Any time a Bitcoin user loses their private keys or sends Bitcoin to the wrong address they lose access to it forever. There is no one to call to ask for your Bitcoin to be returned. Once it is sent it is done. So taking into account the Bitcoin that has been lost, orphaned, or misspent there could be over $30,000,000,000 in inaccessible Bitcoin. This is the high end of the estimation of “lost Bitcoin” but it is an interesting figure. Given that as of the time of writing Bitcoin is sporting a $165B market cap that would mean a significant portion of that Bitcoin can never be sold on an exchange or otherwise used.
Where did this Bitcoin come from?
It most likely came from early adopters back in 2011-2012 who mined large quantities of Bitcoin when those Bitcoin were not worth a lot. Now that Bitcoin has increased in value it is likely people will be more careful with storing their private keys. The use of hardware wallets such as the Trezor Wallet and the Ledger Nano S are improving the safety of cryptocurrency private key storage.
Another way cryptocurrency can be lost is through transactions that are dropped from the transaction queue without getting into a block. The rising fees of Bitcoin transactions can cause this problem to become more frequent with “microtransactions”.
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