A Close Look at GPU Prices Right Before the Ethereum Merge

The Ethereum Merge has occurred, and as expected, GPU mining profitability has plummeted. Will things eventually recover, or will the best graphics cards finally be free from the cryptomines? We’re anticipating a flood of used graphics cards hitting places like eBay, so we wanted to grab this snapshot in time of GPU prices on eBay over the two weeks prior to The Merge.

We’ve been tracking GPU prices on eBay for the past 18 months or so, and we’ve watched the most popular cards for mining purposes fall from unsustainable highs to somewhat reasonable values. Granted, you’re taking a risk buying a used graphics card, but if you stick with the RTX 30-series and RX 6000-series, it’s probably not that risky. Maybe. Anyway, let’s get on to the numbers over the past two weeks, and we’ll compare those to eBay GPU prices from the month of August.

There’s nothing too surprising with the trends shown here. We’ve been watching GPUs drop in cost on secondhand markets most of this year, and with Nvidia RTX 40-series Ada GPUs, AMD RX 7000-series RDNA 3 GPUs, and Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs all slated to launch in the next few months (or sooner), people continue to sell off their existing graphics cards for whatever they can get.

Interestingly, the lowest prices on some models are much better than the average prices we’re showing here. It’s difficult to say if every alleged sale on eBay actually ends up going through — buyers and sellers have been known to cancel — so if you’re patient it’s potentially possible to get an even better value on a card that’s up for auction.

Overall, we saw prices come down on every GPU from the current generation, with an average decline of 6.9% (weighted by the number of each GPU sold). The biggest change was on the RX 6950 XT, which dropped 16%, though it should be noted that volume is very low at just four cards sold in the past two weeks. The RTX 3080 12GB also saw an impressive 11% decrease, with 51 GPUs sold.

If you’re looking for a new graphics card, you should also check retail GPU prices and see how those compare to eBay pricing. Most cards are 10–15% cheaper on eBay, but the price premium for a brand-new card is probably worth paying. Let’s quickly look at the previous generation cards as well.

Previous generation Turing and RDNA GPUs dropped slightly more in price, though now we’re dealing with graphics cards that are potentially up to four years old — some of which possibly mined for most of that time. AMD’s RX 5700 XT, RX 5700, and RX 5500 XT 8GB all dropped by close to 20% compared to the month of August, while the RTX 2060 price actually increased slightly by 3.4% — sort of ironic, considering brand-new RTX 2060 cards are one of the best values right now.

Nvidia’s RTX 20-series GPUs are holding on to some remaining value much better than AMD’s RDNA GPUs. That’s basically where things were prior to 2020, as the Nvidia marketing was strong and there was a case made for getting a card with ray tracing and DLSS support. Still, it’s a bit ludicrous that you can buy an RX 5700 XT for less than an RTX 2060 on eBay these days.

According to our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, the RX 5700 XT is 30% faster than the RTX 2060 at 1080p medium, 34% faster at 1080p ultra, and 38% faster at 1440p ultra. Heck, even the RX 5700 basically ties the RTX 2060 Super — admittedly that’s without factoring in DXR or DLSS. Anyway, if you’re looking for a reasonably fast GPU that costs less than $250, the RX 5600 and 5700 series cards certainly warrant a look.

GPU standing on a precipice

(Image credit: Shutterstock (and Tom’s Hardware))

The question now is where things will go from here. It feels like GPU prices on existing hardware are standing on a precipice, waiting for a massive fall. Traditionally — meaning outside of the past two years of abnormality — we would expect all the current generation hardware to be selling well below launch MSRPs, in an effort to clear out any remaining inventory right before AMD and Nvidia release new graphics cards. That hasn’t happened yet, at least not for Nvidia.

The fastest RTX 30-series GPUs like the RTX 3090 and 3080 series are more reasonably priced than before, but really it’s only the RTX 3090 Ti and RTX 3080 Ti that are selling well below their earlier MSRPs. Those were drastically inflated to begin with, so cutting the 3090 Ti from $1,999 down to $1,099 wasn’t particularly hard to do. But the vanilla RTX 3080 10GB still starts at around $739 at retail right now, and the RTX 3050 through RTX 3070 are also selling above MSRP.

There are lots of rumors about specifications and potential performance for the upcoming GPUs circulating. If those are even close to accurate, we could see RTX 4080 cards selling for under $999 while delivering significantly better performance — and power efficiency — than the RTX 3090 Ti. Now toss on the aftereffects of the Ethereum Merge and it’s difficult to imagine that a good chunk of the ~20 million GPUs that were mining Ethereum won’t end up being sold off in the next month or two.

As we noted in the main Ethereum Merge article, right now most GPUs are now making less than $0.50 per day, and that value continues to drop. Short of some GPU minable cryptocoin surging to the front in the near future, most large-scale GPU miners would be better served by closing up shop rather than continuing to pay for power, space, support, and infrastructure.