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Bitcoin Now Worth More Than Some Top Billionaires

Bitcoin’s ascent hasn’t been without some notable speed bumps. Because it’s not backed by a central bank or government, it’s frowned upon in certain countries
Market tracker Coinmarketcap.com has put the total value of all bitcoins in circulation at $190 billion.Market tracker Coinmarketcap.com has put the total value of all bitcoins in circulation at $190 billion.

Bitcoin’s extraordinary price surge means its market capitalization now exceeds the annual output of whole economies and the estimated worth of some of the world’s top billionaires.

With the debate over its bubble status still raging, the flagship cryptocurrency continued its march higher on Monday, solidifying above $11,800 and bringing its climb this year to more than 1,000%. With market tracker Coinmarketcap.com putting the total value of all bitcoins in circulation at $190 billion, it’s come a long way from August, when one coin could buy you a hefty supply of avocados, news outlets reported.

The cryptocurrency’s market cap is also bigger than the likes of Qatar, Kuwait and Hungary. The cryptocurrency now exceeds the annual output of Armenia by more than 18 times. The country's economy is valued at a little more than $10.5 billion, according to World Bank data as of July.

Bitcoin’s run-up has even seen it valued more highly than two of the world’s most influential banks—Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG.

In August, the bitcoin world split in two when bitcoin cash broke away from bitcoin. It was the culmination of years of growing tension about how to improve the world’s most popular cryptocurrency.

The divide has set up a battle over which is the “true” bitcoin. Now, investors are bracing for volatility and a fight that could define what a cryptocurrency can or should be.

Here are five things that have been eclipsed by bitcoin in terms of market capitalization:

Goldman Sachs, UBS

Bitcoin’s run-up has even seen it valued more highly than two of the world’s most influential banks. Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s market cap was $97 billion as of Friday, while Zurich-based UBS Group AG came in at about $67 billion. Add those numbers together and it still falls short of bitcoin, Bloomberg said.

Both financial heavyweights have taken a hands-off approach to the digital currency, with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein saying it’s too early to draft a bitcoin strategy and UBS—the world’s biggest wealth manager—saying it won’t allocate it in portfolios because of the threat of a government crackdown.

Boeing

It may make jumbo jets but Boeing Co.’s market cap of $162 billion is also less than that of a digital currency that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The Chicago-based company, which describes itself as the world’s largest aerospace firm, is more than a century old and employs 140,000 people in more than 65 countries, according to its website. Rival Airbus SE fares no better—it’s got a market value of €66 billion ($78 billion).

Worth 14 Aircraft Carriers

If bitcoin’s market cap could be used to buy military equipment, it would pack a mighty punch. The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of nuclear-powered supercarriers, was delivered to the US Navy in May. It cost an estimated $13 billion, so if investors put all their bitcoins together they would be able to buy a fleet of fourteen ships.

Bill Gates, Buffett and the UK Queen

They sit atop Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, but even if Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pooled their fortunes they wouldn’t have enough to buy all the bitcoins in circulation. Gates is worth $90 billion and Buffett has $83 billion, according to the index. Not even Queen Elizabeth II could get them over the line if she brought her $383 million to the table. Buffett has called bitcoin a “real bubble” in the past.

Meanwhile, the South Pacific nation's—New Zealand—farm-and-tourism-led economy is valued at $185 billion, according to World Bank data as of July, putting it some $5 billion below bitcoin.

Bitcoin Banned in Some Countries

Bitcoin's ascent hasn't been without some notable speed bumps. Because it's not backed by a central bank or government, it's frowned upon in certain countries. For instance, earlier this year China outlawed initial coin offerings, which often involve exchanging bitcoin for newly issued virtual currency.

The economic giant also announced the closure of domestic cryptocurrency exchanges. While it hasn't outlawed bitcoin, China has made trading or owning bitcoin a real challenge for its citizens—and bitcoin is banned for banking institutions.

But six other countries have entirely banned bitcoin: Bolivia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Morocco. If you're caught trading bitcoin or using bitcoin to buy goods in these six countries, you could go to jail. And soon Russia may be added to the list.

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