Representation of totalSupply


During security reviews, a colleague and I have a bit of an ongoing discussion about how totalSupply should be represented when an owner can mint tokens at any time. Consider the following example code (it’s not supposed to be functional):

uint crowdsale = 5;
uint mintable = 5;
uint minted;
uint bought;
function buy() payable public duringCrowdsale {
    tokens = msg.value;
    bought += tokens;
    require(bought <= crowdsale);
    balanceOf[msg.sender] = tokens;

function mint(uint _count) onlyOwner {
    minted += _count;
    require(minted <= mintable);
    balanceOf[owner] = _count;

If all available tokens were purchased during the crowdsale but none have been minted, should totalSupply be 5 or 10?

One side says it should be 5 because the tokens don’t exist until mint() is called. The other says it should be 10 because that’s how many can be transferred at any time.

Keen to hear opinions, other resources, or a better place to post this.


Many tokens that support minting allow for unbounded minting of tokens, sometimes via some economic incentivization system. For all of these, the only value that can be displayed is the number of tokens currently minted. Even ETH falls into this category, where there are not a fixed number of tokens that will ever be minted.

I suspect that this is significantly more common than a token that can mint a bounded number of tokens, which is why I think it is most reasonable to say that totalSupply means number of minted tokens right now.

That being said, in this very specific example I would probably have totalSupply be 10. Though really I would question why this token exists, it feels like the owner should have just minted themselves 10 tokens from the start. Perhaps there is more context in a real world example, but in this example I feel like the contract is just silly and shouldn’t be catered to.


My stance is that if the token is advertised as “decentralised”, then the total supply should be 10. Otherwise, it’s up to the owner as to what total supply should be.

I agree the concept is silly (which is pretty much a direct result of being in the “10 camp”). However, I’ve seen this pattern several times, I think it’s done for optics. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t make this up as a thought experiment, it’s something I am dealing with currently and it’s useful to have additional input (so, thank you :slight_smile:)


Personally, I would label such a coin as a scam coin and just not deal with it if you have that choice. If you don’t have the choice, then 10 is probably the best service you can provide to your users.