Gone Forever – Tales of Crypto That Can’t Be Retrieved

Reading Time: 2 minutes
  • Stories about lost cryptocurrency date back to Bitcoin’s very beginnings
  • Some four million bitcoin is now known to be out of circulation
  • Crypto losses range from the miniscule to the enormous

It’s a crypto investor’s worst nightmare – hitting ‘send’ and then realizing one letter in the address is wrong. Or, reading that your wallet of choice has been hacked and finding that you are one of the victims. There are a number of ways a holder can lose their precious crypto, which is something that, according to a report, is the fate of some 3.79 million Bitcoin, lost, and likely irretrievable. We outline some famous cases of lost or otherwise inaccessible cryptocurrency. Raise a glass in sympathy.

Satoshi Nakamoto – 980,000 BTC (estimate)

Satoshi Nakamoto, the person or persons behind Bitcoin, is said have mined some 980,000 Bitcoin. The known addresses holding this Bitcoin have laid untouched for many years, a fact that makes up the theory that Nakamoto is either dead or access to the wallets has been lost.

His haul was temporarily worth some $67 billion at the peak of the last bull run, which would have put him inside the top 20 richest people in the world in 2021. Should even one satoshi be moved out of his wallets at any point in the future you can expect the cryptocurrency world to go into meltdown.

James Howells – 7,500 BTC

James Howells, an IT technician from Newport, Wales, began mining Bitcoin on his laptop in 2009, acquiring 7,500 by the time he had stopped in 2013. He broke the machine into its component parts and sold them, keeping hold of the drive containing the Bitcoin. Then tragedy – he accidentally binned the drive during a house clean later that year, with the drive ending up in landfill and Howells unable to retrieve it.

In 2017, with the price of Bitcoin rocketing, Howells stepped up efforts to obtain his lost drive, contacting the local council and asking to be able to search the landfill site. The council refused on safety grounds, leaving Howells to bemoan the thorough cleaning job which today is worth $218 million.

Campbell Simpson – 1,400 BTC

Campbell Simpson, a tech writer for Gizmodo magazine, is also a member of the hard drive disposal gang. He bought 1,400 BTC in 2010 for the princely sum of $25 and left them on a hard drive, which he threw out a year or so later when having a “tech clearout”. The drive went from skip to landfill and, six years later with the haul worth $41 million, Simpson has nothing left but memories and a desire to build a time machine.

Matthew Mellon – 1,000,000,000 XRP (estimate)

When billionaire XRP investor Matthew Mellon died in 2018 at the age of 53, he left around half a billion dollars worth of XRP tokens in a wallet, but neglected to leave any indication of how to get into it. As a result his family have no way of accessing this part of his fortune, effectively taking a billion XRP out of circulation and leaving them untouchable.

The Moral of the Story Is…

If there are lessons to be learnt from these stories, and there are, they are two fold – check a hard drive before you throw it out, and have an inheritance plan in place for your crypto. After all, not even Jesus Coin can help you if you’re not going to take steps yourself.