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Once upon a time, there were five unfortunate souls who today cry for something that could have been and will no longer be. These unlucky souls mourn the memory of their lost crypto wallet with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and their cruel fate…

Stefan Thomas: Two attempts remaining

Stefan Thomas is the first of our mourning knights. When Thomas decided where to store his bitcoins, he opted for one of the most secure options available: a small hard drive called IronKey. But, this gentleman did not imagine that in his attempt to maximize the security of his funds, he would consider his crypto wallet lost.

Thomas stored the sum of 7,002 BTC on his hard drive in 2011, which at the time of writing this article would be worth about 140 million dollars. Everything was going well until it wasn’t. 

As you already know, a crypto wallet is nothing more than a set of public and private keys accessed with a recovery phrase or seed phrase. In addition, some wallets allow you to encrypt information with a password. Thus, if you lose your recovery phrase or password, you can consider your crypto wallet lost. And that is just what happened to Thomas.


Thomas’ case is not a simple story of someone trying to recover an old crypto wallet lost. Otherwise, it’s a fight against the clock. IronKey gives its users ten attempts to enter the correct password, after which the information is deleted forever. 

In January 2021, Stefan told the New York Times that he had already exhausted 8 out of 10 attempts after losing the paper where he wrote down the password for his crypto wallet.

But, after many years, this German-born programmer living in San Francisco decided to give up on this lost crypto wallet. Over the years, many people have offered to help him get his funds back. But, he told the newspaper: “I got to a point where I said to myself, ‘Let it be in the past, just for your own mental health.”

James Howells: digging through the dump

We will be succinct: the story we will narrate next is one of the most desperate we find. This is James Howell, a Welsh computer engineer who accidentally dumped 8,000 BTC ten years ago. However, he is desperately trying to dig his lost crypto wallet from the dump and the $160 million it contains today.

Howell started mining Bitcoin in 2009 on a PC, and in 2013 he sold it for spare parts. He decided to keep the hard drive, hoping the cryptocurrency would increase in value one day.


Unfortunately, during a routine cleanup in 2013, he discarded the hard drive and all the trash from his home. Now, he is convinced that if he gathers the proper means, he can search his local landfill and recover his lost crypto wallet.

The council of Newport, in South Wales, manages the landfill where the old crypto wallet that Howells tries to recover possibly lies. But, the institution has repeatedly denied him access to the site to dig for environmental and access reasons.

Currently, this computer engineer is prolific in giving interviews to the media. Also, unlike Thomas, Howells does not appear to have any intention of abandoning his quest. 

Mark Frauenfelder: Too deep cleaning

The next victim of circumstance and a lost crypto wallet is Mark Frauenfelder, research director at the Silicon Valley think tank and the Institute for the Future. In 2016 he bought 7.4 BTC worth $3,000 each.

Concerned about the safety of the funds, Frauenfelder bought a hardware wallet. After, he wrote his seed phrase and password on paper. Yes, at this point, you probably know that was a bad idea.

Frauenfelder was about to vacation in Tokyo with his wife when the value of cryptocurrencies tripled shortly after. Since he wasn’t bringing either of his two daughters on the trip, he ensured the girls had access to the funds if something terrible happened to him or his partner.

Later, he took the paper, left instructions on accessing the funds (through one of his associates), and placed the document under the pillow’s daughter.

Unfortunately, a cleaning staff person found the paper and threw it in the trash. When Frauenfelder tried to insert the pin from memory, he discovered he had forgotten the correct numbers. 


Furthermore, the wallet also had a time delay between each attempt. As Frauenfelder entered the wrong password, again and again, his despair increased.

After a year, the journalist even tried hypnosis to remember his pin, the 7.4 BTC contained in the crypto wallet from which the seed was lost was already worth $32,387.

The last resort of Frauenfelder was to hack the wallet with unofficial software. But unlike previous stories, He did have a happy ending. We hope that he has learned his lesson.

One of the biggest mysteries about a lost crypto wallet

Suppose you are a follower of our articles. In that case, you certainly know what happened with QuadrigaCX, perhaps the case of the most relevant lost crypto wallet. As this case affected many victims, Netflix took the opportunity to make a movie.

This is the circumstance of 30-year-old Gerald Cotten, the founder of the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange, who died in India in 2018. Upon his death, access to $250 million in cryptocurrencies belonging to his clients was lost.

There is much speculation about Cotten, who, for many, only faked his death and fled with the money. To this day, this is a bleeding wound in the crypto space.

Mathew Mellon: Don’t leave without a trace

The last sad story that concerns us has to do with XRP, but not directly with the controversy that has historically surrounded this cryptocurrency. 

Instead, it is about Mathew Mellon, a cryptocurrency investor. He had almost $1B worth of XRP by 2018. Mellon’s hobbies were excesses, such as drug use, expensive cars, and huge parties at his Los Angeles home.


Mathew’s case is not about a lost crypto wallet but several. Unfortunately, the businessman died suddenly in 2018 after storing his fortune in hardware wallets that he distributed across the country.

However, before he died, he did not tell anyone where his hardware wallets were located or the recovery phrases. As a result, the funds remain lost, and his family cannot enjoy that part of the eccentric millionaire’s inheritance.

Here is the moral. Neither on paper nor in the dump. You have to be careful where you store your private key or recovery phrase if you don’t want to end up as one of those unlucky ones with a lost crypto wallet.

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Working to make a decentralized world. Philologist and psychology student. I have been writing about cryptocurrencies since 2017. Literature, coffee, and cryptos.

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