As of July 2018, there are an estimated 17 million bitcoins in existence. Of these, it is estimated that between 2.78 million and 3.
79 million bitcoins are held in wallets that are no longer accessible. This is often referred to as “bitcoin being lost” or “bitcoin being orphaned”.
The reasons for these inaccessible bitcoins vary. In some cases, the owners of the wallets have simply forgotten their passwords or lost their private keys.
In other cases, the wallets may have been corrupted or damaged beyond repair.
Whatever the reason, it is estimated that between 4% and 20% of all bitcoins are currently inaccessible. This means that there could be as many as 3.
79 million bitcoins (20% of the total supply) that are permanently lost or unspendable.
While this may seem like a small number, it is important to remember that each bitcoin is divisible into 100 million satoshis. This means that even a small percentage of lost or unspendable bitcoins can represent a significant amount of money.
At current prices, the value of all inaccessible bitcoins is estimated to be between $9 billion and $36 billion. This value is likely to increase as the price of bitcoin continues to rise.
There are a number of ways to try and recover lost or unspendable bitcoins, but none of them are guaranteed to work. The most common method is to use special software to brute-force the password or private key associated with the wallet.
However, this can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) if the password or key is long or complex enough.
Another method is to try and find a backup of the wallet file, but this can also be difficult (especially if the wallet was created online).
Ultimately, it is up to each individual bitcoin owner to take responsibility for their own wallets and ensure that they are properly backed up and secured.