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The US government lost $1.7 billion by selling Bitcoin too early

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Holding BTC would’ve totally paid off

The United States is likely to have missed out on around $1.7 billion by auctioning off seized Bitcoin BTC way too soon.

Using back-dated market rates, cryptocurrency enthusiast Jameson Lopp built a handy portal to estimate the amount of money those sales have generated since 2014.

Introducing the US Marshals Bitcoin Auction realtime schadenfreude tracker. As of today, the Marshals have missed out on over 1.7 billion dollars by selling early.

— Jameson Lopp (@lopp) February 9, 2020

US authorities have seized 185,230 BTC through criminal investigations between 2014 and now, including an auction for 3,813 BTC that runs throughout February.

Let’s say, though, that the US Marshals held onto all of the Bitcoin seized over the past six years. Pretend they smartly sold them yesterday when the price of BTC hit $10,000 once more  they would’ve netted a groin-thumping $1.85 billion.

Instead, Hard Fork re-ran Lopp’s numbers to gauge the approximate price of each BTC auctioned by the US Marshals. As it turns out, it’s probable they’ve sold Bitcoins for just $818 each, on average.

So, Bitcoin sold by the US Marshals has earned them roughly $151 million, according to Lopp’s portal. If this is the case, it would indeed mean the US government has short-changed itself roughly $1.7 billion by refusing to hold.

UK police are also in the business of auctioning criminally-seized cryptocurrency, having conducted BTC auctions for the first time late last year.

In September, Hard Fork reported that Wilsons Auctions sold Bitcoin on behalf of the Crown to generate $369,000. On average, 1 BTC sold for $8,365, 0.5 BTC for $4,236, and 0.25 BTC for $2,426.

At the time, Bitcoin traded on cryptocurrency exchanges for a little over $8,000, which means the UK generally finalized those auctions at above market rates.

Bulgaria’s government however appears to do it better than both the US and the UK, which had been long-rumored to be sitting on 200,000 BTC ($2 billion) seized from criminals.

Eventually, local media reports indicated the full amount of cryptocurrency was actually sold to several sovereign wealth funds and Asian investors for around $16,000 each, which is a helluva lot more than $818.

Published February 10, 2020 — 16:51 UTC

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