Like the currency itself, this strangely lucrative game is heating up — in a big way. One mining rig — available for preorder at a cost of about $1,800 in February — is now selling for more than $22,000 on eBay. And it hasn’t even shipped yet.
Over the past year, a handful of companies have raced to build a new generation of computers that are specifically designed to mint digital money, and many speculators across the Bitcoin world are dying to get their hands on the latest hardware. This week, one of these companies, Butterfly Labs, is finally shipping its first custom-designed machines, six months behind schedule.
If Bitcoins are the fiat currency alternative for techno libertarians, then Bitcoin miners are the digital mint operators who keep the whole thing running. Bitcoin transactions are not registered with any central bank or brokerage firm or website.