The sad story of opportunity gone missing

bitcoin lost

Bitcoin remains a mystery for many despite its years in circulation, mainly due to the complex way the cryptocurrency works. Unlike fiat currencies stored in banks, bitcoin is frequently being lost by people globally never to be recovered.

Most of the times, Bitcoins get lost due to users forgetting their private keys, spending BTC when its price is low, throwing away computers/hard drives holding their private keys, or crypto-exchanges trading with stolen funds.

Once bitcoins are lost, there is almost nothing that can be done to get them back. The bitcoin protocol does not provide a system for retrieving lost coins, as part of its security measures. This has led to many people digging landfills and quarries, and some turning to hypnotherapy just to retrieve their lost private keys.

Here are the stories of some people who have lost significant quantities of bitcoin, for any of the reasons mentioned above.

James Howells

Back in the July 2013, while he was tidying up his desk, Howells mistakenly disposed of a hard drive belonging to his faulty laptop. Many months later, he remembered that the hard drive contained a total of 7,500BTC he had mined in 2009.

At the time of realization, bitcoin’s worth just surpassed the $1,000 mark for the first time, therefore giving the lost hard drive a value of over 7 million dollars. Today, its value is of over 60 million dollars.

Following the realization, and as the coin keeps increasing in value, Howells organized a search party to find the hard drive in question. Till today, there haven’t been many more updates on the story. It is believed that the search was stopped due to lack of funding.

Campbell Simpson

Some years ago, Simpson disposed of a generic 250GB hard drive that has some technical difficulties. At that time, the hard drive held a data file with more than 1,400 BTC in it, which wasn’t a big deal then. Unluckily for him, today, the coins are worth over $11 million.

He revealed that he repurchased the coins in 2010, at 1.5 US Cents each, and spent about $25 on all his coins through PayPal. According to Simpson, back then, bitcoin trading was not yet widespread, whereas mining was still very easy.

Laszlo Hanyecz & Bitcoin Pizza Day

If you have been conversant with bitcoin news over the last couple of years, then the chances are that you might have noticed this story show up around the 22nd of May each year. On the same date, in 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz, bought two Papa John’s pizzas for 10,000BTC from a BitcoinTalk user.

Bitcoin was only a year old at that time, and it was nowhere close to fame because 10,000 BTC only meant $25. Some years later, having this amount would have easily amassed him a fortune of  80$ million,or 200$ million had this amount of bitcoins been sold when the price hit $20,000 back in the end of 2017.

Mark Frauenfelder

In 2016, Mark invested $3,000 in bitcoin and decided to buy a hardware wallet so that he could keep his coins safe. Cold storage options are primarily deemed to be the most reliable methods of storing digital assets, but they have two downsides – you can lose the drive, or forget its password.

Unfortunately, this is precisely what occurred to Mark, who wrote down the mnemotechnic phase on a piece of paper. Weeks later, he lost the piece paper, but didn’t think of it as an issue until he realized that he could no longer recall his PIN. At that time, the coins were worth about $30,000, but today, they are worth much more.

After the loss, Mark started asking people for help on different forums and hiring others to help crack his drive. Finally, he found a man who was able to hack the wallet, thus once again giving him access to the lost coins.


A man called Simon used Tor back in 2011, and came across an illegal marketplace, selling firearms, forged documents, drugs, and the likes. He then decided to buy a false passport for 10,000 BTC, and give an additional 6,000 BTC as a tip. Unluckily for Simon, not only did the dealer fail to deliver his fake passport, but he also did not envision how the price of bitcoin was going to rise over the years. The amounts of BTC remained in his exchange wallet, so he felt safe at that time.

However, two years later, a Russian man had been detained for offering bitcoin money laundering services, through the Liberty Finance platform, which Simon used to transfer funds during the transaction. The FBI confiscated all exchange funds, and Simon finally ended up losing over $400 million.

Mt Gox Customers

In early-2014, Japan-based Mt Gox, was the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, efficiently handling 70% of all bitcoin transactions globally. By the end of 2014, the exchange was bankrupt.

Why the sudden bankruptcy? Well, after a massive hack, Mt Gox lost about 740,000 coins, which was 6% of all BTC in circulation at the time, worth more than $500 million. Today, the stolen coins are valued at above $5 billion, hence conveniently placing Mt Gox at the top of the list of the most expensive bitcoin theft so far.

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