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Author Topic: Has the ship sailed on mining profitability?  (Read 4875 times)
Inquitus
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June 24, 2011, 05:51:09 PM
 #1

I had come across bitcoins in Forbes and again in Business week, so when they finally hit the news again this week with the mtgox hack, I decided to start mining on my rig and research bitmining.

As far as I can see, there are really only 3 factors that influence the profitability of bitmining:

1) The value of bitcoins.
2) The amount of computational power being used to bitmine.
3) The cost of electricity.

Obviously as more people start to mine and the difficulty is cranked up profitability falls. Mining only remains profitable if the value of the bitcoins earned in hard currency is greater than your electricity costs incurred.

I had a look into some of the bitmining contracts that are being sold right now, £440 a month for 1Ghash/s strikes me as exceedingly bad value for anyone purchasing it. Difficulty has only ever gone down twice in its history and each time only slightly, as bitcoining makes it more mainstream and more people mine, difficulty will climb. So with the absolute certaintly that difficulty will only go one way we need to rely on the value of the BTC to continually exceed the hikes in difficulty.

If more and more people get into bitmining we will soon see Nvidia GPU mining go the way of CPU mining in terms of profitability. We will reach a point where only very well optimised rigs are profitable at all. In fact alot of people are probably happy to mine at loss, if you are a kid and mum and dad pay your bills, what's to stop you mining what is essentially an unprofitable rig? This will further dent margins for other miners.

With the profits for mining getting ever slimmer and the cost of setting up optimised rigs still quite high, who would be willing to drop $3k on a rig that will take the better part of 6months at current difficulty to show any ROI? Especially when it's clear that every time difficulty is reviewed every 10 or so days it's only going to dent your bottom line further.

We can also assume in the times we live in that electricity costs will also only go one way and that is up, though probably a relatively slow rate, so lets take this as fixed and ignore it.

That leaves us finally with the value of the BTC, for mining to be profitable BTC has to appreciate against hard currency at a rate higher than hikes in difficulty. Give todays hike, the breakeven BTC Rate for mining, wherever it may lie, is now 1.75x higher.

I am not an economist, and I find it hard to understand what drives it's price and what underpins it's value. It is however clear that there is no link between bitcoin mining difficulty and bitcoin value, for the simple reason no matter how much computational power is thrown at it, production speed is redefined as 6 blocks an hour every 2016 blocks.

Is it worth investing in mining rigs? imho no its not, if one wants to make money out of bitcoins, which at the moment are a very volatile commodity, one should play the market.

The only other way to make money is to follow the bitcoin contractors footsteps and relieve the foolish of their money. You can't beat Guaranteed 4 month contracts that cover the cost of your hardware upfront.

I would like to also greater understand the potential profits from transaction fees, as they remain the only other area of profitablity. In pooled mining do these get distributed to the pool, or just to the pool organiser? Clearly in the case of the contractors it just goes straight into their arse pocket! Are transaction fees material currently in the world of bitcoin mining? and if so who is getting rich off the back of them?

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June 24, 2011, 05:55:33 PM
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I feel the market will right itself as the miners who were in it for the quick buck jump out, the others stay in, the cycle goes on again.

ColeFinlay
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June 24, 2011, 06:01:21 PM
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The equilibrium happens when the the cost of buying and running a miner is roughly the same as the income.

In the end, by the time everyone is investing in something, it loses its profitability.
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June 24, 2011, 06:09:37 PM
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The equilibrium happens when the the cost of buying and running a miner is roughly the same as the income.

In the end, by the time everyone is investing in something, it loses its profitability.

Not really, the equilibrium will be influenced by the profitability certainly enough but I doubt we'll see mining become truly UNprofitable.

I have rigs in my living room, bedroom and kitchen. They make a ton of noise, lots of heat, I've had to add portable air conditioners to parts of my house, I have to keep one eye on my pools' status tables to make sure they're all still running and connected, every so often they need reboots, maintenance, etc. It's not the worst job I've ever had but it's still a bit of a hassle and there IS a baseline income below which it's no longer worth my time - and that baseline is > $0.

If you were correct, people would only leave when the net gain of running a miner became zero, which simply isn't true. Once we fall below a certain level of profitability, we'll begin to cross other folks' (and maybe my own) personal thresholds and they will pack up their rigs and go home. At this point, difficulty drops and mining becomes more profitable again.

Check out this post: http://forum.bitcoin.org/?topic=7427.0

There's a wonderful chart there that shows an arbitrarily scaled price over difficulty. See how it dips then climbs and repeats that pattern over and over? It's called homeostasis - you may have learned about it in your Biology class, but they should've taught it in Economics as well Smiley

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June 24, 2011, 06:23:04 PM
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If you were correct, people would only leave when the net gain of running a miner became zero, which simply isn't true. Once we fall below a certain level of profitability, we'll begin to cross other folks' (and maybe my own) personal thresholds and they will pack up their rigs and go home. At this point, difficulty drops and mining becomes more profitable again.

I would include that hassle in the cost of running the mining operation.

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Interesting.  If mining becomes more professional, I think there will be less variation.  Price also depend on news reports that increase awareness.
Inquitus
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June 24, 2011, 06:34:08 PM
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The equilibrium happens when the the cost of buying and running a miner is roughly the same as the income.

In the end, by the time everyone is investing in something, it loses its profitability.

Not really, the equilibrium will be influenced by the profitability certainly enough but I doubt we'll see mining become truly UNprofitable.

I have rigs in my living room, bedroom and kitchen. They make a ton of noise, lots of heat, I've had to add portable air conditioners to parts of my house, I have to keep one eye on my pools' status tables to make sure they're all still running and connected, every so often they need reboots, maintenance, etc. It's not the worst job I've ever had but it's still a bit of a hassle and there IS a baseline income below which it's no longer worth my time - and that baseline is > $0.

If you were correct, people would only leave when the net gain of running a miner became zero, which simply isn't true. Once we fall below a certain level of profitability, we'll begin to cross other folks' (and maybe my own) personal thresholds and they will pack up their rigs and go home. At this point, difficulty drops and mining becomes more profitable again.

Check out this post: http://forum.bitcoin.org/?topic=7427.0

There's a wonderful chart there that shows an arbitrarily scaled price over difficulty. See how it dips then climbs and repeats that pattern over and over? It's called homeostasis - you may have learned about it in your Biology class, but they should've taught it in Economics as well Smiley

Yes but you got in early, and ideally have already recouped your intial investment on the rigs you set up. If someone was looking to get into bitmining now, I honestly don't think it's worth it, the unknowns with regard to BTC, and the expected time taken to recoup your initial investment on your rig are too high.

There's also alot of people who can mine unprofitable rigs - anyone who doesn't pay their home electricity bills, anyone who can run them on workplace cpu/gpu cycles. That makes profitable mining more difficult for the rest.

We haven't reached a point quite yet, hell Nvidia GPU mining is still profitable, and that must go the way of the dodo before mining margins start to get properly squeezed, but if it continues to gain popularity margins will get wafer thin, and eventually the diff in global energy costs will define by geography who can mine profitably and who can't. My lecky costs in Ireland are double those in some US states for example.
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June 24, 2011, 06:35:36 PM
 #7

In the long run, mining difficulty will approach the average cost of electricity. People who have "paid off" mining rigs will continue to mine regardless of the difficulty, as long as they can profit after electricity cost.

If my post has been helpful, send me some love -> BTC: 1kokojUapmWqCqPw3Ch2rjcVh57tJEzka | PPC: PDyXAgA8eH47gokVW6zVZPSuu15aao5nZF | Bitshares: kokojie
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matt_b
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June 24, 2011, 06:47:06 PM
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You might not be able to retire from BC mining. However, if computers are your hobby and you're buying equipment that you'd use for other purposes (e.g. gaming) where is the downside? Just don't buy equipment that you can't afford, and it'll work out.
Inquitus
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June 24, 2011, 08:27:24 PM
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You might not be able to retire from BC mining. However, if computers are your hobby and you're buying equipment that you'd use for other purposes (e.g. gaming) where is the downside? Just don't buy equipment that you can't afford, and it'll work out.

It only works out if your BTC income is greater than your lecky bills, if it's not then you are better off leaving your PC off when its not gaming, unless mummy and daddy are paying your bills, in which case you could indeed leave it on 24/7 and profit no matter what. We will soon reach a point where current gen Nvidia GPU mining is no longer profitable for instance. My GTX580 is a loss maker once difficulty goes over 2,000,000 which could well be within the next 4 weeks. 2m probably renders most, if not all Nvidia mining loss making.
enmaku
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June 24, 2011, 08:40:45 PM
 #10

Yes but you got in early, and ideally have already recouped your intial investment on the rigs you set up.

Not nearly as early as you think and not nearly as early as I'd have liked  Sad

Still, the margin of profitability has always been narrower for new operations than existing ones - which is sort of true in any business.

There are lots of peaks and valleys in profitability in every industry but they do keep chugging along and making money.

I remember speaking with my Aunt a while back (she's an exec for a hospital) about how over the course of her career she's seen new doctors and nurses get hired for grossly different wages and it had little to do with the profitability of the hospital, inflation etc. - the cause was availability. A bunch of people would hear that industry X was "recession-proof" or they'd see quick money to be made and new high school grads go to college to work in industry X. This removes them from the pool of potential doctors so less doctors graduate that year. If this goes on long enough, hospitals start to get desperate for new doctors and their wages increase which of course makes medicine the new "industry X" that everyone goes to college for. There are a handful of industries that "industry X" seems to rotate through but the same basic concepts apply to many things.

In short, when mining becomes less profitable than, say, speculating more newcomers to bitcoin will speculate than mine, which then creates a shortage of miners. Homeostasis, my friend, homeostasis.

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June 24, 2011, 10:05:52 PM
 #11

Can you guys stop mining, so I can make some coins?

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bal3wolf
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June 24, 2011, 10:48:55 PM
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i thk mining will still make a profit it would seem as mining is harder to make coins the prices of coins should go up so it all =s out in the end.

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June 24, 2011, 11:00:50 PM
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i think its far from sailed
already the prices on tradehill are going back up again (17.2 dollar latest as of now) and mt gox opening up in 3 hours, alot of extra trading will start

so im guessing itl rise to 20~25 quite quickly

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June 25, 2011, 12:32:54 AM
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Can you guys stop mining, so I can make some coins?

No. Fail.

arashd
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June 25, 2011, 02:04:12 AM
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bitcoin value will really decide this

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jollyjim
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June 25, 2011, 02:23:09 AM
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Most people concentrate on the price when considering when to stop mining or if it'll be profitable.  IMO, that's only a small part of it.  What few people fail to consider, and is much more important right now, is the difficulty.  Sure, if you're not paying for electricity, you'd always be making a profit... if you don't consider anything else.  When the difficulty goes up so high that you'd be spending a month to get 1BTC with your 5GH/s setup, would you keep on mining, even with free electricity and rigs you've already paid off?  If you still are, you're risking damaging a few hundred/thousand dollars worth of equipment for $100 in profit (I doubt the price of BTC will be that high any time soon).  You'd make more selling that equipment.

If the difficulty keeps on going up at a 33% rate every 10 days, you're probably looking at 4-5 months before you should consider throwing in the towel, unless the price was astronomical.  The difficulty has been going up much more than that and the halving of a block to 25BTC is coming much sooner than expected.

You'd only want to start mining with new rigs now if you believe that the difficulty will slow down or reverse course very soon.
percymate
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June 25, 2011, 02:46:54 AM
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If you have free equipment lying around, then yes, it would still be profitable. Unfortunately, jumping into the game now could spell disaster for people trying to make a quick buck.
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June 25, 2011, 02:53:58 AM
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The problem I see in all of this analysis of bitcoin mining is that you cannot predict the price of BTC that you need to sell to pay for your mining costs. I'm mining with 6950s (stock because I ended up with cards I can't unlock the shaders on - oh well Sad ) I'm getting around 355MHash/s each (900MHz which is as high as I can go locked)

Right now at ~$15/BTC and paying .1/kwh in electricity, mining ceases to be profitable at a difficulty of 10000000 for a single stock 6950. That's over 7 times the current difficulty! Are we headed there? Yes we are. Will BTC stay at $15, crash to $1 or go up to $100? Nobody knows. But right now? I'm earning $$$ to pay off my rigs, and at the very least should be able to recoup enough to break even if I sell my stuff used. But if I pay the rigs off, then it becomes a pure equation of power costs.

So will I pay off my rigs? Only time will tell and it all depends on the market and $/BTC.

But lets say difficulty skyrockets in a month's time and profits vaporize. We actually see a drop in network processing. Then BTC jumps to, say $50/BTC. Miners will pile back in.

Bottom line is NOBODY can predict difficulty, GPU advances, or $/BTC. Just like the day traders, mining has risk. As it should be.
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June 25, 2011, 06:36:19 PM
 #19

And to make matters WORSE.  In about 37 weeks, when total blocks reach 210,000; profitability is cut in HALF (The reward drops to 25BTC / per found block.)

George Carmack
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June 25, 2011, 07:58:11 PM
 #20

.... Right now at ~$15/BTC and paying .1/kwh in electricity...

.1 ? I have to pay .22 € ~ .3 USD    Huh

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