A problem with digital money – throwing away $7.5 million into a landfill

hard driveby jon_a_ross

IT pro says he threw out 7,500 bitcoins, now worth $7.5 million
[Via Ars Technica]

Many people have a tale of a lost or broken hard drive containing some bit of precious data they wish they could recover. But perhaps no one on the planet has thrown out a hard drive as valuable as the one James Howells says is now buried in a landfill.

According to an article in The Guardian today, Howells threw out the hard drive, “rescued from a defunct Dell laptop,” this past summer. “And then last Friday he realised that it held a digital wallet with 7,500 Bitcoins created for almost nothing in 2009,” the story notes.

Howells, an IT pro, says his mistake likely occurred in mid-July, at which time a single bitcoin was worth about $90. Today, the value of a single bitcoin passed $1,000 for the first time, making 7,500 bitcoins worth $7.5 million.
According to The Guardian story, Howells did not have a backup. The drive he allegedly threw out “contains the cryptographic ‘private key’ that is needed to be able to access and spend the Bitcoins; without it, the ‘money’ is lost forever.”

[More]

Some of the things we will have to learn about digital money such as bitcoins. The hard drive is the bank, as it were. And like saving $8 million in cash in your mattress, it can accidentally get thrown away.

At least it was not stolen. I mean, $7.5 million in a drive you can carry around? Awfully tempting.

Of course, it could all be BS but a useful story anyway.