The rise of video tape as a collector’s item: which VHS tapes are worth a lot?

A videotape of the film Back to the Future was sold at an auction in late June for $75,000. VHS tapes by The Goonies and Jaws grossed $50,000 and $32,500. Video tapes are increasingly popular among collectors.

VHS tapes have been around since the 1970s, but with the advent of DVDs and streaming services, many people ditched their VHS tapes and VCRs. The last VCRs were produced in 2016.

But lately, the collecting frenzy around VHS tapes has been on the rise. This concerns, for example, video tapes of films that have never been released on other carriers. Major films from the early 1980s are also sought after by collectors. Especially first editions and unopened, sealed bindings are worth a lot of money.

20th Century Fox, Star Wars and Disney

For example, very lucrative are video tapes released in 1977 by the film company 20th Century Fox, such as MASH, Patton and The Sound of Music. These can fetch tons of money, according to Jay Carlson of Heritage Auctions. “And maybe more than a million,” Carlson told the French news agency AFP.

Special editions of VHS tapes of the sci-fi classic Star Wars have also been paid more than $10,000 several times. For example, an unopened copy of Star Wars film A New Hope recently sold for $40,000.

Disney movies on VHS can also be worth a lot of money. There are several Disney video tapes for sale on the eBay auction site, asking for tens of thousands of dollars, for example from The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

tape heads

“This is mainly due to nostalgia and the compulsion to collect,” Philip Baker, creator of the VideoCollector site, explains the increasing interest in video tapes. “VHS is special because it was the first accessible way for many people to watch movies at home.”

A new videotape store recently opened in Los Angeles, the LA Times reported. “VHS has been called a dead medium, but the opposite is true. There’s a lot of life in it compared to digital files or DVDs,” said Jessica Gonzales, co-founder of the store.

In America there are also VHS enthusiasts, so-called tapeheads, who not only collect the tapes but also actually use them to watch movies. Now that the video stores have disappeared everywhere, they have started their own initiatives to lend each other VHS tapes. “There’s definitely a revival. Video tape nostalgia is becoming mainstream,” said Jonathan Brock, founder of one such new VHS lending library.

old games

The emergence of video tapes as a lucrative collector’s item is in line with the great interest of collectors in old gadgets and games. They also yield more and more, because, according to auction sites, a ‘new generation of collectors’ has emerged.

For rare games, huge amounts are sometimes charged. For example, an unopened 1996 game cartridge of Nintendo’s classic game Super Mario 64 sold for $1.6 million last year. The most expensive VHS video tape is nowhere near that.