Since bitcoins were launched in 3rd January 2009, around 17.9 million bitcoins came into existence. During this launch, one million bitcoins were put in circulation. The remaining 16.9 million bitcoins were generated through mining over the years. Only 3.2 million bitcoins are left to be mined over the coming 100 years until the maximum number of 21 million bitcoins has been created. The biggest bitcoin supply was in the early bitcoin years, with only very few, new bitcoins being left to be found by miners. With such a limited supply, it is no wonder that bitcoins are increasingly becoming a scarce commodity leading to the ever increasing bitcoin price.
The current value of all bitcoins combined is around 180 billion dollar (September 2019). However, 30-50% of these bitcoins are estimated to be lost forever! Although no hard numbers are available, these estimates mean that the value of lost bitcoins is between 48 to 90 billion dollars. Many of these bitcoins were lost in the past by people throwing away old computers and harddrives containing bitcoin wallets before they became so valuable.
However, are those 48-90 billion dollars worth of bitcoins truely lost? Yes, the bitcoins are lost in the case of lost wallets. If the wallet file is lost and there is no seed phrase to regenerate them, the bitcoins controlled by the privatekeys in that wallet are truely lost forever. No, these bitcoins are not lost in the case that the wallet file still exists or there is some information on the wallet mnemonic seed.
Let’s discuss some examples of bitcoins that might be recoverable.
- A wallet owner forgot his or her password. This means that the bitcoins are not truely lost. The brain can be ‘hacked’ using memory techniques and digital forensics. Furthermore, any password based on words, names and a few numbers or characters can be recovered using our wallet password recovery service.
- The wallet is built using a mnemonic seed. As opposed to random seeds based on preferably 12-24 seed words, wallets based on a seed phrase are inherently easy to hack. One can assume that the majority of wallets based on a mnemonic seed phrases will or already have been hacked in the coming years.
No hard numbers exist on the number of bitcoins ‘lost’ because of forgotten wallet passwords. However, if even a fraction of the 48-90 billion dollars worth of bitcoins are contained in wallets with lost passwords, this translates into billions worth of bitcoins waiting to be recovered through wallet password recovery services! Even if the owner of a wallet dies, arguably it is a matter of time until sufficiently powerful hardware becomes available to use brute force attacks to recover the bitcoins in these wallets.
Many people overlook the fact that the key to recovering wallet’s are hidden in the brain and can be recovered.
Are your coins among the 48-90 billion worth of ‘lost’ bitcoins? Do not despair, but read my article ‘Hack your own brain’: Two strategies to recover your lost bitcoins.