There are now 17 million bitcoins in existence — only 4 million left to ‘mine’

More than 80 percent of the bitcoins that will ever exist have now been created.

The 17 millionth bitcoin was “mined” Thursday, according to data from Blockchain.info, more than a year since the number of coins topped 16 million. But only 21 million bitcoins will ever exist, according to the design of the cryptocurrency’s anonymous founder known as “Satoshi Nakamoto.”

“It’s an event that makes the market more aware of the scarcity of bitcoin. It will eventually turn into higher prices,” said Ansel Lindner, a bitcoin investor and host of the “Bitcoin & Markets” podcast. He expects this year, bitcoin could surpass its record high of more than $19,000 hit in December.

Bitcoin traded near $8,900 midday Thursday, down roughly 35 percent for the year so far.

The cryptocurrency is created through an energy intensive process in which miners use high computing power to solve complex mathematical equations. They then receive the bitcoins as a reward, whose amount is halved over time. As a result, the bitcoin creation process is generally slowing down, although it can vary with the number of miners participating…

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