UK man tries to retrieve $7.5 million in bitcoins from dump

James Howells' digital currency was worth almost nothing when he got it in 2009. Now his 7,500 bitcoins are on a hard drive buried in a landfill.

James Howells lost 7,500 bitcoins when he discarded an old hard drive. He's shown here in a BBC interview.
James Howells lost 7,500 bitcoins when he discarded an old hard drive. He's shown here in a BBC interview. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

A man from Newport, Wales, is searching the dump for a hard drive he threw away despite it having $7.5 million worth of bitcoins.

Bitcoins are a digital currency whose value has benefited from intense attention and speculative investing. They can be stored as data in digital wallets using online services, mobile phones, or computer hard drives.

James Howells chose the latter approach when he stored 7,500 bitcoins away in 2009, when they were worth a trifling fraction of Bitcoins' current value of more that $1,000 apiece . But he threw the old hard drive away, and now it's likely buried several feet deep in trash in a landfill the size of a football field, according to a BBC report.

He's searching the landfill, but lacks the funds for a serious hunt.

"The truth is I haven't got the funds or ability to make that happen at the moment without a definite pay cheque at the end of it," he told the BBC.

Those who want to give Howells a hand might be interested in an Indiegogo effort to fund a recovery effort.

Bitcoins, being just data, can be backed up, but he couldn't find any duplicate copies of his bitcoins, he said.

He's not the first to forget about a lot of very valuable bits. But in a happier ending, a Norwegian man named Kristoffer Koch remembered his 2009 stash of $25 worth of bitcoins in time and cashed them out when they had grown in value to about $848,000.

Updated at 12:14 a.m. PT November 30 to mention an Indiegogo effort to fund a search for the hard drive.

(Via The Verge)

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.


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