What happens to lost Bitcoins

What happens to lost Bitcoins? Since the “ownership” of bitcoins is essentially tied to having knowledge of the private key for the address they are stored against, it’s very difficult to prove that nobody knows the private key.

However, it is possible to send bitcoins to an address with no private key, essentially destroying them.

There is no accepted definition of a lost bitcoin that customers are aware of, and it’s unlikely there will be one because of the difficulty in providing proof. The network doesn’t know whether the private key for some bitcoins have been lost. The value is based on market demand. From this perspective, bitcoins that aren’t currently offered for sale are the same as lost coins until they are offered up for sale, at which point the price is affected. Though individuals do have the capability to prove they own bitcoins without offering them for sale, they rarely do so, so you’ll probably never be able to find out much about which unspent bitcoins are still being quietly held and which are lost.

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A “lost bitcoin” is any unspent BTC balance in an account for which the private key has been lost. Without the private key, that balance cannot be spent again. If you lose your wallet file, you are effectively losing all the private keys for the accounts (addresses) created by that wallet. It doesn’t mean that the balance cannot change, since the “lost” account can actually receive new funds (if funds are sent to its public address), but without the private key those funds will become equally inaccessible.

It’s impossible for the network to know when a private key was lost. A balance can remain unspent for a very long time, but it could be by the owner’s choice. So there is really no way to tell. No one can flag a wallet/account as lost, even the owner. This is because without the private key you cannot prove to be the owner anyway.

The Bitcoin price is simply a result of current demand/supply for it. You could say that the more lost coins, the less supply there is, so the prices will naturally rise, but that is simply a by-product of normal trading.

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