From Hot Property to Obsolete Hardware
It was the summer of 2017 and the Geoforce 1070, Nvidia’s second-most powerful graphics card, was retailing for $450. There was just one problem: no one could get hold of one. In PC stores around the world, bare shelves occupied the space where gamers’ go-to upgrade should sit. That’s because a cryptocurrency mining boom, the likes of which had never been seen before, was in full swing, with crypto miners clearing stores and wholesalers of all the units they could lay hands on.
While computer shops in many countries ran dry of desirable GPUs such as the 1070 and Radeon 570, on second-hand marketplaces they could still be acquired – for a premium. From last summer into early 2018, when crypto mania was at its peak, cards such as the $400 1070 regularly traded hands for $800 or more. The wailing of gamers was drowned out by the whirr of cooling fans as miners overclocked their newly acquired GPUs and started crunching numbers in exchange for altcoins. Bitcoin was only minable on ASICs by then, and ethereum was heading that way too, but smaller coins such as sia, monero, and zcash, as well as hundreds of lesser known microcap coins, were still viable.
One year on from the summer of shitcoins and the value of all leading cryptocurrencies has taken a tumble, while network hashrates have continued to rise. BTC, ETH, and all the rest might be worth more than they were a year ago, but their ballooning hashrate has meant that mining on GPUs is scarcely profitable, causing secondary market supply to exceed demand once more. It’s now the turn of gamers, data researchers, and scientists to gloat, as they snap up cheap graphics cards offloaded by former miners whose dream has died.
Second Hand Mining Rigs Are Cheap – But Who’s Buying?
A look around Craigslist and Gumtree, two of the leading P2P marketplaces in the UK and US, shows the sort of mining rigs that can now be acquired. Many of those for sale have seen less than six months’ use, suggesting that their original owners may not even have turned a profit before offloading them. In the Bay Area, one seller is offering 16x 1080s for $3,950 – or about $246 a card. The seller professes to have paid over $4,000 for them but to have made most of the costs back from mining.
In the same area, someone’s selling a bunch of 1070s and 1080s at $375/$425 apiece. “Since I got too many rigs and electric rates for tier 3 high electric use is too high for me at 45 cents watt rate, I’ve decided I will have to sell some,” they explain. One of the rigs looks precarious, to put it mildly. Over in the UK, Gumtree is currently showing 42 mining rigs for sale, including a build of 7x RX480s, “Now surplus to requirement, built in Q1 2017 for a friend”. There’s also a rig of 8x 1070s going for around $4,500.
For the first time in a long time, single GPUs are selling secondhand for less than their RRP, showing that the crypto mining boom is over, for now. While hashrates – like market prices – can fall, it’s unlikely that conditions will make it profitable to solo mine with a handful of GPUs again. With mining moving to cooler climes with cheaper energy, and from residential spaces to purpose built farms, the era of amateur mining is almost over. Aside from the reduced profitability of solo mining on GPUs, there’s another reason why many sellers seem to have decided to call it a day: there simply isn’t room.
Judging by the reasons cited in many classified ads, a change of circumstances – usually an impending move or a new girlfriend – is often the final straw. Like accepting your band will never make it and selling your electric guitar, selling your mining rig can be construed as the acknowledgement that the crypto dream is over without having made you rich. As most sellers will surely aver, though, it was a blast – a noisy, hot blast that was fun while it lasted.