TAKE pity on poor James Howells from Newport in Wales. His local council still won’t let him sift through the landfill site to find the hard-drive he dumped in 2013. It could be worth €66 million.
Or €33 million when you read this. Or nothing.
Cryptocurrencies are on a roller-coaster ride, and a novelty currency which bought part of a pizza a decade ago, could see you sunning in Monte Carlo today with hot and cold running margaritas. Or wiped out, as the ‘bubble will burst’ doomsayers predict.
James Howells’ discarded hard-drive held the so-called ‘blockchain’ codes for 7,500 bitcoins he bought for just €140 in 2009. His computer was trashed in 2013, its codes forgotten.
He’s not alone. An Australian threw away a hard-drive with 1,400 bitcoins on it in 2012. His loss today: €12 million. And an American techie used 10,000 of the novel new exchange medium in 2010 to buy a pizza. Some pizza: €88 million today.
Holland’s fabled tulip mania of the 1630s, where one bulb could be the cost of a house, has nothing on the madness that’s happening right now with 1,400 cryptocurrencies out there and rising.
Even the silly ones attract obscene amounts. Dogecoin was dreamed up as a joke by a couple of techno-pranksters in 2013. It has no underpinning assets and no actual value, but investors sniffing from the same glue-pot and desperate to jump on the bandwagon to buy anything bearing the name ‘coin,’ have thrown nearly a billion euros at it so far.
Potcoin underpins legal and illegal cannabis purchases, Dentacoin is exactly what its name suggests (for dentists), Kanye West sued Coinye into oblivion, there’s Titcoin (no, don’t ask), and heaven help us all, Trumpcoin will help to build the wall.
Yes I confess, for a split-nanosecond I was also swept along by the hype, the famous ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) as I wondered whether to invest my vast and ill-gotten gains in Bitcoin.
Two things quickly become apparent.
One: There are more dodgy bitcoin dealers out there than you could shake your savings-book at, and many will also be happy to sell you a bridge.
Two: Do you really want to be known a month, a year or a decade from now, as the loser whose life-savings will barely buy a pizza?
My favourite cryptocurrency of them all? The ‘joke’ one whose name makes absolutely no bones about what you’re getting, yet is still worth double its 2016 cost: Ponzicoin.