Hang onto your graphics cards, as cryptocurrency mining spikes GPUs prices

The past week saw a repeat of something that has been an ongoing problem for PC gamers looking to pick up a new graphics card: cryptocurrency profitability is way up, leading to shortages of popular graphics cards once more. We've talked about cryptocurrency mining quite a bit during the past year, and this latest surge in mining profitability is a bit hard to nail down. There are always new coins coming onto the crypto scene, but at least looking at WhatToMine doesn't indicate any major changes. Ethereum prices have breached $1,000 for the first time, however, and that might have been enough to drive further speculation on other cryptocurrencies.

Whatever the root cause, the impact on graphics card prices is clear: everything is going up. Again. Here's a quick rundown of the various popular GPUs, with MSRPs, November pricing (not including Black Friday / Cyber Monday discounts), and current pricing information. I've also included an estimate of mining profitability for the past 30 days, though the specific numbers are prone to debate depending on your source. For the "launch price," I've used the most recent official pricing from AMD/Nvidia, which means the GTX 1080 has dropped to $499 for the non-Founders Edition model.

One look at the above data will tell you two things. First, prices on every GPU I checked have gone up quite a bit—and in many cases, it can be difficult or impossible to find cards in stock. The GTX 1080 Ti is sold out at many places, though you can still buy up to two Founders Edition cards direct from Nvidia. (I've left out Nvidia's direct pricing, so that the charts track standard retailer pricing.) Even Nvidia is running out of supply for other cards, however, with the 1080 and 1070 Ti out of stock.

On the AMD side of things, prices are even further out of whack, and the 570/580 and Vega cards are all priced prohibitively high. Unofficially, the RX 570/580 haven't hit the launch pricing since last April, and RX Vega cards have never come close to AMD's suggested pricing.

The second thing you'll notice is that mining profitability is quite high for the past month (and it's even higher right now on a daily basis). That's no indication of future mining returns, but even at the inflated prices most of the cards would hit the break-even point in under three months, and the worst bargains would still pay off in only four months. That paints a pretty bleak picture right now for graphics cards availability, at least if you're mostly interested in buying one for gaming purposes.

If you want to mine with GPUs, things are better right now, but as I've mentioned in the past I'd be cautious with how you set up any mining rigs and try to keep temperatures below 75C. And remember how volatile cryptocurrency can be: there's no telling when those mining dollars per month could fall off a cliff.

Jarred Walton

Jarred's love of computers dates back to the dark ages when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander was released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.