British IT worker James Howells got into the cryptocoin economy in its early stages, back in February of 2009. He was able to amass 7,500 bitcoin before his girlfriend made him give it up. Apparently, his block-mining hardware was too noisy for her taste. This was before the bitcoin boom, so it wasn’t a huge loss.
Howells sold most of his mining equipment for scrap after spilling lemonade it. He did, however, hold onto the hard drive housing the key to his digital wallet for three years before chucking it in the trash. Whoops.
Today, 1 bitcoin is valued at $11,500, making Howells' 7,500 coins worth a cool $80 million, and it’s living in some landfill. So, when he said to the Guardian in 2013, “Why aren’t I out there with a shovel now?” it may have been less of a joke and more just Howells pondering aloud.
That’s the thing about money, though. It makes people do crazy things. Howells is now hoping to dig up his lost hard drive (which may or may not be functional) in a five-year-old landfill, risking exposure to all sorts of nastiness. “A modern landfill is a complex engineering project and digging one up brings up all sorts of environmental issues such as dangerous gasses and potential landfill fires,” he told the Independent. “It’s a big, expensive and risky project.”
It remains unclear if Howell is certain as to which trash heap may hold his long-lost fortune. Who knows…it may not be worth anything if and when he does manage to find it.