A Norwegian man who invested $27 (£17) in pioneering currency bitcoin four years ago, before forgetting about it, has discovered that it is now worth an astonishing $886,000 (£552,000).
Oslo resident Kristoffer Koch invested 150 kroner in 5,000 bitcoins in 2009 after studying encryption for a university thesis and stumbling upon the new currency. However, with Bitcoin hitting the news more and more, he remembered his small outlay and discovered that the meteoric rise of its value had made him over half a million pounds in profit.
Bitcoin is a 'virtual currency', based on an independent peer-to-peer model which is analogous to gold. Bitcoins are earned, or 'mined' by solving highly complicated mathematical problems, requiring huge computing power; once earned, they can be traded. Like gold, there are a finite number of coins which can be acquired - and, like gold, they become harder to locate as time goes by. With people worried about traditional currency becoming devalued, many - including the criminal fraternity, which like its 'statelessness' - are turning to it, hence its increasing popularity.
Bitcoins are stored in encrypted wallets with a private key and Koch had to try and remember his password in order to gain access - he should have just used 'password' like everyone else.
He has now exchanged a fifth of his stash - enough to buy an apartment in Oslo.