Three Months as a Litecoin Farmer

On the 3rd of August, it will have been 3 months since I fired up my Litecoin farm. I dicked around for a few weeks in April with Litecoin rigs at home, but had all 14 of my rigs working simultaneously on the 3rd of May, 2013. In fact, this feature marks pretty close to three months since I started mining “full time”. So let’s take a look at the issues I’ve faced, if I’ve made any money, and the status of Litecoin in general.

I won’t explain the ins-and-outs behind the decision to mine Litecoin (aka LTC), as I’ve already attempted to justify that on my own blog, in detail, before Reckoner started. Feel free to read the four posts, if you’d like a nice background on the whole Bitcoin & Litecoin mining scene, the gear I’m using and the theories behind it all.

From the outset, my plan with Litecoin mining was to amass as much computing power and mine as many coins as I could afford. I’d hold on to those coins, then cash out in a blaze of glory when the price bubble inflated to some crazy amount, but just before the market would (probably) crash. I figured this would happen some time in June, to co-incide with the release of Litecoin trading on Mt. Gox.

Needless to say, this hasn’t happened. Mt. Gox trading LTC hasn’t yet occurred and the reality of the situation–as opposed to my plans–are quite different.

What has happened is a massive rise in difficulty, without a subsequent rise in the value of Litecoin. The chart below illustrates this (the difficulty line is messed up – the data source for LTC appears to be broken):

Litecoin value in the last 3 months

This is bad.

Difficulty up, price flat

For the same amount of effort (time & electricity), I’m mining significantly less coins, which aren’t worth more to reflect that effort. In mid-May, difficulty was around 600, which with my hashrate of 16.8Mh/sec nets about 28LTC/day. But now, with difficulty at 880, at the same hashrate, I’m only earning 19LTC/day.

Normally, that difficulty curve is not much of an issue as you’d think. As the mining difficulty increases, the price of LTC should go up proportionally to match. Here’s the problem; the price hasn’t changed much at all. When I started in mid-May, it was hovering around the $2.80-$3 mark. That’s essentially the same price it is today.

So even though the price has been relatively stable, the amount of coins I’m earning has decreased significantly.

Stated simply? Instead of making $79/day in mid-May, I’m now making only $53/day.

Despite all that, the venture is not making a loss (yet). This is the breakdown of my cashflow since May 3rd:

Expenses – $4971

  • $4800 on rent & electricity ($1600/m)
  • $171 on Internet access ($57/m)

Income – $5242.16

  • 24th June – sold 877LTC @ $2.96ea (after fees & exchange rates) – $2595.92
  • Currently holding 571LTC @ $2.96ea – $1690.16
  • Projected earning 323LTC to 3rd August (3 month anniversary) – @ $2.96 – $956.08

Profit – $271.16

That’s all I’ve made so far. $271.16.

Let’s put this number in perspective. If I put $16,000 into a savings account at 4% and added $1657/month into it over 3 months, I’d have earned $177.41 in interest. So I guess I’m ahead of that, at least. But I’d also have the full $21,148.41 in cash. So as an investment, LTC is a bit of a dud, so far.

Oh and, this doesn’t count the initial $16,056.10 I spent on setup costs. So far, I haven’t even made a dent in paying that back and it’s still sitting on my credit card and is now starting to accrue interest, which is about 17% P.A averaged out over a few cards – approximately $230 per month.

What could I have done differently? Well, I could have made more coins, but there were a few teething problems with electricity (lots of brownouts in the area) and some mining pool difficulties (there as a big DDoS attack on a series of Litecoin pools, killing earnings for everyone over a few days), but the past month or so has been very stable.

When I begun this Litecoin thing, I said I’d give it a max of 3 months and then re-assess my options. Well that 3 months is now, so what are my options?


1) Sell up the farm and hold on to my existing LTC. Cash out when it looks good

If I was to sell my farm now, I’d expect to get $11,000 back out of the $16,000 I spent. That leaves me $5000 out of pocket. I should have ~850 LTC in my wallet, so if I can sell those LTC for $6ea in the future, I’d at least break even. If over the long term, LTC grows and the price increases, I’d miss out on all that.

2) Keep doing what I’m doing

Do nothing, and keep my current farm going. It requires minimal maintenance now so it literally is just set and forget. I’ve already got a decent hashrate and there is still hope of Mt. Gox accepting LTC in the near future.

3) Get more rigs, mine more coin, hope for the best

I have about $18,000 spare on my credit card. I could go for broke, expand out to a bigger space, double my hashrate and mine even more coins. Then when the price of LTC goes up (hopefully) over time, I’d have a very nice stockpile of LTC that I can flog off, eventually repay the startup costs and be mining away, earning coins on gear I’ve already paid back.

The common sense part of me tells me to quit now and just hold on to the LTC I have. Sell it when it reaches $6-7 and be grateful all I lost was time. The lazy part of me can’t be fucked decommissioning my current farm, moving all that into a new space, buying more gear, and so on. But the nerd part of me wants even more computers and still feels there’s an opportunity with Litecoin, so why not get as much mining power as I can? Particularly since I now know the pitfalls and can scale relatively easily.

I’m still not sure what I’ll do next, but I don’t have long to decide. Either way, don’t ask me for advice. I’m not an accountant.

Besides, an accountant would probably say this is stupid.

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