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If there were very few coins available and people had to "mine" before they earned coins in the beginning.

What were they mining if there were no transactions to process? ie. no one had any coins to spend and if you arent spending there aren't any transactions to process to earn points. Seems like a chicken and egg scenario.

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Creating blocks without transactions is trivial, valid, expected under certain circumstances, and in fact happens all the time.

There is no chicken-and-egg problem. The first blocks were just empty.

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Transactions aren’t required in order for a block to be valid, blocks are used to validate transactions and record them in a linear fashion, but transactions are not required in order for blocks to be mined.

Miners get a reward regardless when they mine a block, in addition they may get transaction fees as well.

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