VHS tapes are now trending among collectors

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Long relegated to a dark corner of the collectible market, VHS tapes have fetched movie prices in recent months at auction thanks to nostalgia and investor appetite.

At a sale organized by Heritage Auctions in June, a “Back to the Future” videocassette fetched $75,000, while “The Goonies” and “Jaws” fetched $50,000 and $32,500, respectively. For its part, one of the tapes of the series “Rambo” was sold for 22,500 dollars.

Videocassettes have attracted the interest of collectors since the first copies came out in the late 1970s. Although “VHS are now worth next to nothing,” says John of Newmarket, Canada, who claims to have sold about 3,000 over 20 years old. “You’ll be lucky if you get $5 out of him.”

Until now, only some films that were not available online or in other media, or little-known horror films, managed to get a better price. Some sold for hundreds of dollars, others even more than a thousand.

But the new fashion prevails, now they are a bestseller. The great blockbuster films of the first half of the 80s stand out, as long as the tapes meet the quality standard.

First editions or exclusive copies have a higher value. A VHS tape of a limited series or the first release of a movie, in its original, unopened packaging, is more interesting.

“Star Wars,” which was released in 1977, the year the first video tapes went on sale in the US, is an example of selling for more than $10,000.

The great trilogy of VHS hits is made up of the first films distributed on this medium in the United States: “MASH”, “Patton” and “Smiles and Tears”, released in 1977 by 20th Century Fox and Magnetic Video.

The price? “It’s really hard to say. I’d say six figures, maybe seven,” says Jay Carlson, director of VHS at Heritage Auctions, a position created just a few months ago.

Many veteran collectors are wondering about this sudden increase, 16 years after the last release of a film in this format (“A History of Violence”). The last VCRs were manufactured in 2016.

“I think it has a lot to do with nostalgia,” says Philip Baker, who runs the website www.videocollector.co.uk. “What makes VHS special is that it was the first affordable way to watch a movie at home.”

Pat Contri, co-host of the Completely Unnecessary podcast, sees parallels with video games in this move. Lifelong collectors have been joined by “people who just decided to get into this. They said to themselves: ‘I have money, let’s invest in it.'”

In the past decade, a variety of cultural staples have become collectibles, from sneakers to video games to, now, videotapes.

For some, they have even replaced pieces of cultural value such as stamps or coins.

The resurgence of VHS is mobilizing the entire collectors’ industry: Facebook groups specializing in this subject are growing, services accrediting the authenticity and quality of the tapes are proliferating, and bookmakers are mobilizing to offer this product.

Contri mistrusts this organized fever. “It’s similar to what happened in the video game market,” he says, “where instead of letting a hobby develop naturally, you try to instill fear that you’re missing something” and the opportunity to invest.

“There are people who only collect open (previously used) tapes and are very skeptical of sealed tapes and what that means for their own collections,” admits Jay Carlson, “but I think (this move) is a good thing. (… .) It’s just a different way of collecting.”

Carlson believes that the potential of the VHS market is greater than that of video games, which last year registered two sales of more than one million dollars.

“I know a lot of people who aren’t interested in video games,” he says, “but I don’t know that many who don’t have a favorite movie.”

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