Man prowls dump for hard drive containing US$7.5m worth of bitcoins

29 Nov 2013

Earlier this year, James Howells got rid of a hard drive that sat unused for three years. Contained in the hard drive were some 7,500 bitcoins, which were then worthless but are now worth US$1,000 each.

In other words, he threw away a small fortune worth US$7.5m and the hard drive is now buried under three to five feet of garbage, according to the BBC.

The disposed of hard drive is somewhere in a landfill in Howells’ hometown of Newport, South Wales, and he has been scouring the site for the hardware.

A bitcoin is an open source peer-to-peer electronic currency that Satoshi Nakamota created in 2008. The currency is called a cryptocurrency because it uses cryptography to secure transactions.

However, the popularity of the currency among black markets for anonymity have led to action by law agencies like the FBI, which shut down online black market Silk Road because of its alleged use by drugs gangs.

While bitcoins are a deflationary currency and tend to be hoarded by their owners, Howells decided to dismantle a computer holding the bitcoins after accidentally spilling a drink on it.

He held onto the hard drive for a number of years before deciding to throw it out earlier this year, having either decided the bitcoins were worthless or forgetting about their existence.

However, this week the value of a single bitcoin hit US$1,000 for the first time, making Howells’ hoard worth some US$7.5m.

Bitcoins image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years