Their Miscom Over Trash Bag Cost a Fortune

James Howells is still trying to retrieve tossed hard drive with $500M in bitcoin
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2021 1:50 PM CST
Their Miscom Over Trash Bag Cost a Fortune
   (Getty/Nature)

(Newser) – James Howells' bitcoin plight has been in the news awhile, but the story grows harder to fathom as the value of the cryptocurrency rises. In 2013, Howells says he accidentally threw out a hard drive with the "key" to his stash of 7,500 bitcoins. By the time DT Max of the New Yorker caught up with Howells in his Welsh hometown this year, the value was more than $500 million. The story details Howells' ongoing fight to get permission to excavate the local landfill—he's been rebuffed multiple times, as recently as November—but it also hits on the personal toll. For example: Howells says he had planned to remove the hard drive from the trash bag, but his partner, Hafina, brought it to the landfill before he had the chance. The night before, they had agreed that he would bring the bags to the landfill, so he thought he had time. “I tried publicly, and within my normal life, not to blame her, but I think subconsciously I did," Howells tells Max.

Hafina confirms the story of the trash bag but says the split (she left with their three children) wasn't because of the bitcoins. "Money has never been that important to me," she says. Max also talks to web developer Laszlo Hanyecz, who famously paid 10,000 bitcoins for two pizzas in 2010. His advice to Howells: “Move on. No sense in dwelling on what-ifs.” That doesn't seem likely. Howells is no longer employed as a systems engineer—"I kind of lost the motivation"—and appears to be devoted to his bitcoin recovery mission full-time. He hopes that his hometown of Newport will finally assent to an excavation when the value of his stash reaches into the billions, and he's prepared to continue his fight for years to come. “I still hope and feel it can be done,” he tells Max. “And as long as I feel that I will keep trying. Does that make sense?” (Read the full story.)

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