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Which Bitcoin Whales Bought the Crash?

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In my previous article, I reported that Bitcoin whales were net buyers to the tune of $4.7 billion during the Jan 14-22 crash.  Please refer to this article for more detail:  https://marketzen.blog/are-btc-whales-still-hodling/

In this article, I delve deeper to answer the question:  which subgroup of whales did the bulk of the buying/accumulation?  The dataset that I prepared for this article can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13UDKvj1XLwHDHJcKizmHEpwMtmb9awIq3LN7i3Olhnw/edit?usp=sharing     

In the spreadsheet, the first tab lists the net inflows and outflows into, or out of, each whale wallet for each day between Jan 14 and 22. Column K (net_flow_sum) shows the aggregate net flow for the period for each wallet. This is the key variable that I use for the analysis. A positive net flow sum makes a wallet a net buyer, while a negative net flow sum makes it a net seller.

In this study, there are 5258 whale wallets, accounting for 47% of all Bitcoin ownership as of Jan 22.  During the crash, while the market panicked, most of the whales did nothing with their coins;  only 5% (289) of the whales had any activity (non-zero net flow). 

Active Whales

Of the 289 active whales that bought or sold,  213 (75%) of them were net buyers of BTC, adding 131,410 Bitcoins to their wallets.  Even though we cannot identify the owners of these wallets, we can profile them by wallet age and balance to get a sense of their common characteristics.   Wallet age is the number of days between the first date that Bitcoin was deposited into the wallet and the last date that the wallet had any activity (transfer in or out).  Balance is the number of coins in the wallet as of Jan 22.

Having identified the active whale population, we ask the following questions:

1. What is the typical BTC active whale wallet balance?
2. How do they compare to Ethereum whales? See my previous article on ETH whales https://marketzen.blog/which-ethereum-whales-bought-the-crash/
3. Crucially, which whales bought the crash?

Given that Bitcoin’s market capitalization is twice that of ETH’s, one would expect that the typical BTC wallet is richer than its ETH counterpart.  This is evident in the chart below.

The typical active Bitcoin whale wallet is richer than its ETH counterpart by a lot ($8.8 million gap for net-buyer whales, and $25 million for net-seller whales).  The $25 million net-seller gap is quite startling, suggesting that ETH sellers either had less confidence in their investment, or started with less than their BTC counterparts, or both.  This is a future study where I look across the distribution of BTC and ETH wealth to see which investors are more confident in their investment (recognizing,  of course, that some investors hold both assets).  Stay tuned!

Next, we look at the relationship between wallet age and net flows to answer the main question.  The table below helps us to see that the newest 61 wallets, 0 to 2 weeks old, did the vast majority (81.17%) of the net accumulation.   These results are quite stunning, but similar to what we saw in Ethereum (85% net buying by the same age group).

The next table shows a lot less net selling, although pretty evenly distributed across 3 wallet age groups. The total net selling (12,125 BTC) is dwarfed by the total net buying (145,273 BTC) by a factor of twelve to one.

Please refer to the spreadsheet shared above for calculations.

Key Takeaway: The large gap between total net buying and total net selling reassures us that the large whales weren’t simply shuffling BTC from old wallets to new wallets. If that were the case, then those totals would be roughly equal to one another in absolute terms.

Conclusion

In Bitcoin and Ethereum, the bulk of net accumulation/buying was done by whale wallets that were created less than 2 weeks before the crash, suggesting that these wallets likely belong to new institutional investors. Did these investors know of the impending crash? Did they somehow cause the crash by manipulation? Or is this a continuation of the fundamental shift into Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto assets? These tantalizing questions could be future topics.  Stay tuned and feel free to subscribe below!

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