Back in 2013, James Howells made headlines when the story of his missing hard drive came to light. Howells was an early Bitcoiner who mined 7,500 Bitcoins back in 2009 with his laptop – when the cryptocurrency was still easily mineable, and barely worth anything.
According to The Guardian , he mined them on a Dell laptop for over a week and stopped mining because his girlfriend complained the laptop was too noisy and hot. In 2010, he accidentally spilled lemonade on his Dell laptop, so he dismantled it for parts. The hard drive in which the Bitcoins were in were kept in went to a drawer, in which it stayed for three years, until one day he had a clearout.
When clearing out his old IT equipment, he didn’t remember the hard drive had money in it, so he just threw it away. At the time, he said “you know when you put something in the bin, and in your head, say to yourself ‘that’s a bad idea’? I really did have that.” When he realized what he had done, he searched for a backup, an accidental copy, something that could give him access to the money, but didn’t find anything.
The 7,500 BTC, at the time he threw them out worth over $600,000, and at the time his story made headlines worth over $5 million, were lost in a landfill in Newport. Howells did what he could to get his money back:
I had a word with one of the guys down there, explained the situation. And he actually took me out in his truck to where the landfill site is, the current ditch they’re working on. It’s about the size of a football field, and he said something from three or four months ago would be about three or four feet down.
He was told that a scenario where even the police had to go digging would require a team of 15 including diggers with mandatory personal protection equipment. He couldn’t fund such an operation, so he resigned, and set up a wallet for donations:
Fast forward, and we’re nearing the end of 2017. Bitcoin is now worth over $9,700 and is making its way to $10,000. That hard drive, with 7,500 BTC in it, is now worth $72 million and, as far as we know, may still be out there, waiting to be found.
At the time, a Newport council spokesperson emphasized that treasure hunters wouldn’t be allowed in the landfill and that if it was easily retrieved, it’d be returned. Howells stated:
“I’m at the point where it’s either laugh about it or cry about it. Why aren’t I out there with a shovel now? I think I’m just resigned to never being able to find it.”
At the time, Howells still made it clear he believed Bitcoin was the future of money. Per his own words, it was going to go higher, as it was the next step of the internet. He even added: “When I first came across it, I knew straight away. We had everything else at the time; Google, Facebook, they were already the market leaders in their areas. The only thing that was missing was an internet money.”
The Twitter account associated with James Howells now shows support for Bitcoin Cash (BCH), a cryptocurrency that still maintains some of Bitcoin’s early properties, in a time in which Bitcoin itself deals with a transaction backlog and high fees.
In 2013, Howells revealed he was thinking about registering a website, www.returnmyBitcoin.com, hoping someone would find the hard drive. If it hasn’t been found and isn’t broken or damaged, there’s life-changing money in it.
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