an attractive competitor. The popularity of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) also contributed to a crypto market bubble that reached its peak in late 2017 and early 2018.

Despite the growing competition, Bitcoin investors still had the opportunity to reap substantial gains, with the price surging to nearly $20,000 during this cycle.

Key details of the second halving:

  • Halving date: July 9, 2016
  • Block reward: 12.5 BTC
  • Bitcoins mined: 2.625 million
  • Highest price: $19,400
  • Lowest price: $8,590

The third halving

On May 11, 2020, the highly anticipated third Bitcoin halving took place, reducing the block reward to 6.25 BTC. This event pushed Bitcoin into uncharted territory, with its market capitalisation surpassing $1 trillion for the first time ever. Bitcoin's value skyrocketed to an all-time high of $67,450, attracting attention from both sophisticated investors and a broader mainstream audience.

As the current halving cycle unfolds, the Bitcoin community eagerly awaits the upcoming fourth halving.

Key details of the third halving:

  • Halving date: May 11, 2020
  • Block reward: 6.25 BTC
  • Bitcoins mined: 1.3125 million
  • Highest price: $67,400
  • Lowest price: $535

How many Bitcoin halvings will there be?

Bitcoin, with a maximum supply of 21 million BTC, has seen 19.22 million BTC mined to date. As the mining process progresses, the remaining Bitcoin becomes scarcer, intensifying the competition among cryptominers. Once the full 21 million BTC are mined, Bitcoin miners will no longer receive block rewards, relying solely on transaction fees paid by users.

The future holds numerous Bitcoin halvings, as these events will continue until the very last Bitcoin is mined. In total, there will be 32 Bitcoin halvings, meaning that there are still 29 halvings yet to occur.

As we anticipate the upcoming Bitcoin halving in 2024, it's worth noting that by that time, approximately 93.7% of the total Bitcoin supply will have been mined, leaving a diminishing number of new coins entering circulation.

Market impact of Bitcoin halvings

Bitcoin halvings have captivated the cryptocurrency industry, marking pivotal moments that shape the Bitcoin mining economy and instigate cyclical price movements within the market.

The scarcity of Bitcoin resulting from these halvings is a driving force behind its value proposition. With a limited supply and increasing demand, Bitcoin has garnered attention from institutional investors and mainstream audiences alike. This unique economic model contributes to the narrative of Bitcoin as a store of value and a potential hedge against inflation.

While the specific impact of future halvings on the Bitcoin market remains uncertain, historical patterns suggest that halvings often coincide with increased market activity and upward price trends. Market participants closely monitor these events, seeking potential opportunities for investment and speculation.

As the cryptocurrency landscape continues to evolve, Bitcoin halvings remain a focal point for market participants. They represent a crucial mechanism designed to regulate the issuance of new Bitcoins, exerting influence on the supply and demand dynamics of the digital asset. Whether the trend of price appreciation at each halving will persist is uncertain, but the anticipation and speculation surrounding these events continue to capture the attention of the crypto community.

In summary, Bitcoin halvings hold tremendous significance for the crypto industry, regulating the mining economy and fostering market dynamics. With 29 more halvings on the horizon, Bitcoin's limited supply and the potential for increased scarcity continue to capture the attention of market participants. As we journey towards the last Bitcoin being mined, the crypto community eagerly awaits the future halvings and their impact on the ever-evolving Bitcoin ecosystem.