How Many Bitcoins Have Been Lost?
Today few are surprised by the cryptocurrency market’s erratic behavior. Even the most experienced investors cannot foresee price fluctuations because of the massive swings that might occur from one day to the next.
What transpires, though, if an investor permanently loses his Bitcoins? And what are the reasons for that?
The term “HODL” refers to the act of purchasing and holding an asset for an extended period of time. It suggests holding off on selling it when markets decline or become volatile. Contrary to popular belief, it is more widespread than you may imagine.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how many Bitcoins have been lost and the reasons why HODLers continue to cling to their digital currency despite the risks of doing so.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency that exists online but is not controlled by any one organization, bank, or authority. Instead, it uses encryption and peer-to-peer software to operate and perform transactions.
Every Bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public ledger, a copy of which is kept on servers all around the world. Anyone with a personal computer can install one of these servers, known as a node. Instead of depending on a single point of trust, like a bank, these nodes cryptographically decide who has whose coins.
Every transaction is shared across nodes and made publicly available on the network. Miners complete and save these transactions into a collection called a block, which is added permanently to the blockchain, around every 10 minutes.
The Estimated Number of Bitcoins that Have Been Lost
Since its introduction in 2009, Bitcoin has grown to become the most popular as well as the most commonly-used cryptocurrency in the world. However, there are certain challenges that all Bitcoin investors have to face.
One of these challenges is the loss incurred while trading or buying Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin is a digital asset, it is more common for investors to misplace or forget what they have purchased.
As a matter of fact, research reveals that, until 2022, 4 million Bitcoins, or the equivalent of USD140 billion based on current pricing, had been irreversibly lost. That is an incredible sum of money, and it exemplifies how precarious an investment in Bitcoin may be in its current state.
How Lost Bitcoins Impact the Market and Price
When Bitcoins are lost, they are no longer available in the market, which reduces the supply of Bitcoins and consequently drives up the price. While this may seem like a favorable scenario for investors, it can actually have a negative impact on the market dynamics. When prices are artificially high, it can lead to speculation and manipulation, which can cause prices to suddenly crash.
The faith of investors can be shaken when huge sums of Bitcoins are lost, which can then lead to a sell-off of the cryptocurrency. This may cause prices to continue to fall and make it even more difficult for individuals to acquire Bitcoins. Lost Bitcoins will, in the end, have a substantial adverse effect on the market and the price of cryptocurrencies in general.
The Reasons Why Bitcoins are Lost
There are a few reasons why Bitcoins may be lost.
If you are unable to recover your private key or if you delete your wallet by accident, you will never see your Bitcoins again.
If hackers or scammers steal your stash of Bitcoins, there is no way to get them back.
You risk having your Bitcoins stolen if you become a target of, or engage in, any of the numerous fraudulent activities related to Bitcoins. These include using fake Bitcoin exchanges or wallets.
If there is a contentious hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain, you may end up on the losing side of the fork and lose your investments.
If the cryptocurrency exchange where you are trading actively goes bankrupt, you may lose your Bitcoins.
So, while there are many ways to lose your investments, these are some of the most common reasons why Bitcoins are lost.
Ways to Prevent Bitcoin Loss
Keep Your Bitcoin in a Secure Wallet
This is the most important step to prevent the loss of your Bitcoins. There are many kinds of wallets available, each with its own set of security features. Choose a wallet that provides multiple layers of security, such as two-factor authentication and a backup recovery phrase.
Use a Strong Password
When creating a new wallet or account on an exchange, use a strong password that is difficult to guess. Avoid using easily guessed words or common phrases. Consider using a password manager to help generate and keep track of your passwords.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Most reputable exchanges and wallets offer some form of two-factor authentication (2FA). This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to enter a second code, typically sent to your phone, in addition to your password.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is often unsecured, meaning that anyone on the same network can intercept the data you’re sending and receiving. Only do so from a secure, private network when accessing your wallet or exchange account.
Be Aware Of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are common attacks where criminals send fake emails or create fake websites that mimic a legitimate site to steal your login credentials. Always double-check the URL of your site before entering any sensitive information. If you’re not sure that a site is legitimate, contact the company directly to verify.
Keep Your Software up to Date
Make sure you are using the latest version of your wallet or exchange platform and that all security patches have been applied. Outdated software can contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.
Don’t Store All Your Bitcoins in One Place
Distribute your Bitcoin holdings over a number of different wallets and exchanges to lower the likelihood that you will lose everything if a single account is stolen or otherwise compromised. Diversification is the term for this strategy.
Review Transactions Regularly
Always keep a close eye on the activities of both your wallet and your account for any signs of unusual activity. If you see anything that is out of the routine, you must immediately report it to the exchange provider or wallet provider.
Why Do People Keep HODLing?
Despite the risks, many people are still holding onto their Bitcoins; for some, it is simply a matter of holding onto an asset that they believe will increase in value over time. Others see Bitcoin as a way to hedge against inflation or other economic uncertainties. And then, some view Bitcoin as a store of value outside the traditional financial system. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that many still believe in Bitcoin’s long-term potential despite the risks.
The Future of Lost Bitcoins
Mining guru, Gavin Andresen, makes a good point that the majority of lost Bitcoins are probably not even lost but instead are being held as long-term investments by early Bitcoin adopters. This is most likely because early Bitcoin holders were more technically savvy and knew how to store their coins properly than those who have adopted Bitcoin in recent years.
However, there is a chance that some of these early investors have died without revealing their private keys or simply forgotten about their stash of Bitcoins entirely. If this is the case, then it’s possible that many Bitcoins will never be recovered and will remain locked up forever.
This could have significant implications for the future of Bitcoin, as a decrease in the supply of new Bitcoins could lead to inflationary pressures in the market. If lost Bitcoins are never recovered, it could eventually become too expensive for new users to acquire them, leading to a decline in Bitcoin adoption in the future.
Bitcoin is a volatile asset, and there’s no denying that investors can — and have — lost a lot of money by HODLing onto their coins. However, many people still believe in the long-term potential of Bitcoin and are willing to invest, despite any short-term turbulence to hold onto their investment. Only time will tell if their faith is justified.
Keep in mind that the future of lost Bitcoins is still in the air. It’s possible that many of them will never be recovered, which could have implications for the future of Bitcoin. However, it’s also possible that some of them will eventually be found, which could help to stabilize the market and prevent inflationary pressures. Only time will tell what will happen to the lost Bitcoins.
The editorial content of OriginStamp AG does not constitute a recommendation for investment or purchase advice. In principle, an investment can also lead to a total loss. Therefore, please seek advice before making an investment decision.