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As bitcoin surges well above $11,000, the newly created wealth means some early investors have become digital multimillionaires in dollar terms.
Winklevoss twins Cameron and Tyler are most prominent. In April 2013, the Winklevoss twins had $11 million in bitcoin at $120 a coin. That's a combined worth of just more than $1 billion with bitcoin near $11,700 this week. The brothers settled with Mark Zuckerberg in a dispute over Facebook's origins and went on to launch digital currency exchange Gemini Trust, which is now working with Cboe Global Markets on its bitcoin futures launch.
Roger Ver, an early bitcoin investor nicknamed "Bitcoin Jesus" for his enthusiasm for the digital currency, is rumored to have about 300,000 bitcoins. However, Ver said in an email to CNBC that he now owns "substantially more" of bitcoin's offshoot bitcoin cash than the original bitcoin. "It is nobody's business how much money I have," Ver added. Bitcoin cash was trading Tuesday near $1,543, according to CoinMarketCap, about an eighth of bitcoin's price.
Today, 300,000 bitcoins are worth $3.5 billion. Even 100,000 bitcoins would give Ver $1.1 billion. But Ver may not want dollars. He has renounced his U.S. citizenship and lives in Japan, from where Ver runs Bitcoin.com.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper bought nearly 30,000 bitcoins in a 2014 U.S. Marshals Service auction of coins seized from Silk Road, a now defunct online marketplace that sold illegal goods. Draper confirmed to CNBC he is still holding all those coins, meaning he's worth at least $350 million in bitcoin.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and one of the owners of the Golden State Warriors, owned the equivalent of $5 million in bitcoin in October 2013, according to TechCrunch. One bitcoin was worth about $200 then, according to CoinDesk, meaning Palihapitiya had roughly 25,000 bitcoins. That's worth about $290 million at today's prices.
Charlie Shrem was an early investor in bitcoin and reportedly bought thousands of coins when they were worth as little as $3 to $20 each. Even 5,000 coins would give Shrem $57.5 million. Shrem founded digital currency exchange BitInstant. It shut down after the U.S. government charged Shrem in 2014 with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to prison. He was released last year.
None of the individuals above have publicly stated how many bitcoins they own, or responded to CNBC's request for comment. It's possible they have already cashed in, or bought more of the digital currency since.
Finally, it's worth noting that the anonymous founder of bitcoin known as "Satoshi Nakamoto" has 980,000 bitcoins, based on widely accepted analysis by Sergio Demian Lerner. That puts Nakamoto at the top of the bitcoin rich list, with about $11.3 billion.
Nakamoto also holds almost 4.7 percent of all the bitcoins that will ever exist, and nearly 6 percent of all bitcoins that have been created so far. The number of bitcoins is limited to 21 million, and 16.7 million bitcoins exist today, according to data from Blockchain.
Bitcoin rose about 1 percent to $11,700 Tuesday with a market value of around $197 billion, according to CoinDesk. At one point Tuesday, it hit a record above $11,800. The digital currency is up more than 1,100 percent this year.