In 2013, British man James Howells desperately trawled through a seemingly endless pile of garbage at a landfill site in south Wales.
He was hoping against hope that he could find a USB stick that he had thrown out. Years before, he had bought some of the digital crypto-currency bitcoin. When he realized what he had done, the bitcoins on the stick were worth $7.5 million.
He never found the discarded digital fortune.
This week, Australian tech journalist Campbell Simpson recounted a similar story, lamenting the fact he threw out a USB containing $4.8 million in bitcoin by today’s exchange rate, after buying the amount years ago for just $25.
When he bought the bitcoins, they were worth 1.5 cents each. Today the exchange rate is hovering around $2,500.
As tragic as that is, these stories are not even that uncommon since the advent of digital currencies in the past decade.
In 2015, The Telegraph estimated that at the time about $980 million in bitcoin (which is designed to be finite) was unaccounted for, lost or forgotten — and the price of the currency has since surged.
So what is bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins are created by users who “mine” them by lending computing power to verify other users’ transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins can also be bought and sold on exchanges with dollars and other currencies.
Bitcoin is often used by hackers and rose to prominence as the default currency for the online drug marketplace Silk Road.
The reason stories of bitcoin regret have resurfaced lately is because the currency continues to set new all-time highs for its value on currency exchanges.
So far this year, the price of bitcoin has more than doubled.
The currency is known for its volatility, a quality it has displayed this week as it continues to rise in value.
It fell as much as 6.5 percent to $2,263.72 Thursday night but…