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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mining for Profit and Learning

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to make my mining rigs generate money. I know, that's sort of bass-ackwards -- we're supposed to be promoting cryptocurrencies, not mining cryptocurrencies so we can exchange them for fiat, right? RIGHT!? Well, maybe that's true for some of you, but for me I have bills (and debts) to pay, so I've definitely exchanged plenty of BTC/LTC/alt-coins for cold, hard USD, and I suspect the same holds true for many of you. Unless you have enough money that going out and buying thousands of dollars of mining hardware isn't a problem, then investing money into cryptocurrencies is at best a risky business. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Hypothetically, just to keep things simple let's say that you have 10,000 KHash of scrypt mining hardware at your disposal. Hopefully all of you are familiar by now with, Coinchoose,com, or some similar site -- and if you're not, you should be! I like Coinwarz as it let's you compare profitability to LTC, which is far more useful than looking at profitability vs. BTC mining since no one (smart) does that with GPUs anymore. Coinchoose does have a Litecoin comparison page, but for reasons I can't fathom it omits many/most of the scrypt coins and still includes several SHA256 coins. Seriously, what? Anyway, let's run some quick figures on Coinwarz with our 10,000 KHash:
Okay, that's a huge image and I apologize that I needed something like that. Obviously the exchange rates and mining difficulty are all in constant flux, so you can't base your choice of what to mine off of the above. But looking at this snapshot in time, we can see that there are some coins that look really profitable right now, but over the past fourteen days they're actually not that great -- PHS, ALF, FRK, and CAP are all in this category. On the other hand, we have coins that are currently not as profitable as their two-week average -- RPC, DOGE, and LOT fall into this group. So what do you mine?

So if you're mining alt-coins, at the current difficulty/exchange rate you could mine coins and then trade for BTC at the following rates (which are different from the above image), and I'll include LTC as the baseline since it's the one we have to beat in my book:
Coin Name (Symbol)Rate in BTC per MHashMonthly Earnings
from 10 MHash/sec
Litecoin (LTC)0.00918 BTC~$2203 USD
RonPaulCoin (RPC)0.01057 BTC~$2537 USD
Lottocoin (LOT)0.01225 BTC~$2940 USD
Worldcoin (WDC)0.01300 BTC~$3120 USD
Dogecoin (DOGE)0.0133 BTC~$3192 USD
Fastcoin (FST)0.01437 BTC~$3449 USD
Neocoin (NEC)0.01502 BTC~$3605 USD
We've been over this before, but the basic idea is that you could build five systems capable of doing 10MHash+ total for roughly $10,000. If that's your investment, most of you would be pretty pleased to recover your money and begin making profit in three or four months, right? But what if I told you there are ways where you could double the best return on that list, on a fairly consistent basis? Yes, we're talking about 0.03 BTC per MHash of scrypt mining, so at $800 per BTC (an estimate given current prices), you would pay off a $10,000 investment in about 42 days! And what if the difficulty/exchange rate of the various alt-coins wasn't really a consideration?

I've caught your interest I hope, but I'm going to stop here for now -- I'll reveal why tomorrow. But let's just say that first, there are coins not yet listed on Coinwarz, and sometimes not even an any exchanges, and mining these early can reap huge benefits (albeit with some risk). That's one option, but for the other let me ask a question: Who made the most money on average during the Gold Rush of the 1800s? The answer to that leads into the answer of what to mine and how to do it...tomorrow. For now, here's my current pick of hardware for a $10,000 investment:
MotherboardGigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3/UD5/UD7 AM3+$145-$234 USD
ProcessorAMD FX-8320 Vishera$156 USD
MemoryCrucial Ballistix Sport 4GBx2 DDR3-1600$73 USD
GPUs3 x Radeon R9 280X 3GB$1200 USD
Power Supply2 x Rosewill Capstone 750W 80 Plus Gold$200 USD
Storage2.5" 60GB Kingston V3 SSD$63 USD
Case?Build it out of wood or PVC pipes!$40 USD
Total Cost$1877-$1966
The biggest change here is a move to an Extended ATX motherboard (the Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7), which comes with six x16 slots and will allow you to do one of two things: either run up to six GPUs with risers (note that you'll need more and/or beefier power supplies!), or short-term you could actually run it with three GPUs without risers and still get two slots between each pair of GPUs. $234 is a lot of money to spend on a motherboard, but with x16 risers now going for $20 each that's $60 for three GPUs that you save, and you still have room to expand in the future. The UD3 and UD5 are less expensive alternatives, with the UD3 being standard ATX and it comes with four x16 slots, while the UD5 is also an ATX board but it comes with five x16 slots.

The other change is the recommendation to build your own case using either wood or PVC pipes, both of which are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure. My next case I've decided to go with wood -- I'll take pictures when it's done. It may not look as classy as an aluminum frame cage, but almost everyone has easy access to wood, a circular saw, a hammer, and nails -- and since wood doesn't conduct there's less risk of shorting out your motherboard if you're not careful with the mounting. Just make sure you have adequate airflow so nothing catches fire. :-)


  1. Sorry a little off topic but I have a question.. I'm running a 4 r9 290 set up and on cgminer it says each GPU is producing around 800+khash but on my mining pool site it says my worker is only producing 15khash?? Do you know what the problem could be?? If you do know I would much appreciate it.

    1. Are you getting a lot of hardware errors (HW)? Sounds like that might be the case, which means all the hashing is actually going to waste. You'll likely need to tune your thread concurrency and/or intensity.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Why did you go with the r9 280 x instead of the 290? Is it due to the inflated prices of the r9 290 at the moment?

  3. Jared - any thoughts to weigh in (again) on Scrypt Asics? I guess there aren't but a couple that are actually hashing - but at least for us alt-coin miners it definitely feels like the calm before the storm :)

  4. My rigs.
    and the huning ring

    1. What's the incentive to go with R9 270X? It's $240 or so, and three cards doing 840KHash at 368W isn't really any better than a single R9 290X doing 800-850KHash at 350W. In fact, it's actually worse, and more expensive as well. Plus now you have a single system with three GPUs that needed a motherboard, PSU, RAM, CPU, storage and all of those parts cost at least $400 (give or take). So by my math, you've spent at least $1060 for that rig and you can't add more GPUs, where you could by the same thing with a single R9 290X for about $50 less. Did I miss something?

  5. Hi Jarred,

    Brilliant blog, my go to regarding learning the business of crypto mining :) This is the rig we put together our of MDF. Holds 6 x 290's, 2 mobo's and 2 PSU's, HDD's are mSATA and on board which means a few less cables. We're working on a slightly different arrangement with the cards vertically mounted with the USB cable risers rather than ribbons, should improve airflow and getting some high volume fans mounted. ATM we use a tall oscillating fan to blast the rig with cooler air, keeps all the card temps around 78-80c which is well below the 90c i've seen people running at. Want to do some fiddling with voltages if possible to reduce the power consumption a touch. Though we're getting excellent hashrates on VTC atm but reading your blog, going to try our luck with the coinwarz methodology you spoke of earlier.

  6. Thanks for another great post! What do you think about MEOW coin? Seems rather profitable these days...

    1. I know Hashcows is hitting the kitteh periodically, and the result is an extra GHash of miners for an hour or so before the pool moves on, so the difficulty of MEOW goes from 16 to 54 as a recent example. At 16, you could generate something like 0.037 BTC / MHash, but at 54 you're looking at 0.011 BTC / MHash. You'll also see a cycle of about three hours on a high difficulty vs. one hour on a low difficulty, so the result is an average difficulty of around 44 and returns of perhaps as much as 0.017 BTC / MHash. That's decent but MEOW tends to be quite variable so I'm not sure I'd put too much mining power into it.