In search of Bitcoin’s true trading volume; altcoin volumes are inflated more and China still dominates.

Koji Higashi
Jan 2 · 6 min read

TL;DR

  • Many often-quoted data sources such as CoinMarketCap and Coinhills are inaccurate and/or outdated
  • Filtering fake volume, the Bitcoin’s market dominance becomes even more obvious. Bitcoin’s true spot volume market share is estimated 70% vs nominal(reported) market share of 50%
  • China still dominates Bitcoin spot trading via USDT with almost 50% of market share. USD is second place around 20–25% while JPY and KRW hover around 10–15%

Historical charts and tables made available on bitcoinization.com (in beta)

What’s the real trading volume of Bitcoin?

This is a rather simple question but it’s very difficult to give a definitive answer at the same time. It’s no secret in the crypto space that CoinMarketCap’s reported trading volume rankings are highly manipulated and are not trustworthy data anymore.

Other than CoinMarketCap, there are other services such as Coinhills, which is still occasionally quoted by crypto media when referring to BTC by major fiat currencies rankings. Although many of them were great resources back in 2016–17, their data has not been kept updated and thus can easily misguide you to an incorrect understanding of the market.

So, I did a bit of research myself to give better estimates for

  1. Bitcoin’s true trading volume and its market share against other major altcoins.
  2. Bitcoin’s true market share by fiat currencies

I’d argue this is an important piece of information for;

  1. Investors/traders who are looking for better trading opportunities, who wish to come up with better strategies and make better decisions as to which coin to invest in.
  2. Businesses who need to make effective decisions based on accurate data(which market to enter, which coin to develop on and so on).
  3. Media and analysts who are responsible for propagating as accurate information as possible to inform and educate the community.

Methodology-how to eliminate fake volume

Fortunately, there are some countermeasures to combat the fake volume issue today. Particularly, I have utilized CoinGecko’s trust score method in order to filter out dubious trading tickers and exchanges from calculations.

In essence, CoinGecko analyse orderbook depth, spread, and activities and categorize each trading ticker into Green(liquid), Yellow(suspicious) or Red(illiquid/highly suspicious) scoring. (For the more detailed methodology, see the CoinGecko’s official blog post)

For example, for this particular exchange above, most trading tickers’ trust score are either yellow or red, indicating most of its trading volume is likely faked.

I only counted “Green” tickers and its trading volume for my research. This method is rather simple and of course not perfect as this can also possibly be manipulated, but at least it gives us better estimation of the market than naively trusting the reported volume.

Now, finally, let’s look at some numbers we’ve got.

Bitcoin’s true trading volume against top 30 coins

First, using the method above, I’ve estimated the top 30 crypto’s true spot trading volume market share.

Note that I’ve removed stablecoins and exchange tokens from the list as they are not really “crypto”, but more of fiat currencies and quasi-securities respectively.

Here is the snapshot as of Jan 3rd, 2020.

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https://bitcoinization.com/top30crypto-vol.html

Key findings

  1. More than 95% of reported Bitcoin trading volume is faked.
  2. The Bitcoin’s true daily trading volume is on average about 10,000 BTC(approx 70 million USD) vs the nominal volume of 2,600,000BTC(approx 18 billion USD). The legitimate volume ratio is about 3 to 4%(97% of volume faked)
  3. After eliminating fake volume, Bitcoin’s market dominance becomes even more obvious. Against top 30 cryptocurrencies, the true liquidity market share for Bitcoin is about 70% vs nominal market share of 50%.
  4. Ethereum, Litecoin and EOS have particularly low legitimate volume ratios around 1%, meaning the degree of fake volume is more severe for them than for Bitcoin.

It’s already a widely known fact that most crypto trading volume is fake according to research by Bitwise and others. So my estimation of more than 95% of Bitcoin trading volume being fake is in line with other studies as well.

Interestingly, the degree of volume faking seems to be more severe for altcoins than for Bitcoin. In other words, tracking reported trading volumes might give you a wrong impression and can inflate expectations for altcoins.

True Bitcoin spot trading volume by fiat currency

Another often misunderstood metric is Bitcoin volume market share by fiat currencies. As a matter of fact , the original motivation for my research is the fact that the Bitcoin trading volume in Japan is often miscalculated, leading to many ill-informed articles and media coverage of Japan.

For example, Coinhills’ “Most traded National Currencies for Bitcoin” is often referenced on crypto media to this day to estimate the market share of Bitcoin volume across different countries. According to them, USD has 77% of market share, while JPY is following in second place with about 14% share as of Jan 3rd, 2020.

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However, their market share estimate is grossly inaccurate unfortunately.

First of all, they are mixing up spot volume with derivative volume and therefore, this is not a suitable apple-to-apple comparison across different regions to measure market share.

Second, their list of exchanges have not been kept up-to-date and they also make no effort of eliminating fake volume. Also, the absence of the Chinese market in the form of USDT trading is a huge missing point as well.

Although Coinhills used to be a decent data source in the past, it’s simply not reliable anymore.

With that said, the following is my attempt to better estimate the true BTC-fiat volume market share.

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https://bitcoinization.com/index.html

Key findings

  1. China via USDT dominates the Bitcoin trading market with close to 50% market share
  2. USD is a stable second place with about 20% market share on average
  3. JPY comes in third and is on the rise this past few weeks while KRW has slipped below 10% market share as of late
  4. Euro maintains a steady 5% market share
  5. Top 5 currencies account for the vast majority of volume but significant volume also come from Poland(PLN) and Turkey(TRY)

It may be a bit troubling for some to see that I count BTC-USDT trading volume as “China” (it’s mostly from Binance in fact). However, considering some quality research to support strong association between Chinese exchanges and Tether usage as well as qualitative research of Tether usage in China by Coindesk et al., I believe it’s not far off the reality to consider the BTC-USDT volume as China’s.

With that said, there is a significant amount of trading activities which are hard to quantify such as the massive OTC market in China. Thus, comparing trading volumes on centralized exchanges across different countries should be treated as more of an educated guess for Bitcoin popularity, adoption and regional trends.

Conclusion

  1. Some popular data sources are inaccurate due to fake volume and/or a lack of maintenance.
  2. Filtering out fake volume, the Bitcoin’s market dominance becomes even clearer, accounting for approx 70% of trading volume among top 30 coins.
  3. China is still the dominant market force in the Bitcoin trading space, with close to 50% market share via USDT.
  4. As Bitcoin halving approaches and shitcoins crumble, I’d expect the Bitcoin’s true liquidity dominance will rise close to 80% this year. (see bitcoinization.com to track historical data)

For more charts and tables, visit bitconization.com (in beta)

The next up; Bitcoin derivatives and Bitcoin vs Stablecoins.

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Koji Higashi

Written by

Bitcoiner. I mainly write about the Japanese cyrptocurrency space and projects that interest me. https://bitcoinization.com/

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

Koji Higashi

Written by

Bitcoiner. I mainly write about the Japanese cyrptocurrency space and projects that interest me. https://bitcoinization.com/

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

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