While GPU makers are reluctant to talk about sales to miners, analysts from Bitpro Consulting estimate that Ethereum miners purchased $15 billion worth of GPUs over the last 1.5 years, Bloomberg reports. When combined with the prices of other parts for their mining rig (CPUs, PSUs, chassis), the amount of money spent on Ethereum mining hardware globally would look even more impressive. Miners might have consumed about 10% of discrete GPU supply in the last 1.5 years.
When Ethereum pricing rose steeply in October-November 2020, millions of people started mining Ethereum coins to make some easy money. They used graphics cards bought at retail, and their purchases coincided with skyrocketing demand from gamers as both AMD and Nvidia released very competitive Radeon RX 6000 and GeForce RTX 30-series cards in late 2020. Those GPUs are still the best graphics cards around.
Demand from both gamers and miners exceeded supply, so prices shot through the roof. This is why the average selling prices of GPUs, which were already high in late 2020 due to the rise of PC gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic, increased to unprecedented levels. In Q1 2021, a high-end graphics card (which carries an MSRP of $649 or above) cost $1,358 on average, whereas the average selling price for a lower-tier GPU was $1,062, according to Jon Peddie Research.
Based on data from JPR, desktop GPU sales totaled $51.8 billion for all of 2021. That was spread across the 49.021 million GPUs sold — a four-year high. As far as average pricing is concerned, we're talking about $1,056 per unit in 2021, which is about two times higher than the average price for a high-end graphics card in Q3 2019, so the inflation is obvious.
Now that we know the approximate average pricing for a graphics card in 2021 and the amount of money miners spent on GPUs, we can estimate that Ethereum miners consumed roughly 14.2 GPUs from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the end of the first quarter of 2022. The number is not completely accurate, though, as some miners used special-purpose mining cards (not counted by JPR), whereas others used gaming notebooks to mine. As such, the actual number of GPUs that went to mining farms could be different.
Nonetheless, 14.2 million is significant given that we're talking about six quarters when Ethereum mining thrived. In fact, from Q4 2020 through Q1 2022, about 73.55 million desktop discrete GPUs shipped. Keeping in mind that nowadays the market of standalone GPUs splits roughly 50:50 between desktops and laptops, it looks like Ethereum might have consumed about 10% of the whole discrete GPU output from Q4 2020 to the end of Q1 2022.
However, it's even harder to quantify how many GPUs were used for both gaming and mining.
Ethereum value has dropped by 70% this year, so it is unlikely that anyone will buy a stable of new graphics cards for mining Ethereum. People who bought their cards and rigs early enough probably earned some hefty profits on them when Ethereum was at its peak. But those who began mining last year are months, if not years, away from recoupling their investments. Bloomberg's story also includes a report about a man who invested $30,000 in cryptomining hardware in mid-2021 and has only earned about $5,000 worth of crypto so far. We're sure plenty of other miners have found themselves in the same position.