There's a moment in Wreck It Ralph when Fix-It Felix, Jr. strikes the bars on his cell window in hope of escaping confinement only for his magic hammer to strengthen the bars instead. Sometimes it seems like Bitcoin and Ethereum have a similarly enchanted tool lying around, because despite all odds, their prices are rising again.
The price of Bitcoin declined for a few months after China introduced new restrictions that effectively halved the network's hashrate and prevented financial services from supporting the cryptocurrency. It struggled to remain above $30,000 for weeks, but according to the latest CoinDesk data, BTC is now worth approximately $45,500.
Ethereum weathered similar price drops as well. The value of its primary coin, ETH, dropped by half over the course of the summer, from its previous high of over $4,100. CoinDesk data put its lowest price over the last month at roughly $1,740, but it's priced right around $3,155 at time of writing. Chumbawamba would probably be proud of the cryptocurrency's resilience.
Both of these rebounds highlight the difference between the crypto market and the profitability of cryptocurrency mining. The former is enjoying a boom even as U.S. lawmakers consider stricter rules for digital asset. While prices haven't reached the same peaks they did earlier this year, they are on the upswing, which could spell bad news for the continuing GPU shortages. Our GPU price index continues to track the data off eBay, and prices could trend back up if cryptocurrencies continue to rebound.
But things still aren't looking good for miners. Chinese mining operations still have to find a new home following their government's crackdown on everything but the digital yuan. Ethereum miners don't have long until the cryptocurrency's transition to a proof-of-stake model obviates them and already have to accept reduced profits.
This separation of the crypto market's rising prices and the mining industry's declining profitability could be a good thing for enthusiasts. What's good for the goose (the crypto market) is no longer good for the gander (miners), and that hopefully means the goslings (PC builders) can enjoy improved GPU technologies in peace.
But we're not out of the woods yet. While direct Bitcoin mining requires dedicated ASIC equipment to turn a profit, places like NiceHash allow the use of GPUs to run alternative algorithms and still get paid in Bitcoin. Ethereum's reduced value was accompanied by lower graphics card prices in the secondary market as well as declining spot prices of graphics memory, but these things can change quickly.
The institutional investors, tech bros, and crypto enthusiasts may continue to swing their golden hammer that magically fixes the value of their digital assets whenever the occasion arises. Hopefully Ralph will be around to keep breaking the mining industry—or at least crack it enough to give PC builders some respite.