The maximum number of Bitcoin is 21 000 000. However this number of Bitcoin may never exist.

Supposing someone have 5 BTC in their wallet. In order to protect them, they encrypted it and then forgot the passphrase, or die (sorry, this example is sad). In this case, the real maximum number of usable Bitcoin would be 20 999 995...

Is that understanding correct? What do you think about this?

  • You need to make clear that you understand difference between "lost" and "forgoten" bitcoins.
    – blogger
    Dec 6, 2013 at 16:48
  • In his example, they're both the same - they're not directly usable anymore by the community at large.
    – Joe Pineda
    Dec 6, 2013 at 19:11
  • related: bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/484/…
    – Murch
    Dec 6, 2013 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


Yes it's possible to lose bitcoins forever. There are even ways to "provably destroy" them by sending them to an address that can't possibly have a private key.

  • Interesting. Have you got a document about such cases?
    – Zag zag..
    Dec 6, 2013 at 17:02
  • 1
  • 1
    I was under the impression that all valid addresses had a corresponding private key, even though it may not be feasible to look up for it among the quadrillions of possibilities. Could you please expand on this?
    – Joe Pineda
    Dec 6, 2013 at 19:10
  • Generate address, destroy private key. Now, where is the private key?
    – TomTom
    Dec 7, 2013 at 8:02
  • 1
    @TomTom that's not "provably" which was what the answer talked about. The BitcoinEater address is impossibly unlikely to have come from a random private key.
    – Jannes
    Dec 7, 2013 at 15:07

I think that 'lost' coins will only increase the value of Bitcoin (good for holders). Less coins = more competition for those coins that are still in circulation. All in all, the bitcoin cap is simply a number. The price of bitcoin in USD is completely relative to the demand of bitcoin since bitcoin can be broken up indefinitely. There could only be 10 bitcoins in circulation and the network would behave the same, we would just be working in milli, micro, and nano-bitcoin.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.