The Bitcoin Abyss: New Study Finds Up to 4 Million Coins Are Lost Forever

A study published by a forensic analysis firm shows that up to one-sixth of all Bitcoins in existence will probably never re-enter circulation.

Bitcoin has gained an enormous amount of attention over the last few weeks as it kept breaking record after record with its value in the open market.

While we’re busy looking at dollars and cents, tracking all the upward motion on various graphs, we tend to lose sight of some of the things that might put Bitcoin in a bit of an awkward position as a cryptocurrency.

A new study published by Chainalysis—a digital forensics firm that has a deeper look at Bitcoin’s blockchain—and reported by Fortune, shows us that up to 4 million Bitcoins might never see the light of day again.

According to the study, the vast majority of coins lost belong to accounts that have been forgotten for years.

Between 30-50 percent of these accounts might never be used again because their owners might not even remember they bought these coins back when their value was presumably much less. Some of them may have even lost access to their private keys, locking in their Bitcoins forever.

People also abandon traditional bank accounts in much the same manner, but there is always a decision-making institution there to either close the account or somehow inform the holder of the situation. When bills of fiat currency are lost or damaged, central banks will often just print more cash.

But because Bitcoin has no central authority, there is virtually no way for some entity to push these coins back into circulation.

We must also remember that there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins, and we expect to reach that number by 2040. The estimated 3.79 million lost coins make up just above one-sixth of that number

In the meantime, Bitcoin is pushing all boundaries as it inches closer to $10,000 in value

It’s quite possible that the cryptocurrency owes some of its value to the extra scarcity generated by having a partially inactive circulation.