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Unlikely Bitcoin play: Digital currency 'mining' is boosting demand for AMD's graphics cards

  • AMD tells CNBC the "newly resurgent cryptocurrency mining markets" are driving demand for its graphics cards.
  • Computer hardware retailers including Newegg, Best Buy and Amazon are sold out of most AMD RX 570 and RX 580 graphics card models as of midday Monday.

An AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU being fitted to a MSI 970 Gaming motherboard.
Neil Godwin | Maximum PC Magazine | Getty Images
An AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU being fitted to a MSI 970 Gaming motherboard.

There may be another way for investors to play the Bitcoin and the surging cryptocurrency trend.

The dramatic jump in digital currency prices this year is driving demand for AMD graphics cards, according to the company.

"The gaming market remains our priority. We are seeing solid demand for our Polaris-based offerings in the gaming and newly resurgent cryptocurrency mining markets based on the strong performance we are delivering," an AMD spokesperson wrote in an email to CNBC.

Ethereum cryptocurrency is up over 2,800 percent year-to-date through Sunday, while Bitcoin is up about 160 percent this year, according to data from industry website CoinDesk.

Cryptocurrency miners use graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia to "mine" new coins, which can then be sold or held for future appreciation. AMD traditionally has a better reputation for mining cryptocurrencies.

Computer hardware retailers including Newegg, Best Buy and Amazon are sold out of most AMD RX 570 and RX 580 graphics card models as of midday Monday. AMD launched the RX 500 series of graphics cards on Apr. 18.

Nowinstock's AMD RX 570 tracker

Source: Nowinstock.net

The strong demand is spreading to older graphics cards as well. Used AMD RX 470 graphics cards are selling for well over $100 list price on eBay. Not surprisingly, auction sellers are taking advantage of the trend by adding cryptocurrency names to their product listings.

EBay RX 470 card listing

Source: eBay

This isn't the first time the cryptocurrency craze has led to graphic card shortages.

"Toward the end of 2013, Bitcoin and Litecoin miners caused a similar shortage by snagging every [AMD] Radeon graphics card they could collectively get their hands on," PC Gamer wrote Monday.

AMD is one of the market's best performing stocks in the past year with its shares up nearly 170 percent in the past 12 months through midday Monday compared with the S&P 500's 16 percent return.

However, the shares are down over 25 percent during the last few months. The company's 52-week high roughly coincided with the March 2 launch of its new Ryzen line of desktop processors, which disappointed some gamers.