Sitting beneath about four feet of garbage in an area of a Welsh landfill the size of a football field sits a fortune—in the form of a computer hard drive that James Howells threw out this summer while cleaning up his workspace. On it: the cryptographic "private key" he needs to access 7,500 Bitcoins. And since the digital currency hit a major milestone yesterday, with a single coin now worth more than $1,000 on the most popular exchange, that tossed hard drive is worth more than $7.5 million. Unfortunately, Howells doesn't have a firm sense of when he sent it to its resting place in the Docksway landfill near Newport, Wales, though he's been racking his brain since Friday, when he realized his error: "between June 20 and Aug. 10. Probably mid-July" is the best he can come up with.
It was a dumb move then, too: The Guardian estimates the Bitcoins were worth just north of $800,000 at the time. Howells amassed his Bitcoins in February 2009, reports Ars Technica, after just a week of running a program on his laptop; but he knocked lemonade on the laptop a year later and broke it down for parts. He eventually tossed the hard drive without remembering what was on it. And his chances of getting it back don't look good. He tells the Guardian that even for the police to find it, they'd need "a team of 15 guys, two diggers, and all the personal protection equipment. So for me to fund that, it's not possible without the guarantee of money at the end." As for those who want to give it a go on their own, bad news: A rep for the city council says searchers will be turned away. (Click for another tale of money lost ... and found.)