Monthly Archives: May 2013

Understanding Mining Bonds

Disclaimer: Do not take this as financial advice. I have no idea what I’m doing and if I’m right, assume it is luck. Also assume that I have a vested interest in seeing you take some kind of action, for example because I hold shares in companies that directly or indirectly benefit from you taking said action. In fact, to be safe, assume that I’m out to get you, and you specifically.

You have been warned.

In the Bitcoin and Litecoin stock markets, nothing is as hot as mining operations. These typically come in two forms, either as mining companies or as mining bonds.

Note: If you have no idea by this time what a mining operation is, then you’ve like found the wrong article and should head over to something more basic.

Most people don’t really get the whole mining bond thing, though, so I thought I should write an article and explain how these work.

What are Bonds?

Most people understand what a share in a company is, but if you don’t, think of it simply as a partial ownership of the company. Whatever the company owns, you own, and whatever the company earns, you earn, of course relative to the number of shares you own and how many shares are issued. When the company decides it has sufficient free capital, they may pay out a portion of they money to share holders, and this payment is called a dividend.

When the company does well, either the price of each share goes up because the company has more money (and assuming a market that more or less prices a share based on company value) or the company has more money that can be paid out as dividends. Conversely, if the company does badly, the profit and thus value, price, and dividends go down.

A bond, however, is simply a loan that is issued as a stock market asset or security. Rather than going to a single bank or financial institution to get the complete loan, the issuer, who wants to raise money for something, issues bonds that are then purchased by multiple parties on a stock exchange or market. This reduces the risk to a single lender and is thus often an easier way to raise capital.

Note: They key difference here is that a share is ownership of the company while a bond is ownership in a loan.

For example, if someone wants to raise $1 million, rather than going to a bank to ask for one million in one application, they can issue 1 million bonds each valued at $1. Investors can then lend exactly as much as they want, anywhere from one dollar to a million dollars. Each share of the debt represents a an equal portion of the total debt.

A bond, as a loan, is also associated with payment of interest, often called the coupon. The issuer pays this interest to lenders to get the money. The interest can be variable, fixed, a combination the two, or any other form that is legally allowed.

Finally, bonds are most often redeemable, meaning the issuer can buy them back, which is essentially the same as repaying the loan. As for the coupon or interest, the terms of this repayment is subject to what is legal and desired by the issuer and the market.

And Mining Bonds?

Mining investments are one of the most popular asset types in the cryptocurrency world, but a lot of people do not seem to realize how they work.

Mining bonds are exactly like regular bonds in principle, but they often have a few differences from what the norm is in the financial markets. I’ll get back to those differences in a moment, but let me first explain briefly how mining bonds work.

In a mining bond, the interest paid for each bond is most often based on a certain output that mining produces. For example, a 1KH/s Litecoin bond will pay out whatever having a 1KH/s mining rig would earn you. The coupon or interest on a mining bond is variable and changes based on the difficulty of the mining of that coin. The higher the difficulty, the lower the coupon or interest.

However, one thing that many people seem to misunderstand is that bonds are not shares in the company. Once you buy a bond, you have a predetermined agreement that the issuer promises to pay. When you own a share in a company, the issuer promises to give you whatever is your share of the profits, but you don’t know in advance what this may be.

Because the rate of return is highly variable and also declining, assuming a rise in adoption and popularity of mining, mining bonds behave a bit different than regular bonds.

First, most mining bonds are perpetual whereas regular bonds are redeemable. This means that the issuer has no plan to repay you what you lend. Your only return from your lending is the coupon or interest. After all, as profitability of mining declines permanently and the equipment bought with the loan will fall in value, the issuer has no way of repaying the loan.

Note: The term perpetual is actually a protection for the issuer, even thought it sounds great to the lender because it sounds like you get money forever. To the issuer, however, it is a protection because it means they never have to repay the loan you give them.

Because of this lack of repayment, mining bonds often have incredible returns and may seem to be great investments compared to regular bonds. They may be, but for all mining bonds, the simple truth is that what you get in return will dwindle rapidly as the rate of mining increases globally.

Second, the return of your bond will never increase. This is important to understand and confuses people when they see that companies invest in ever growing mining farms while their bonds remain static at a certain level.

However, when you think about it, this is perfectly logical. Remember that the mining output is the interest on a loan. There is absolutely no reason why the issuer would want to increase how much they have to pay you no more than it would make sense for you to start paying more on your mortgage, even though the housing market may go down or up.

With a bond, you do not own what the issuer uses your money to buy. You own simply the coupon or interest  or that loan plus, technically, the loan value itself (although in perpetual bonds, this is never repaid and should be considered sunk cost).

As long as the issuer keeps paying what the terms of the contract states, you have no claim to any additional payment for any reason.

A couple of mining bonds play a little benign trick on you. The explicitly increase the payment over time, either through a reinvestment plan or by stating that on a certain date or under certain conditions, the coupon or interest will increase.

This isn’t anything different from regular bonds, however, that have coupons or interests that change based on some condition.

For example, let’s say you lend me $10 and I will repay you 10% interest per year, which is fine, and you know exactly what you’ll get. However, I’ll also include a clause that if I win in the lottery, I will increase that payment to 20%, and that if I lose my job, I will reduce that to 5%. This is still fine as long as those terms are known to you in advance.

For bonds that do reinvestment, the situation is still very simple when you think about it. The reinvestment will keep your return at a more steady pace, but that reinvestment comes from money you would otherwise have received in interest, so you are not really getting anything more than you would if you simply got a higher interest and purchased more bonds.

Are Mining Bonds Really Mining?

Now that you understand how mining bonds are just like regular bonds, and that all bonds are simply loans on which the issuer pays a predetermined return, here’s a thought for you:

Mining bonds don’t have to mine at all, and that is perfectly all right. It’s not a scam, nobody is trying to trick you, and it doesn’t affect the profitability at all.

Note: Speaking of profitability, calculating that for a mining bond is no different than calculating the profitability of investing in mining equipment. Find a good calculator, add the return from the hash rate you get in the bond, add the cost of the bond as the cost of the equipment, and you’ll have your profitability.

You see, you do not own the equipment that the issuer buys with your money. To you, the issuer can use that money to go on vacation for a year or buy a new car. In fact, some mining bonds today don’t have a single piece of mining equipment.

What you own is a predetermined rate of return, which is defined as whatever that certain hash rate would have given you, had you operated a mine. As long as you get that return, it doesn’t matter to you whether the issuer gets that money from actually mining or from growing pot in their backyard (financially speaking, of course).

It is actually easier for the issuer of a mining bond to not mine at all. Instead, they can get your money, put that into something that has a better return, and just give you the return to which you are entitled.

Some people see this as a scam, but really, it is nothing of the sort. A bond, no matter what you put in front of it, is simply a loan and you forfeit any decision over what the issuer buys with that loan the minute you sign the contract by placing a buy order.

I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion around mining bonds, but as always, feel free to leave comments if you have questions, comments, or other feedback 🙂

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Can 100TH Really be the Next ASICMiner? In a Word: No

Disclaimer: Please do not take this as financial advice. I have no idea what I’m talking about and you should not listen to anything I say. I may or may not hold shares in any company at any time, so as with everything you read, please be safe and assume that the author (in this case moi) has a direct benefit from a high or low share price. Do your own research, do not rush into investments until you understand the assets and the market, and never, ever, ever, ever, ever invest money you are not perfectly comfortable throwing out the window into a blazing pit of fire.

In the past couple of weeks, ASICMiner has seen a rocket like rise in price, trading at most over ฿3.3 which is a hefty 33 times its initial IPO value. Since then, it has subsided somewhat, and these days trade around ฿2.4-2.6 per share.

No wonder people have been looking for the next rocket to take off, and have been very curious to understand a relatively new mining operation called the 100TH project.

Can 100TH really be the next ASICMiner? In a word, no. In a few more words, no, 100TH is not the next ASICMiner because it is a completely different type of investment.

That doesn’t mean 100TH cannot be extremely profitable, though, just that they are two very different classes of assets. I’ve been doing some digging to attempt to understand the 100TH asset. Much of the research is based on the 100TH business plan as well as the discussions in the Bitcointalk forums. In addition, I have done some other research into the people behind the operation.

Let me share my findings in summary.

What is 100TH?

The 100TH project is the brainchild of two Polish entrepreneurs who together with a couple of other people decided to get into ASIC-based Bitcoin mining. Their first project was to build a 72TH mine, but that project didn’t work out. Instead, they re-launched the idea in January with a 100TH mine, this time in collaboration with Bitfury, a known entity in the community that designs and builds ASIC chips.

The 100TH mine is actually more like a bond than a share, so it is vital that you understand the differences. I’ll elaborate more on this when I compare 100TH to ASICMiner later in this article. The brief explanation, however, is that a share in 100TH is fixed at a predetermined rate of 200MH/s and will not increase over time unless the founders decide to change the asset completely.

Unlike ASICMiner, however, the 100TH project does not sell hardware. This is a plain Bitcoin mine, one with a predetermined output, making no attempts to stay competitive beyond those terms. As such, the evaluation becomes a bit simpler than ASICMiner because you need to focus on fewer areas to evaluate the stock.

ASICMiner versus 100TH

Before we begin comparing the two assets and their prospective revenues and profits, you need to understand the difference between the assets.

Note: I am explicitly not talking about the 100TH mine as a company because it isn’t one. Technically, neither is ASICMiner, but the shares act closer to those of a regular company. Bitfountain, of which ASICMiner is the publicly traded shares, is a real company.

100TH is a mine that has a given and fixed amount of hashing power per share. This amount will not increase over time, so what you are buying with a share of 100TH is exactly that hashing power for as long as the mine is operational.

ASICMiner is a company, or technically the name of the publicly traded shares of a company. ASICMiner both increases hashrate over time but in addition sells hardware when they have excess capacity that they can not otherwise utilize or when the market looks right.

Hashing Power

100TH gives 200 MH/s hashing power per share when it goes online in August.

ASICMiner currently has about 60 MH/s hashing power per share that is mining right now.

Dividends

100TH has no overhead for reinvestments, so after the management fee and costs are deducted, 100% of revenue goes out as dividends.

ASICMiner pays for costs, management, and other expenses plus they set aside a varying amount of revenue for future reinvestments before calculating a 90% dividend from the revenue.

Profitability

100TH is focused solely on yielding as much dividend as possible during its lifetime, knowing perfectly well that the lifetime will not be extended once the mining becomes unprofitable.

ASICMiner intends to run as a company over a long time and must take a longer lifespan into account when determining dividends and policy.

Halving Effect

The halving effect takes a moment to explain. In short, the block reward for mining goes down to half in late 2016, so at that point, revenue will most likely go down dramatically. As this date comes closer, the remaining profitability of a mining operation goes down. To some extent, this effect may be mitigated by increased adoption of Bitcoin which in turn may increase transaction rewards from mining.

To calculate the halving effect, take the number of months from now until November 2016 (when the halving occurs) and then divide half of the share price by that number of months. The result is the average cost of the halving effect if the block reward goes to exactly half of what it currently is. You may want to decrease this amount by some factor depending on the development of transaction fees ratio of the mining reward.

The formula is: (Current Price/2)/Months until 11/2016=Average halving effect loss per month

Example: ASICMiner trades at ฿2.5, with 43 months left until halving occurs. Assuming a halving effect of exactly 50%, we take ฿2.5, divide by two to get ฿1.25, and then divide that by the number of months left (at the time of this writing 43 months) to get ฿0.03. This is the value that ASICMiner will drop each month on average due to the halving effect.

Note: This is a simplified view of reality because only dividends are affected by the halving.

100TH will take the full blow of the halving effect and revenues will drop by approximately 50% when the block reward goes down.

ASICMiner may mitigate the halving effect by diversifying its business model, for example by maintaining hardware sales. The mining part of ASICMiner will bear the full blow of the halving effect.

Hashrate Increase

100TH will not increase it’s hash rate per share, regardless of what happens in the market, because it is a fixed rate asset. Adding hashing power is unlikely because it means the issuer is essentially giving money away for free.

ASICMiner may increase it’s hash rate per share by deploying new miners or develop new chips to yield higher efficiency. Adding hashing power is likely because the issuer also benefits from the higher revenue.

Battle of Numbers

In the end, any investment in mining always comes down to number crunching. In fact, other factors, like hardware sales in the case of ASICMiner, is so speculative that it is really close to impossible to predict with any accuracy more than a couple of months in advance.

Note: Please remember that these numbers carry with them certain assumptions. These assumptions may or may not hold true, but are required to make any analysis possible. Make sure you evaluate the assumptions and whether they fit your own research.

Which numbers are important? That greatly depends on your perception of the future, what other competitors enter the scene, how quickly ASIC hashing power becomes available to the masses, and a number of factors.

Let me set up a couple of examples here. In this scenario, I am using the average percentage of the total network power that an asset holds over three years because this simplifies the predictions to some extent.

Keep in mind that the percentage will likely be high in the beginning for fixed asset like 100TH and then decline over time as total network power increases. For ASICMiner, the ratio can be increased up to around 35% (but cannot under any circumstance exceed 50%).

Please note that in the scenarios below, hardware sales for ASICMiner is excluded. To determine dividends from hardware sales, divide the expected hardware sale by 400,000 (number of shares outstanding) and add to the dividend net yield projections below.

Current Situation:

Assumptions: None

  ASICMiner 100TH
Hashrate 24 TH/s 0 TH/s
Percentage 25% 0%
Price/share ฿2.5 ฿0.2
Dividends/month ฿0.06 ฿0
Halving Effect -฿0.03 -฿0.004
Net Yield per Month ฿0.03 -฿0.004
Yield per year 14% -2%

August 2013, 10% increase per month (low network increase):

Assumptions: 100 TH mining comes online as expected, 10% increase in network hash rate per month (total 116 TH/s) excluding 100TH, ASICMiner increase hashrate by 400%

  ASICMiner 100TH
Hashrate 96 TH/s 103 TH/s
Percentage 43% 47%
Price/share ฿2.5 ฿0.2
Dividends/month ฿0.11 ฿0.099
Halving Effect -฿0.03 -฿0.004
Net Yield per Month ฿0.07 ฿0.095
Yield per year 33% 570%

August 2014 10% increase per month (low network increase):

Assumptions: 100 TH mining mines as expected, 10% increase in network hash rate per month (total 468 TH/s) excluding 100TH, ASICMiner maintains 43%

  ASICMiner 100TH
Hashrate 200 TH/s 103 TH/s
Percentage 43% 15%
Price/share ฿2.5 ฿0.2
Dividends/month ฿0.11 ฿0.031
Halving Effect -฿0.03 -฿0.004
Net Yield per Month ฿0.07 ฿0.027
Yield per year 42% 166%

August 2014 20% increase per month (high network increase):

Assumptions: 100 TH mining mines as expected, 20% increase in network hash rate per month (total  1232 TH/s) excluding 100TH, ASICMiner maintains 43%

  ASICMiner 100TH
Hashrate 529 TH/s 103 TH/s
Percentage 43% 7.7%
Price/share ฿2.5 ฿0.2
Dividends/month ฿0.11 ฿0.016
Halving Effect -฿0.03 -฿0.004
Net Yield per Month ฿0.07 ฿0.012
Yield per year 42% 84%

A couple of things are worth noting about this last scenario.

First, regarding ASICMiner, to maintain a 43% part of the network, ASICMiner needs to grow to 529 TH/s. Using current technology where 1 TH/s costs approximately US$10,000 to put online, that means ASICMiner either needs to invent new technology or invest approximately $3,000,000 in current generation technology. At current prices of $132 per BTC, that means an average monthly cost of ฿946. This does not include hardware for resale so that cost will come on top. A price per BTC below $132 increases the BTC cost too, so revenues in a growing market will depend on a high BTC price.

Second, and this is very important, for 100TH, if network hashrate increases at this rate, the halving effect period will be much shorter than 2016 because the mine will be unprofitable long before that. This reduces the yield per year substantially and you need to look at the overall yield per lifetime instead, which will be shorter than three years.

Note: A 20% increase on average is extremely high and unlikely to be sustainable. To put it in perspective, this will mean that the network speed exceeds 11 PH/s (more than 120 times its current speed) by September 2015, just over two years from now. By October 2016, one year later, the network speed will exceed 117 PH/s or more than 1200 times the current speed. One day later, the revenue for all miners drop to half.

Incredible breakthroughs in technology must happen for that to be even remotely profitable.

To help understand that scenario, I’ve set up a table that can show the rate of return given the current trading price of roughly ฿0.2 per 100TH share and an average monthly increase in network speed of 20%.

image

(Click for full-size image)

The interesting part here is the total yield and the ROI, which shows you how much you get back for your investment. Total Yield is an absolute number and ROI is based on a price of ฿0.2 per share.

As you can see, at ฿0.2 per share and assuming the network crows in average by 20%, you’ll triple your money in a year and almost quadruple it in two years. Even then, the mine continues to be profitable for more than a year more, although the dividends total does not exceed 7% for the remaining time until October 2016, and the mine will probably shut down before that.

Note: Remember, this is based on the view that a 20% increase per month is sustainable for two years.

Even if you pay 0.5 for a share today, you’re still looking at more than 50% return on investment over two years, which incidentally beats NASDAQ composite by more than 300%. The majority of your return also comes back to you early so you’ll get you money back in just a few months and can reinvest in other interesting projects at that time.

If you’re very optimistic and possibly borderline naïve, you might want to imagine what happens if the network rate only increases by 10% on average per year. Well, here is the table for that.

image

(Click for full-size image)

I would not recommend you consider such a low number, but in this case, your ROI should reach 671% by the end of year two.

After July 2015, however, profitability for 100TH declines to almost zero, whereas ASICMiner may continue to impress with new technology for sale and ever higher hash rates. ASICMiner may yield lower ROI on its shares, but can maintain it for longer than 100TH.

The decision must be yours, as well as the assumptions on network size and how that will evolve. Both companies are great investments if everything goes according to plan. However, they are very different investments, so the decision about which company in which to invest will depend on your profile and your evaluation of the risks involved.

Speaking of which…

Risks

Like with all investments, there are risks you need to evaluate to see whether an investment makes sense. In the cryptocurrency world, there are far more risks that you need to consider. You should know about these general risks before you undertake any investments, but still there are asset specific risks that are unique to 100TH.

Let me briefly discuss a few of the risks as I see them.

Update: I’ve felt the need to add a very real risk on June 14 following a very strange move from the stock exchange at which 100TH trades. Please read on, and I’m sorry to say this is not as much a risk as a serious issue with an unregulated market now made manifest by Picostocks.

Market Manipulation

Picostocks, the stock exchange on which 100TH is traded, has a track record of market price manipulation whenever there are good news regarding 100TH. The price manipulation is done by dumping large amounts of shares on the market just above or even below current trading prices, preventing investors who takes huge risks from getting huge rewards from those risks.

Effectively, this kills off 100TH as an investment to me. As any experienced investor will know, you balance risk against potential reward, and usually expect a large risk to come with the potential for a large reward. With Picostocks manipulation and dumping of shares, this isn’t really the case anymore and investors only carry the risk without the potential reward.

Note: Picostocks is run by the same people that run 100TH. In fact, all the assets on Picostocks are run by the same people.

Tytus, the CEO of the operation, promised after the first dump in May to give advance notice to the market before dumping shares. However, on June 14, 2013, he broke that promise by putting up a massive dump of shares right after 100TH announced that the chips had shipped from the factory.

Of course, even when 100TH starts mining, there is no guarantee that this price manipulation will cease, so I’m sorry to say, this no longer is a viable asset to me.

Delivery?

100TH is still in development and has not started mining yet. In fact, they don’t even have completed chips at this point (May 26, 2013). Their scheduled start is sometime this summer; with full force mining scheduled from August 1. However, there is a risk that something goes wrong or the chips to not perform according to expectations. So far, Bitfury’s tests and simulations have been in line with what they expect, and the project has been keeping their expected timeline within reason.

In case the chips to not work, however, the backup plan is outlined in the business plan, as quoted:

“If the chips fail to meet the expected performance the manufacturer will provide the mine with additional boards to achieve the expected hashrate of 100TH/s. […] If the chips fail completely a substantial delay in mining will occur.”

Until the mine is actually up and running, a lot of things can cause delays or worst case stop the entire project. The main risk according to the business plan is failure of the chips.

Scam?

In the world of Bitcoin or cryptocurrency assets, the first and default state of any new idea is that “this must be a scam”. This is a cultural thing and a method for the community to protect itself because over the years, a lot of people have been trying and succeeded in scamming people out of their money.

It is important to understand that this is the default state and one every new idea must go through. Being called a scam is about as common as being called newbie. In this sense, you are guilty of being a scammer until you have proven yourself innocent, and any idea will be compared to every previous failure or scam imaginable. Presenting a new idea, especially one that means your clients must part with real valuables in return for some future benefit, means you must defend yourself against such accusations before you are given the time of day of any rational analysis.

You may agree or disagree with this attitude and approach, but unless you know about it, you can easily be scared into thinking that everything must be a scam because everyone says it is.

However, regardless of what the practice of the community is, there is always a risk that this can be an elaborate hoax to trick people into investing into air and hope. You should spend some time evaluating whether you want to trust the issuers and the project.

Operational Failure?

Even if everything turns out perfect, everybody is honest, the chips mine at the expected rates, and the mine comes up according to schedule, the mine can always run into operational problems. This can range from smaller problems with individual chips or boards to catastrophic failures that take the whole mine out. The business plan explains that there is a four year warranty on the boards, but in case of catastrophic events, mining may need to be stopped until replacement boards can be made, which in a time-critical industry like Bitcoin mining can lead to significant loss in revenue.

Profitability Decline

The most likely risk factor, however, is the profitability decline of the mine. In short, difficulty increases will mean that the 200 MH/s mining capacity per share will continually decline as difficulty increases. Because the hashrate is fixed, this decline is inevitable as long as more network power comes online, as explained in the Battle of the Numbers. Further, if new competitors arrive on the scene with either more efficient chips or more boards, this will rapidly increase the total network hashrate beyond what the mine business plan predicts.

The prediction from the business plan, however, is that the network hashrate will be 600 TH/s by the time the mine starts operating, and will increase by 200 TH/s per month throughout 2013. These numbers are very high and it seems unlikely that the network will reach 600 TH/s by August (which means an eight-fold increase in just over a month).

Further, adding 200 TH/s per month will mean that new technologies or massive new mines must come online, and knowing the pace at which ASIC development and deployment happens, this may also be on the high end of the realistic estimates at least in the short to medium term. We’re already pushing the limits of what is technically feasible with some chip producers now attempting to design and produce 28nm chips. ASICMiner, for example, uses 130nm chips, and lower is better but also massively more difficult and orders of magnitude more expensive.

Difficulty and total network hashrate is a highly speculative topic, so you want to do your own estimations on what you think is likely and whether the 600 TH/s by August plus 200 TH/s per month throughout 2013 is realistic. Perhaps you have different predictions? I encourage you to run the numbers yourself based on the model with which you are comfortable.

Despite this and the even higher numbers from this analysis, however, 100TH may remain profitable well into the summer of 2015.

Disclaimer: Please do not take this as financial advice. I have no idea what I’m talking about and you should not listen to anything I say. I may or may not hold shares in any company at any time, so as with everything you read, please be safe and assume that the author (in this case moi) has a direct benefit from a high or low share price. Do your own research, do not rush into investments until you understand the assets and the market, and never, ever, ever, ever, ever invest money you are not perfectly comfortable throwing out the window into a blazing pit of fire.

Where to Buy Bitcoin and Litecoin Shares

Disclaimer: Do not take this as financial advice. I may or may not hold shares in any of these markets at any time. You should always do your own research before investing anywhere in any currency. Bitcoin and Litecoin stock markets are by nature unregulated and thus carries a significant risk in addition to traditional market. Please review the terms and conditions for each exchange carefully.

Be very, very careful about investing anywhere.

There, those disclaimers should indicate the seriousness with which you should take investing, especially when you are investing in Bitcoin and Litecoin shares.

With the recent rise in ASICMiner share prices, interest in cryptocurrency investing has increased and people are looking very hard for the next ASICMiner company.

However, you can’t research or invest anything unless you know where to go to find those shares, so allow me to give you a brief overview of the various market places.

Major Exchanges

At the time of this writing, there are four major cryptocurrency exchanges that offer a variety of investment options. All of the exchanges offer regular shares and some offer options and futures as well.

MPEx

MPEx has been around the block longer than any of the other exchanges that are currently in existence. Run by the arguably eccentric Mircea Popescu and sporting a user interface that would make a new investor cry blood. MPEx also requires a hefty fee for joining the exchange, currently at 30 BTC. The owner argues this keeps inexperienced investors away and maintains a high degree of seriousness among those that choose to trade here.

However, what MPEx lacks in beauty and user friendliness, it more than makes up for in volume and stability. MPEx offers trades in three shares only, including itself, but additionally offers options and futures trading on the BTC/USD exchange price, which is very useful in volatile times. Further, MPEx has a strict vetting policy for new listings, requiring a thorough review of new listings more like traditional stock exchanges.

Site: https://mpex.co/

Bitcoin Trading Corporation

On the face of it, the Bitcoin Trading Corporation, or BTCT, has a much higher volume than MPEx. However, at the time of this writing, the majority of that volume comes from ASICMiner Pass-Through trades.

Note: To learn more about pass-through shares, check out my article on How to Buy ASICMiner Shares.

BTCT sports a nice, clean interface, with security features such as two-factor authentication for bids, asks, withdrawals, and account changes. The exchange has a modest range of available shares, including the ever so famous ASICMiner pass-through shares, as well as pass-through shares to all the MPEx shares.

BTCT also offers option trading and a dividend reinvestment plan to turn your dividends into new shares automatically.

Site: https://btct.co/

Bitfunder

If variety of shares is what you favor most, then Bitfunder offers more shares than any other exchange currently on the market, including ASICMiner pass-through shares. Bitfunder also has pass-through shares to the MPEx shares and currently offers trades in more than 30 different stock.

Bitfunder’s interface is clean and fresh and offers multiple charting options giving you more options than the other exchanges. On the negative side, the funding process of Bitfunder is somewhat quirky and requires you to register an account with a different provider to which you will send your funds. As such, the process for trading shares is more cumbersome than BTCT although it is far easier than MPEx.

Site: https://bitfunder.com/

Note: Just as a reminder, please review each site’s terms and policies before you invest anywhere.

Litecoin Global Exchange

The only major, and I say major in the most generous sense, Litecoin stock exchange in the world, is the Litecoin Global Exchange, or LTCG. This exchange resembles BTCT quite a lot, and the simple reason for that is that the same person runs both exchanges. In fact, LTCG owns BTCT, despite the latter being orders of magnitude larger than the former.

Litecoin shares comprise a much smaller market than its big brother Bitcoin, but can still offer viable investments. Several shares traded on LTCG are pass-through shares to Bitcoin-denominated assets (like MPEx and SDICE) which complicate the process of determining the correct price. However, if carefully planned, this can serve as a hedge against volatility in the BTC/LTC exchange rate.

The features of LTCG closely resemble that of BTCT. LTCG offers around 30 shares for trade, including several mining companies and the exchange itself.

Site: https://www.litecoinglobal.com/

Minor Exchanges

In addition to the major exchanges, there are some smaller exchanges that offer very interesting shares too.

Picostocks

Picostocks is the brainchild of a small group of people that want to help hi-tech companies get public funding. Currently, only three companies are listed, including the exchange itself. The other two companies is a pharmaceutical company (Proteon Pharmaceuticals) and a mining company (100TH).

The user experience of Picostocks is in tune with the idea behind Bitcoin, with anonymous but public ledgers of all trades. This allows traders to look into the holdings of any other trader but without knowing the identity of that trader. The idea is that learning how the best traders work will help others learn as well, creating an informed user base.

Update: A word of warning, though, and a clear indication of how unregulated the Bitcoin stock market is. When a certain piece of good news comes through on Picostocks, the stock exchange itself has a tendency to dump large amounts of shares in the market, preventing any reward for risk-taking on this exchange.

As such, I cannot really recommend anyone investing on Picostocks.com as you can be certain that the reward you would normally get for accepting risk will be taken away.

Site: https://www.picostocks.com/

Havelock

Havelock Investments is a small exchange, both in volume and share diversity. However, it does offer pass-through shares to other shares, including a 1/100 pass-through to ASICMiner.

In addition, the Havelock user experience is very neat and looks extremely professional. While this may be unimportant to share prices, a smooth operation is important to get the right share for the right price and the right time.

Havelock also offers direct import of S.DICE (SatoshiDice) shares from MPEx, sports an optional two-factor authentication, lists IPOs separately from other shares, and shows financial reports for all assets that have them available.

Site: https://www.havelockinvestments.com/

What Else?

You know that disclaimed I stated in the beginning? Read it. In fact, to make it easier for you, I’ll repeat it right here:

Disclaimer: Do not take this as financial advice. I may or may not hold shares in any of these markets at any time. You should always do your own research before investing anywhere in any currency. Bitcoin and Litecoin stock markets are by nature unregulated and thus carries a significant risk in addition to traditional market. Please review the terms and conditions for each exchange carefully.

Be very, very careful about investing anywhere.

Why Investing in Mining is Always a Bet That Prices Will Drop

The one thing that really puzzles people when it comes to evaluating Bitcoin mining profitability is the fact that investing in mining equipment is always a bet that the prices of your chosen currency goes down.

I’ve tried numerous approaches to explaining why this is true, and I’m almost always met with either complete bewilderment (but, it’s free money, how can that not be profitable?) to rage (you simply don’t understanding mining, it’s all about difficulty/price/speed/etc) to weird math-related arguments (well, your calculations cannot be true because you didn’t prove it with my numbers).

As such, I’m going to explain this concept, hopefully in a way that makes it easy to understand.

However, to do so, I’m going to have to trick you.

Currency Trading

I want to start with a completely unrelated topic, just to make sure we have something relatively easy to understand. The topic is going to be currency trading with three currencies.

These three currencies are not to be understood as the traditional currencies you usually handle, like US dollars, Euros, or Pounds. To accomplish this, I’m going to call them A, B, and C.

Because we’re going to do some trading with these currencies, we need to establish an initial exchange rate between the currencies. I’m going to start with the following exchange rates:

Currency Pair Exchange Rate
A:B 1:2
B:C 1:50
A:C 1:100

This table should be fairly easy to understand. If you have 1 A, you can trade that for either 2 B or 100 C. If you have one B, you can trade that for either 0.1 A or 50 C. If you have 100 C you can trade that for either 2 B or 1 A.

In fact, let’s start with 2 B and see what we can do. To make this simple, we trade only once per day, using the final exchange rates for that day.

Initial Status: Our holdings initially is 2 B, the equivalent of 1 A or 100 C

First Day of Trading

On the first day of trading, we decide to buy 1 A for our 2 B.

Day 1 Status: Our holding before day 1 is thus 1 A, the equivalent of 2 B or 100 C.

After the first day of trading, the exchange rates have shifted, making C 2.5 times more valuable. Our exchange rates now look like this:

Currency Pair Exchange Rate
A:B 1:2
B:C 1:20
A:C 1:40

Dang! Our value measured in C is now down to 40 C. Even if we still hold 1 A, the exact amount we started with, the increase in C value means our starting sum now translates to a much lower amount of C.

In other words, our value of 1 A means we can get 2.5 times less C today than initially.

Second Day of Trading

Thinking that the C price surge on day one may be a flop, we decide to hold on to our A during day two.

Day 2 Status: Our holding before day 2 thus remains at 1 A, the equivalent of 2 B or 40 C.

After the second day of trading, it turns out we were right! The exchange rate of C drops down to only 10% to its original level, and our exchange rates thus look like this:

Currency Pair Exchange Rate
A:B 1:2
B:C 1:500
A:C 1:1000

Luckily, we didn’t buy into the C hype. If we did, we would still hold 40 C, but measured in A, we would suddenly hold only 0.04 A. Measured in B, we would have had only 0.08 B.

In other words, our value of 1 A means we can now get 25 times more C than yesterday.

Final Status: Our holdings after day 2 is thus 1 A, the equivalent of 2 B or 1000 C.

Do we understand each other so far? Everything looks swell? Happy with what’s going on? Good! Because it’s time for me to spring my trap.

The Trick

I mentioned earlier that I needed to trick you to explain how this all relates to investing in mining and how investing in mining is always a bet that the prices of Bitcoin or your favorite cryptocurrency will drop.

The trick here is that in the scenario above, there aren’t really three currencies. There are just two. One of the currencies, A, is actually a piece of mining equipment, for example a graphics card (GPU).

Hold on!” you say “That’s not fair! Mining equipment isn’t currency and you can’t trade it like that!

You’re right! However, you may notice that we didn’t trade A at all, we just bought it at the beginning. In the two days of trading, we used it only to measure how much of the other currencies we held.

Let’s see if my trickery goes further. What if we replaced currency B with US dollars, and currency C with Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency? Let’s review our positions initially, after day 1 and after day 2.

Note: Remember that during day 1, the price of C, or our cryptocurrency, increased drastically while on day 2, the price of our cryptocurrency dropped like a rock.

Let’s just exchange our statuses with A being GPU, B being USD, and C being Bitcoin.

Initial Status: Our holdings initially is 2 USD, the equivalent of 1 GPU or 100 Bitcoin

Day 1 Status: Our holding before day 1 is thus 1 GPU, the equivalent of 2 USD or 100 Bitcoin.

Day 2 Status: Our holding before day 2 thus remains at 1 GPU the equivalent of 2 USD or 40 Bitcoin.

Final Status: Our holdings after day 2 is thus 1 GPU, the equivalent of 2 USD or 1000 Bitcoin.

See what happens here?

When the price of Bitcoin rises, our value denominated in Bitcoin drops drastically. When the price of Bitcoin crashes, the amount of Bitcoin our holdings represent goes through the roof!

In short, buying mining equipment yields far more reward in Bitcoins when the value of Bitcoins drop than if Bitcoins rise in value.

Your Questions Answered

As always, I’m anticipating, partially because I’ve been trying to explain this to people many times, that you have some questions. Let me get ahead of you and answer some of them right now. If you have other questions, feel free to leave them as comments below.

Q: You Forgot Mining, You Idiot!

Nope, I didn’t forget, I left it out because it would only add to your nightmare.

Go ahead, add mining into the equation. Let’s pick any number, say 10 Bitcoin per day. After day 1, you would have had 50 Bitcoins instead, an increase in Bitcoins of 25%! Amazing, increase, so mining must be profitable, right?

Well, after day two, you’d have 1020 Bitcoins, which represents an increase of Bitcoins of 1020% (yes, that’s one thousand and twenty percent) from our initial value. In other words, a price drop means you get 995% more Bitcoins than if you mine while the price goes up and manage to sell at the top. Clearly, a decreasing price yields far more Bitcoins than mining because a drop in price would add 900 Bitcoins, whereas mining would add 20 Bitcoins.

Q: It’s All About Mining Difficulty, You Idiot!

Not really. If the mining difficulty goes up, you get fewer coins, but even a doubling of the difficulty would only reduce your mining revenue by half. The theory seems to be that increased difficulty leads to a higher price because the cost of mining one coin goes up.

Note: This theory is far from certain, and looking at how major difficulty shifts in other cryptocurrencies have affected prices recently, there doesn’t even seem to be a correlation, much less a dependency between difficulty and price.

In any case, difficulty increase or decrease does not affect profitability anywhere near enough to compensate for the changes in price of a coin.

An increase in difficulty means you get fewer coins, which if the price/difficulty theory holds true means the price will rise. Of course, with fewer coins, that also means less effect of that price increase. Conversely, if the difficulty drops and the price goes down, you have more coins affected by the price decrease.

In the end, it does balance out, but if you think difficulty affects the profitability like that, just run the numbers yourself and see.

Q: You Forgot Equipment Depreciation, You Idiot!

OK, enough with the insults already!

Depreciation means that something loses value over time. For a GPU, you may expect a lifetime of 12 months, so you can on average expect the value of your GPU to depreciate 1/12 per month. The number of months may be different, but the idea is the same.

Let’s go back a couple of steps and look at the investment before my little text replacement trick. In our first example, depreciation would mean that the exchange value of our A would drop by, for example, 1/12 every month.

However, we would still have one A. Our value denominated in other currencies would drop over time, but our ability to mine with our A does not go down.

Our production from having a GPU increases over time when compared to the value of our GPU. For example, after one month, our A or GPU would be worth only 11/12 of the B/USD and C/Bitcoin value, and would give 10 C/Bitcoins. After 11 months, our GPU would be worth only 1/12 of its original value, but would still produce 10 Bitcoins, or whatever value you choose to use.

Q: You’re Using Made-Up Numbers! Use My Numbers, You Idiot!

This is the counter-argument that ultimately demonstrates whether you understand math or are just being argumentative.

Look, replace the numbers with whatever makes you happy. It’s not about whether there is a 1:2 exchange rate or a 1:45, 2:31, or 86:15 exchange rate. It doesn’t matter whether a dollar currently is higher or lower than a Bitcoin.

Try it and see! It’s very easy. Just replace the A:B exchange rate with the price of your favorite mining equipment in USD (don’t forget to convert the value to USD, regardless of whether you buy it using USD or Bitcoins), the B:C ratio with the exchange rate of US dollars to Bitcoins, and A:C with the price of your favorite mining equipment in Bitcoins. Then, do the same experiment, using higher or lower decreases and increases if you like.

Don’t trust me, trust the math.

Oh, and if Bitcoins isn’t your chosen cryptocurrency, just swap Bitcoin in the previous paragraph with Whatevercoin.

Q: Of Course I Want the Price of My Coins to be as High as Possible. Nobody Wants to Sell at a Low Price, You Idiot!

That is true, but tell me, would you rather have 1,000 coins or 100 coins to sell if the price was the same? You’re thinking right but ignore the acquisition of the coins completely.

Remember that when you sell your hardware, you are no longer a miner. You are a coin holder. The argument here is that a mining operation benefits from a falling price, but since your mining operation ceases the moment you sell your mining operation, the falling price no longer benefits you.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite when you just hold coins. You want the price to skyrocket! Until that happens, however, you want to gain as many coins as possible at the lowest price possible, and thus you gain more from a falling price than you do from a rising price.

In our simplified trading example, we stopped the analysis after the price dropped. Add one more day where you trade in your A for 1000 coins after day 2, and see what happens when the price of C or your chosen coin shoots up again on day 3 to the level it was after day 1:

Final Status: Our holdings after day 3 is thus 1020 Bitcoin, the equivalent of 25.5 GPUs or 510 US dollars.

If you were just mining at the rate of the 10 Bitcoins per day from the example in the first question, the results would be:

Final Status: Our holdings after day 3 is thus 1 GPU and 30 Bitcoin, the equivalent of 1.8 GPUs or 36 US dollars.

Mining yields a profit of 34 dollars while mining plus selling your hardware yields 508 dollars.

The End?

I doubt it, because this is a topic that seems to bring rage to miners all over cryptocurrency land. However, the short version of this article is this:

Mining is always most profitable when the price of Bitcoin goes down. If you invest in mining equipment your highest profit comes when the price of Bitcoin crashes.

That doesn’t mean that mining isn’t profitable when the price rises, only that you’re missing out on a lot of coins when that happens.

Still disagree? Leave your comment below and I’ll try to answer any question you have. Perhaps you know better? Heck, I might even update this article to include your question, and you’ll be famous for setting me straight!

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Feathercoin – There’s a New Kid on the Block!

A couple of weeks ago, a new cryptocurrency popped up over on Bitcointalk. The new coin, dubbed Feathercoin, initially looks extremely like Litecoin with the major difference being the amount of coin in potential circulation. Block rewards are set to 200 FTC as opposed to LTC’s current 50.

So, if Feathercoin is just a straight Litecoin clone, and Litecoin already struggles with getting the traction that Bitcoin has, what chance does Feathercoin stand in the world of cryptocurrencies?

FTC versus LTC

The similarities between these coins are fare more than their differences, but there are some key aspects that may turn people towards Feathercoin.

First, there’s the freshness of the coin, and the initial surge of enthusiasm from early adopters drive the ecosystem of Feathercoin forward at an astonishing pace. Already, several exchanges like BTC-E and Vircurex have taken Feathercoin on board, and there are mining pools popping up everywhere.

The lack of adoption presents an opportunity for miners as well. People have mined the established coins for a long time, and with ASICs coming online, graphic card miners move from Bitcoin to Litecoin and drive the difficulty through the roof. Profitability of mining Litecoins has dropped almost 80% since early April (at the time of this writing, a month ago) due to the difficulty rise.

From a non-technical perspective, Feathercoin offers few differences for most people at this time. Beyond the name, which is actually quite funny if you’re into the community jargon, the main difference is that there will be four times as many Feathercoin than Litecoins.

Note: The name, Feathercoin, both indicates something lighter than Litecoin, but also plays on the Trollbox nickname of Alt-coins in general and Litecoins specifically, chickun. In other words, we have both feather and chickuns.

This may have a psychological impact more than a practical one, as a price will need to be four time higher, which again means discounts can be four time higher, in absolute values.

“I love this car, but I can’t afford the 200,000 FTC to buy it!” says the customer. “No worries, I’ll drop 20,000 off the price for you” says the car salesman. 20,000 sounds like a much higher discount than 5,000, although the price of 200,000 also sounds a lot more than 50,000. I guess the benefit or drawback depends on whether you’re offering a discount or selling at a low price, and we’ll have to let the market decide what’s best.

That actually brings me to the next point, which is something that I believe goes for any cryptocurrency that pops up.

It’s a Rip-Off!

Actually, no.

Cryptocurrencies need diversity! Granted, the coins may look exactly the same at this point, but as the market matures, people will favor different characteristics of the coins.

The coins themselves may evolve and add new features or behavior, which may spawn further ideas that can bring about the next cryptocurrency revolution.

For Bitcoin, the big brother in this family, there are already a number of similar coins that have added different characteristics that the world is now evaluating.

Note: You may also want read my take on the different cryptocurrencies and why they are unique.

For Litecoin, however, which differs from Bitcoin in that it uses scrypt as its mining algorithm, there haven’t been a plethora of alternatives to help Litecoin evolve.

Feathercoin, and indeed some other coins that have appeared recently, also uses scrypt for mining and can thus be to Litecoin what Namecoin, Devcoin, Terracoin, PPCoin and the other SHA-based cryptocoins are to Bitcoin; helpful in evolution, but not in themselves and alone the future of cryptocurrencies.

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