These days, most people get their entertainment fix via a streaming service. But does that mean older formats are out for the count? No way. And, most surprisingly of all, VHS tapes are potentially worth big money!
What? Blurry old VHS cassettes that go haywire without tracking (ask your parents if you’re under 30)? Tapes that scrunch up in the player at the drop of a hat? The very same.
So, what kind of prices do these old-school releases fetch on auction sites and the like? Let’s make sure the tape on this story is rewound before we hit “play”…
Disney and the Black Diamond
The legendary House of Mouse is often highlighted as a source of rare and valuable VHS tapes. Disney wasn’t that interested in home releases at first.
When they did put their movies out on tape, it was for limited periods. This approach maximized the sense of Mouse’s mystique. The Black Diamond range can be found on eBay for, in some cases, eye-watering amounts.
What is the Black Diamond? WDW explains that they date back to the time when a tape from Disney was a relative rarity. As noted by Considerable, the spine of the VHS box should have a black diamond with “The Classics” printed inside it. Black Diamond tapes hit retailers between 1984-94.
One such edition, Aladdin, reportedly sold for up to $316. If that sounds pricey, then you won’t believe how the costs shoot up. One copy of Aladdin has been listed on eBay for more than $13,000USD! Diamond or no diamond, some of these titles could break the bank.
Let’s start with the “small” fry. Comedy.com mentions a Masterpiece Collection edition of defining Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. An eBay sale resulted in the tape heigh-ho’ing it’s way to a household for $250.
Expensive right? But not mega money. Scroll down a little further, however, and you may notice a price tag of $1,000. Meanwhile, the site writes about a Black Diamond copy of The Little Mermaid which was on sale for $20,000!
Why so valuable? Comedy speculates that it “could be partially due to the ‘banned’ cover art”. Yes, this wholesome-looking piece of artwork apparently contains an inadvertently explicit shape in its brush strokes.
This VHS tape comes from a galaxy far, far away
Screen Rant refers to a shrink-wrapped original VHS release of Star Wars. Long ago, before creator George Lucas began thinking of prequels and tinkering with the special effects, the “first” film was put on the home entertainment market in 1982.
A combination of being factory sealed and in perfect condition resulted in a $3,500 sale.
Horror classics never die on tape
Eighties shocker The Evil Dead was part of the notorious “video nasty” scene in the UK. It may look quite tame by today’s standards, but back then the zombie-fuelled exploits were seen as a danger to the nation’s impressionable audience.
Once it jumped over the censor’s hurdles in the courts, the movie went out on home VHS. The words ‘Not Guilty’ are proudly displayed on one sleeve design in a banner effect. Screen Rant notes the sale of one such example for $300.
There’s a little more to this than meets the eye. Website Book Of The Dead writes about how these sleeves were separately produced in celebration of the ruling: “According to Nik Powell (of Palace Pictures), this was to swap out for existing sleeves”, as well as “a ‘screw you’ to the police”, who apparently keep seizing the tapes.
Many of the sleeves never got swapped, making them a major curiosity item. 2013 saw a ‘Not Guilty’ sleeve go under the hammer for £605 (well over $800).
Yeah yeah yeah! The Beatles rock on VHS
An original 1981 VHS of Beatles movie Let It Be can go for anywhere between $100 and $500, as reported by Comedy.com.
The documentary came and went from video shelves, adding to its desirability. It may well be sought after again, thanks to Peter Jackson’s new Apple + production on the subject.
1994 comedy curio Tammy and the T-Rex, starring Denise Richards, became a cult film. In VHS terms, however, it was a fleeting thing. “By the time the movie showed promise as a cult hit, the studio had already moved on and the tape was out of print,” writes Screen Rant. Its price now? A reportedly less than amusing $89.
Speaking of dinos, remember Barney? His Waiting for Santa tape is worth between $50-$100! “Though the show eventually became a hit for PBS,” Comedy writes, “earlier episodes went straight to VHS.”
How accurate are these incredible prices?
If a few thousand dollars sounds a little much to pay for a VHS tape, then… you may be right. WDW mentions the scammers’ practice of posting an attention-grabbing – and fake – sale to draw in the bidders.
Medium is keen to point out that yes, these releases were valuable, but in an era before a lot of rare films became available to watch online.
Considerable spoke to collectibles expert Megan Mahn Miller, who commented that we “may be seeing that VHS tapes are becoming rarer, but I don’t think that means that they’re becoming more desirable.”
That said, there will always be genuine rarities for one reason or another. “Misprints on the cover and limited releases are among those suspected of having a high value” WDW write, adding that it’s those “first editions that generate the most buzz.”