My understanding is that the blockchain is currently 6.5 GB in size and will continue growing at a fairly hefty rate. Has anyone attempted to analyze the blockchain to attempt to determine dead bitcoins? I'm interested in developing a probabilistic measure to label certain transactions as dead.

What's a good way of getting the raw data from the blockchain? I'd like to batter it with some R and Sage magic.

  • What do you mean with 'dead' ? Apr 18, 2013 at 8:47
  • Remember: the blockchain can not grow more than max block size (currently 1 MB) pr 10 minutes.
    – Nicolai
    Apr 18, 2013 at 10:22
  • Dead defined to mean that a transaction has to occurred to an address that does not have an accessible private key thus the money can never be spent. Apr 18, 2013 at 17:03
  • That is very comforting to know the growth rate of the block size Nicolai, yet that still is a maximum 48 GB per year growth rate Apr 18, 2013 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


No Bitcoin is dead by definition - it may just be impossible to spend them, because e.g. you lost the private key. So you will never be able to distinguish between dead addresses and just untouched paper wallets.

I was also thinking about it and came up with a proposal for a protocol change: If it is well known and communicated through every news, and everybody would agree in that change of course, it would allow miners to 'take' money from transactions which are unspent more than (let's say) 2 years. This means they can transfer the coins to another address without providing the signature and the network accepts this. This sounds scary, but it wouldn't mean you steal somebody when everybody knows. You just have to move coins every two years. Unfortunately long-term paper wallets would be less convenient.

Of course details are missing, e.g. you shouldn't get all the money of a big transaction in one block just because you are lucky. Anyway, I think this "using of dead coins" idea wont make it, as everybody is interested in a rising bitcoin value, and this happens when some are lost!

  • 2
    This "recycling" part is not an answer. And has already been proposed and rightfully discarded as nonsense.
    – o0'.
    Apr 18, 2013 at 13:15
  • When a bitcoin is sent to an address that does not have an accessible private key, it is dead. End of story. It exists within the ecosystem, but it can never be spent until someone breaks ECDSA, which they destroys the entire network. I'm trying to construct software that will navigate the blockchain and label certain transactions as probabilistically dead. Borph I understand the Bitcoin protocol very well. I need to know if other people have attempted to label dead coins Apr 18, 2013 at 16:58

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