It was bound to happen, but it still seems too ridiculous to contemplate: VHS tapes are now collectible.
That’s according to The Mirror (via Fark), where they’ve rounded up some of the most valuable specimens. “It’s interesting to see how certain VHS tapes have increased in value over the last 50 years or so,” said Will Thomas of LoveAntiques.com, where they call this sort of thing “antech.” Just in case you were looking for a term to use when explaining why you certainly will not throw away that ancient Gameboy that doesn’t even work anymore.
“It might sound strange that something like the VHS is defined as an antech, but when they can command thousands of pounds on account of their rarity, that’s exactly what they are,” Thomas explained. For instance: The Mirror suggests the right copy of Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks would be worth £1,500.
Lest you assume this is mere trend-piece exaggeration, they are not the first to notice. Back in January, Yahoo Finance included this once-ubiquitous item in a roundup of things that might be worth more than you think, noting the creation of a VHS collection at Yale University. Their focus is horror and exploitation movies from 1978 to 1985 with names like “Black Devil Doll from Hell” and “Microwave Massacre,” generally low-budget, indie, hard to find, and fucking weird. Librarian David Gary explained the collection’s importance in a Yale publication:
“There is a lot of academic value to these tapes, both in terms of their physicality and for what they may tell us about our own history or culture,” the librarian says. “You can tell the entire history of the 1980s through these movies in a certain way. Some of our cultural anxieties or fears are reflected in a serious way in some of these films.”
For example, Gary points to a movie called “Class of 1984,” about a naïve, newly arrived teacher who envisions himself turning around the lives of his students. Instead, he finds himself confronting serious juvenile delinquency and drug abuse during the “War on Drugs” era.
“The videos are really very valuable cultural tools that you can use to write really important academic works on a whole range of topics,” Gary added.
Of course, there are plenty of battered tapes selling on Etsy and Ebay—not to mention thrift stores and junk shops across America—for less than $20. The Mirror explains where the money is:
The expert’s advice is to avoid common mainstream titles that were released on labels such as Cinema Club and 4Front, because these would have been mass produced and are worth ‘next to nothing’.
Typically, the most valuable VHS tapes are one-offs, released in small batches within the ‘video nasties’ category – frequently on micro-budget labels such as Knockout and Trytel.
There are some Disney VHS tapes listed on Ebay for substantial amounts, as well, but it would take somebody with an advanced degree in princessology to explain what makes one copy of Beauty and the Beast more valuable than another.