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Total Supply Definition

Oct 4, 2023 | Updated Oct 4, 2023
The total supply of a cryptocurrency measures how many of the currency’s coins/tokens are currently in existence.

What is Total Supply?

Total supply is a metric for the scarcity of a cryptocurrency, measuring the combined amount of coins/tokens that are in existence. This includes the coins or tokens in circulation in the open market and those that are locked or reserved. Tokens can be locked in smart contracts or subjected to a vesting period. This is a phase where a project restricts tokens from circulation and gradually releases them to early investors and stakeholders over time.

The metric exempts tokens that have been burned or destroyed. Crypto burning is the process of permanently removing tokens from circulation to create scarcity by sending them to an inaccessible wallet. 

The total supply of a specific cryptocurrency includes its circulating supply and tokens yet to reach the public, minus the number of tokens verifiably burned.

Total Supply vs Circulating Supply

Circulating supply is the number of coins or tokens that are currently in circulation in the open market. In some cases, the circulating and total supply are equal. However, the circulating supply can be less than the total supply if some tokens have been locked up or reserved. For example, Tether’s current circulating supply (as of this writing) is 83,809,374,432 USDT, while the total supply is 86,706,266,800 USDT.

The circulating supply is used to calculate a crypto’s market capitalization. This is because the crypto prices are directly influenced by the coins in circulation, rather than those in reserve or lockup.

What is the Difference Between Maximum Supply and Total Supply

A maximum(max) supply is the sum of all the tokens that will be created or minted for a specific cryptocurrency. While total supply exempts any burned tokens, a crypto’s max supply considers all the coins that have been (and will be) created, issued, and burned or lost. For mineable coins, once the max supply is achieved, no more coins or tokens will ever be generated. 

The maximum supply of Bitcoin is fixed at 21 million BTC. Its total supply is currently 19,438,806 BTC. However, most cryptocurrencies don’t have a fixed max supply.

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