- Nick Levine thought helium could be the next big cryptocurrency, so he decided to mine it.
- Crypto miners are computers that generate crypto coins by solving complex math puzzles.
- This is how Levine bought his miner while avoiding scams and huge eBay markups.
In crypto, everyone is looking for the next coin that’s about to blow up — including me.
I’m a novice who decided to jump on the bandwagon at the beginning of this year after seeing the price of ethereum and bitcoin reach all-time highs.
Over the past decade, I’ve worked mostly for tech companies where web developers and founders spent significant time talking up crypto, and I have a few regrets about not dabbling in crypto sooner.
To me, helium looked like the next big coin. Launched in 2019, it’s spiking after Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture-capital firm, invested $111 million earlier this month into the Helium network.
Earlier this month, the value rose from $14 to just shy of $19 in a single day, and it’s now close to $23.
I’ve been following helium for a few months and decided to buy a miner after a friend told me he’d ordered one that was now generating around $40 a day mining the cryptocurrency from his one-bedroom London apartment.
Demand for miners is now so high that one of the devices, which normally retail for around 300 pounds ($410), was auctioned for 2,200 pounds ($3,000) on eBay.
Buying them is so complicated that some people are even selling their services to preorder miners.
Helium Systems Inc., which issues the tokens, is building a low-bandwidth wireless network to power “Internet of Things” devices, such as smart refrigerators, security systems, and doorbells. People who help build out the network are rewarded with tokens for powering the network.
Mining helium is billed as taking far less energy than mining bitcoin, so it likely isn’t as damaging to the environment and is unlikely to result in high electricity bills.
As a novice, it was difficult to choose the most suitable miner and find a seller I was confident I could securely buy from. Helium Systems Inc. manufactured the first helium miners, but late last year, third parties were invited to build compatible hardware to meet the growing demand.
Scam websites emerged as helium became better known, so I made sure to view the full range of miners on offer, and I clicked only on the direct-purchase links on the main helium site.
I chose to order a Bobcat Miner 300. It’s called “the people’s miner” because it’s small, relatively easy to set up and monitor using helium’s app, and uses the equivalent power of a 5-watt lightbulb.
Even ordering a Bobcat miner felt extraordinarily complicated for crypto beginners like me.
Miners must be purchased with USDC, a stablecoin pegged to the dollar, and the cost is calculated (including shipping and taxes) at the checkout section of the Bobcat miner’s website.
To complete the transaction, you have to set up a send request on Coinbase or Binance, copy the Bobcat site’s wallet address, and enter the value of USDC needed.
The transaction is particularly fussy as you need to hold enough USDC in your crypto wallet before completing the transaction. To buy USDC, you need to convert it from another cryptocurrency.
I watched two instructional videos on YouTube that explained how to first purchase enough ethereum on Coinbase and then convert it to USDC to cover funds in full for the miner, along with exchange fees.
Upon completing the 347 pound ($472) transaction, Bobcat emailed me an order confirmation with an estimated delivery time of 12 to 20 weeks.
Assuming there are no delays to production, I’ll find out around Christmastime whether my miner will pay for itself within a few weeks of activation.
CORRECTION: This article was updated to reflect that Andreessen Horowitz invested in the helium network, not Helium Systems Inc. as originally stated.