Among the more amusing dichotomies of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is that of their simultaneous security and insecurity, and of the endless cycling between the two that entails. As intangibles that live on the internet, and increasingly valuable and untraceable ones, at that, they are rather prone to hacks and cyber thieves and the like. As such, much investment and technology has gone in to protecting them, which is great but which apparently also leaves HODLers in fear of dismemberment, and which also carries the risk that the only key to an instavault will go with one (or another) to the grave.

It is this tendency for passwords to go either missing or into the ground that has left something like 20% of the world’s bitcoins—a finite fictional resource, it should be pointed out—permanently inaccessible. And these 7,002 appear set to join them in both effectively and actually not existing.

Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco, has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of this week, about $220 million…. The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.

To his credit, Thomas has come to terms with the unfortunate situation, and even learned from it.

A San Francisco man said he has "made peace" with the $250 million fortune that may have gotten away from him as a result of misplacing his Bitcoin password…. Nine years have given Thomas enough time to process the potential loss. And… he says "time heals all wounds…." Eventually, Thomas reached "a really big milestone in [his] life where" he "realized how [he] was going to define [his] self-worth going forward."

"It wasn't going to be about how much money I have in my bank account," he told KGO-TV…. Thomas now believes there's a good reason that traditional financial institutions exist, as opposed to open-source money-exchange solutions like Bitcoin.

"This whole idea of being your own bank — let me put it this way: Do you make your own shoes?" he told the Times. "The reason we have banks is that we don't want to deal with all those things that banks do."

James Howells, who didn’t lose his password so much as literally throw away a hard drive with 7,500 bitcoins on it, hasn’t yet come to the acceptance stage of grief. He’s still stuck on bargaining.

Howells has approached Newport City Council in Wales to ask for permission to dig a specific section of the landfill site where he believes the hard drive ended up…. "I offered to donate 25% or £52.5 million ($71.7 million) to the city of Newport in order to distribute to all local residents who live in Newport should I find and recover the bitcoins…. Unfortunately they refused the offer and won't even have a face to face discussion with me on the matter…."

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council… said the council had not refused the offer -- but rather, was not permitted to excavate the site.

She said: "The council has told Mr Howells on a number of occasions that excavation is not possible under our licencing permit and excavation itself would have a huge environmental impact on the surrounding area.

"The cost of digging up the landfill, storing and treating the waste could run into millions of pounds -- without any guarantee of either finding it or it still being in working order."

Man who accidentally threw out a bitcoin fortune offers $70 million for permission to dig it up [CNN]
Man Who Forgot Bitcoin Password Makes ‘Peace’ with $250 Million Loss: ‘Time Heals All Wounds’ [People]

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