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What is a coin burn?

Coin burn 101: Understanding the process of permanently removing a portion of a cryptocurrency from circulation. Discover the reasons, benefits, and potential risks.

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As you navigate the waters of the cryptocurrency market you're likely to come across a term called "coin burning". In this article, we're exploring the process used to manage the token supply of projects, a means for companies to manually alter the supply (and thereby demand) of a token's circulating supply. While not adopted by every project, coin burning has proven over the years to be successful in increasing the price of a digital currency.

What Is A Coin Burn

Diving right in, a coin burn is the process of removing a certain number of tokens from circulation by sending them to an invalid address, a "black hole" of sorts. This process is written into the project's code and implemented at various increments as outlined in the whitepaper. While Bitcoin doesn't make use of coin burning, many projects on the Ethereum network, particularly ERC-20 tokens, have been known to implement it.

Through the use of a smart contract, also known as a burn function, the network would remove a specified number of tokens from circulation, decreasing the total supply and thereby (hopefully) increasing the demand. Coin burns have been known to lead to an increase in price, as the supply-demand ratio is altered.

An Example Of Coin Burning

A top 10 cryptocurrency project underwent a coin burn last year that is believed to be the biggest layer 1 token burn to date. 88.7 million LUNA, the native coin to the Terra project, were burned in November 2021 following a vote by the community. This was effectively worth $4.5 billion at the time. A few days following the coin burn the LUNA token hit a new record high. 

The burn aimed to remove value from Terra’s community pool, but in reality, it simply moved the value from the pool to the individual holders of the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin Cash and Stellar are two other high profile cryptocurrencies that have made use of the coin burning initiative. Shiba Inu is another cryptocurrency to have undergone a coin burn, although this wasn't the initial intention of the project. The project's developers gifted half of the SHIB supply to Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin, who went on to donate 10% and burn the remaining 90%.

How Does Coin Burning Work?

Should a project wish to implement a coin burn they will need to create a smart contract. Smart contracts are digital agreements that execute when certain criteria have been met. Say a project wants to implement a coin burn every 200,000 blocks, they will create the burn function to include this instruction.

When this milestone is achieved, the coins will automatically move from the designated wallet to a wallet address that does not have a private key. Without a private key, these coins can never be recovered. The coins will then be sent from the one wallet address to the other and effectively be removed from circulation. The transaction (burn) will be added to the network's blockchain records and be available to view through the blockchain explorer.

The Downside To Coin Burning

Before you invest in a project that undergoes coin burning it is important to note that coin burning does not guarantee an increase in the coin's price. The increase in price will depend on the network, the market climate and the current sentiment. During the Shiba Inu coin burn, while the price rose considerably, it soon returned to a more stable and substantially lower level.

Coin burning can also be used by ill acting developers to deceive the community. Say a project has a total supply of 100 million tokens and allocates 10 million to the platform's developers. They could then burn 40 million tokens, increasing their hold to 60% of the circulating supply on the network.

As with all transactions conducted on the blockchain, all payments are irreversible meaning that once you burn coins they can never be recovered.

What Is Proof Of Burn?

Not to be confused with coin burning, Proof of Burn (PoB) is a consensus mechanism similar to Proof of Work and Proof of Stake. The model utilizes an element of coin burning in its mining practice and is known to use considerably less energy than its PoW counterpart.

The process requires miners to burn tokens in order to participate in the mining process. The more coins burned the more blocks they can create, meaning the more rewards (in the form of transaction fees) they can earn. Miners are still required to use mining hardware. The benefit of this is to provide a less energy-intensive blockchain network that can run optimally through a network of decentralized mining participants.


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