The United States government has become one of the largest Bitcoin holders, with over 200,000 BTC worth more than $5 billion despite selling a few thousand BTC worth millions earlier this year.
According to a data analysis based on public filings, crypto firm 21.co estimated that the U.S. government still holds 194,188 BTC, estimated to be worth $5.3 billion. The firm noted in its analysis that these are “lower-bound estimations of the U.S. government holdings based on publicly available information.”
U.S. government Bitcoin holdings. Source: Dune
The analysis tracked the Bitcoin movement of the U.S. government wallets associated with the three largest BTC seizures since 2020, namely the Silk Road seizure of 69,369 BTC in November 2020, the Bitfinex Hack seizure of 94,643 BTC in January 2022, and the James Zhong seizure of 51,326 BTC in March 2022.
Key Bitcoin seizures by U.S. government. Source: Dune
The government Bitcoin stash is kept primarily offline in encrypted storage devices known as hardware wallets kept under the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. The U.S. government made two significant seizures in 2022.
Seized assets do not instantly belong to the government. The U.S. Marshals Service, the principal agency charged with selling seized property, only receives possession of the seized Bitcoin after a court issues a definitive forfeiture judgment.
The U.S. government also sells a portion of the seized Bitcoin from time to time through an auction system based on court liquidation orders. The most notable government auction dates back to 2014, when billionaire Tim Draper bought 30,000 BTC from U.S. government auctions in 2014.
However, in recent years, the U.S. government has turned to crypto exchanges to sell seized Bitcoin over public auctions. One such sale came in March earlier this year when the government sold 9,118 BTC on Coinbase, as confirmed through a public filing.