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Bitcoin from Satoshi-era wallet suddenly activates after 11 years

·2 min read
A bitcoin wallet last active in May 2010 suddenly activated in October 2021 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A bitcoin wallet last active in May 2010 suddenly activated in October 2021 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A bitcoin wallet that has been dormant for more than a decade has mysteriously moved.

The 500BTC held in the account were worth less than $250 when it was mined in January 2011, but are now valued at $23.5 million at today’s exchange rates.

The last time the funds moved, bitcoin’s pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto was still active online, however the semi-anonymous nature of transactions mean no definitive link can be made.

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Bitcoin’s remarkable gains over the last 10 years saw its overall market cap pass $1.2 trillion last November, when its price hit an all-time high of close to $69 million.

A major correction saw the cryptocurrency’s value drop by roughly half within two months of its peak, however it has since rallied back above $47,000.

The activation of the dormant wallet is not the first time a so-called “sleeping whale” has awoken in recent months, with a similar sum moving just a few weeks before bitcoin’s 2021 record high.

The process by which bitcoin is created, known as mining, means that it was minted in batches of 50BTC in the first four years after its inception in 2009.

Many of the decade-old wallets that hold these early bitcoins have remained inactive ever since, potentially due to their owners losing or forgetting their access keys. The most valuable of these is one containing 79,957BTC – worth just over $3.8 billion – while the cumulative sum held in dormant wallets is in excess of $16 billion at today’s rates.

With bitcoin’s supply capped at 21 million BTC, this inactive cryptocurrency represents nearly 2 per cent of the cryptocurrency’s overall supply.

The motivation behind the sudden activation of the latest sleeping whale, first spotted by blockchain monitor Whale Alert, remains unclear, though one possible reason would be to move it onto a cryptocurrency exchange in order to cash it in for fiat currency.