There is no doubt that Nvidia's GeForce RTX 30-series (codename Ampere) will be some of the best gaming graphics cards that money can buy. However, Chinese crypto miners (via @momomo_us) have apparently found another use for Ampere: mining Ethereum (ETH).
According to one miner's claims, the GeForce RTX 3080 reportedly boasts a hashrate that is 3 to 4X that of the GeForce RTX 2080's hashrate, which is generally between 35 and 40 MH/s, depending on the vendor. Even the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti requires a lot of effort to break the 50 MH/s mark.
For the sake of discussion and simplicity, let's assume that we pay 10 cents per kWh in our city of operation, and we already have an existing system for mining. The GeForce RTX 3080 costs $699, so it'll take around 274 days to recover your investment. Now imagine setting up shop in state like Oklahoma where the industrial rate is 4.57 cents per kWh. The idea is attractive even to non-miners, as you could purchase a GeForce RTX 3080 on September 17, and the graphics card basically pays for itself in less than ten months. Of course, you'll also have to take into consideration the wear and tear that cryptomining puts on your hardware.
The GeForce RTX 2080 is pretty much out of commission now, but it also debuted at $699. The GeForce RTX 2080 might have lower power consumption, but its hashrate is the weakest link. Even if the graphics card does 40 MH/s on a good day, it will take up to 933 days to earn back what you spent on it. So the GeForce RTX 3080 is definitely more profitable for cryptomining.
Historically, AMD's Radeon graphics cards dominated the cryptomining scene. Offerings, such as the Radeon RX 580 or Radeon RX Vega 56 are still popular to this day. For example, the Radeon VII has one of the most impressive hashrates in Ethereum. The Vega 20-powered graphics card easily puts up a hashrate of around 90 MH/s and with some manual tweaking, it could cross the 100 MH/s threshold. Furthermore, you can still find the Radeon VII on eBay for as low as $420.
The GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card has higher power requirements though. Nvidia recommends a 750W unit in a normal everyday system. For comparison, the GeForce RTX 2080 can get by with a 550W power supply, and the Radeon VII also survives on a 750W unit. The point is that serious crypto miners would have to pour out more money on the power supply to have enough juice to keep the GeForce RTX 3080 up and running 24/7.
However, don't expect crypto miners to break their piggy banks and buy out every GeForce RTX 3080 just yet. We probably won't relive the dark days when gaming graphics cards were going for high prices because of the shortage caused by cryptomining. There are still other viable options in the second-hand market, but if the well dries up, crypto miners will eventually have Ampere as a feasible replacement, though. If that happens, then it's every person for themself.