2020 and 2021 were tough years to acquire GPUs for many reasons. The computational power of the latest Nvidia RTX 3000 series and AMD Radeon 6000 series advanced so much that many gamers were thinking about updating their hardwares. AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs were also a huge success, which further contributed to the desire of hardware refresh (CPUs and GPUs are complementary goods of each other to some extent). Besides the gaming industry, things were happening in the crypto world as well. The price of ETH increased a lot in 2020, and as a result, more people were getting into the crypto mining space and existing miners were also scaling up. The price of 1 ETH was roughly $400 on the RTX 3080 release day (September 17, 2020), which was roughly a 3x increase from the beginning of 2020. The global chip shortage further limited the GPU supply.
In October 2020, I was one of these gamers hunting for a new GPU to replace my existing GTX 1070. Cyberpunk 2077 was set to release on December 10, 2020 and my goal was to get my new PC ready before the date. At that time, my knowledge on crypto was very superficial and I had no idea about mining. The new GPUs were so popular back then that each re-stock was sold out in seconds. By the end of November 2020, I still didn’t manage to get a new GPU, so I decided to write a bot so that I could get a new GPU in time to play the Cyberpunk game at the release date.
I previously had some experience in using Selenium webdriver, so I was able to code the bot in a few days. I used this bot to track the in-stock condition of several GPUs on retail websites such as Amazon, Newegg, BestBuy, AMD official, EVGA official, etc. I also coded the automated checkout feature but it wasn’t very reliable, as the websites were usually very flaky when the traffic spiked during re-stock time. In addition, I set up a Discord channel to feed the alerts so that my friends could take advantage of the bot as well.
The bot was very effective and performed far above my expectation. I successfully bought multiple items in the matter of days, including a RTX 3070, a RTX 3090, a Ryzen 5950X, a Ryzen 5600X and a PS5, all of which were extremely hard to acquire at that time. I kept the RTX 3090 and the Ryzen 5600X for my new gaming PC, and sold the rest through Craigslist with a markup. It was my first time being a scalper (I believe in market economy and respect arbitrage opportunities, so I don’t feel shame about being a scalper or mentioning it) and I was very excited to earn a few hundred bucks with my bot.
During the last few days of 2020, the price of ETH skyrocketed, and it naturally drew my attention. As I read more and more into crypto, I noticed how lucrative it was to mine ETH, and realized being a scalper was too shortsighted. I did a rough calculation and was pretty astounded that I only needed to mine 3-4 months to recover the price of a GPU, so I decided to run my bot 24/7 to get as many GPUs as possible. I even tented in front of my PC at night so that when the audio alert was fired, I could click to buy ASAP. I soon got a few more GPUs and it was time for me to assemble a mining rig.
I guess I should’ve started crypto mining earlier, as it combined all my strengths and interests: DIY, hardware and blockchain. At that time, GPU mining was so hot (pun intended), and mining peripherals were super expensive including the mining shelf, so I built one with scrap wood at no cost (strictly speaking, I sold my DIY mining shelf to a miner recently and earned a bit of money).
Once the mining rig was assembled and the program was running, almost no extra work was needed. After a few weeks, I got a few more GPUs and built a second mining rig. This time, I drew a 3D model, ordered some aluminum T-extrusion from a material company, and assembled the frame at home. I designed the mining rig to be dual-purposed, so that when I stop mining in the future, I can transform it to a storage shelf.
Instead of using the traditional PC hardware for my second rig, I took some risk to buy a RebTech mining motherboard from a phishy Romanian website and gave HiveOS (a specialized mining OS) a try. This specialized mining motherboard was super easy to use, and the price was reasonable at that time (but the price is currently prohibitively expensive after a 5x increase given how great the product is). I actually bought several of these boards, kept one for my own use and sold the rest to earn some money.
In 2021, my average hash rate was roughly 700 MH/s. I sometimes drove locally to buy GPUs from other scalpers with a reasonable markup, and I also sold some of my used GPUs when other miners offered an attractive price. I didn’t get more cards to build a third rig as my house’s electric panel couldn’t handle too much load, and my low risk tolerance also prevented me from investing too much. Two mining rigs were sufficient to heat up the entire house (my house was roughly 1200 sqft in size), and I needn’t use the heater at all for an entire year. During the summer, I had to keep the window open all day and ventilate hot air out of it. On average, I was able to earn $50 per day without considering the electricity cost, and roughly 30% of the money I earned went into electricity. My daily record was $200 when ETH’s price was pumped to $4000 in May 2021 with extremely high transaction volume and gas fee (that said, using dollar price to gauge the value was a bad idea). I haven’t sold a single ETH I mined, as the more I read into the crypto, the more I believe in it.
I really appreciate the mining experience as it introduced the crypto world to me. Since crypto mining, I gradually learned about various blockchain topics in broader areas, such as DeFi, GameFi, NFT, Web3, etc. I tried various blockchain apps, got myself familiar with various tokens and received airdrops a few times. I’ll probably stop crypto mining soon as Ethereum will transition to proof of stake (pos), but I plan to continue to learn more about crypto and to become more technical at it.