Category_VHS -

An Arm and a Leg - The Cost of Serious VHS Collecting

Recent events on eBay have solidified the notion that VHS fandom and collecting have been kicked up to an entirely new level. For the past few years, prices of tapes have been sending shocks and awes throughout the VHS collector community, undoubtedly inspiring grunts of chagrin and disbelief to some of the avid aficionados of video. Tapes such as The People Who Own the Dark, Last House on Dead End Street,(both on the Sun Video label), Screams of a Winter Night, Snuff and a slew of other obscure gems demand sums that boggle one’s mind, consistently passing the $100 mark (purportedly up to $800 in some instances!) on all of their appearances on the eBay market through the past couple years , which was retrospectively a harbinger of times to come. Another tape that bolsters this phenomenon as it is breaking the bank for some collectors is the elusive and highly desirable Planet Video version of Nightmare (Nightmares in a Damaged Brain), topping out at $333.00 just this past year. Wow, right? I mean, that’s A LOT of money for just one tape. But just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier, I came across an auction that ended just this past week (May, 12, 2011) for what seems to be The Holy Grail of VHS collecting: Tales from the Quadead Zone (the infamous SOV flick from Chester Turner, the same director of Black Devil Doll from Hell). How much did this tape go for you ask? Well, after 36 hard-hitting bids, this tape brought in a whopping $660.00!! It’s a situation that is extremely exciting and somewhat flattering for the format, but is undeniably ironic, somewhat unsettling and decidedly prohibitive to the everyday collector. Let me explain my angle: it’s ironic because when I first started grabbing tapes, they were dirt cheap. Most folk thought VHS tapes were just that – dirt – a dead format that nobody gave a crap about. Wrong! In their indifference, I found joy. And it was an extremely affordable joy. I would spend maybe $10 and walk away with at least 10 new trips into the weird and wonderful. But now, with eBayers paying these outrageous sums of money for tapes, it’s hard to see where this whole thing is taking the collector sub-culture. That’s where the unsettling part comes in. Do these prices make these tapes unattainable to the everyday video collector? They absolutely do. I surely don’t have the nerve to spend my rent money on a VHS tape, no matter how badly I want it. However, that’s the nature of the collector beast: certain items within a genre of collectibles become coveted and highly sought-after, and bring incredible sums of money. As the old adage goes: things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. So, to that end, there is little we can actually do about it but accept it and marvel at its absurdity. But with all of this going on, it’s difficult not to recognize the real excitement in all this. Sure, it’s slightly annoying to see tapes going for this much (this sentiment is more pronounced with old-school tape heads, of course), and it’s easy to get sore about losing out on a tape ‘cause it goes for way more than you can afford; but for some, this sort of instance can be a conversation piece to mystify and intrigue the uninitiated and give them a radical glimpse into the fantastic world of collecting and preserving the VHS tape. For example, “Hey, yeah, I collect VHS tapes; it’s a lot fun, you know? So many cool movies…” And then you get the standard reply, “VHS tapes? Really? That’s cool / weird / kinda funny” And then you can say, “Oh, yeah, there’s an entirely fervent sub-culture with it. Most tapes are cheap and it’s a great way to build up your library, but I’ve seen single tapes for over $600! It’s crazy!” And that, my fellow Videovores, has the ability to pique anyone’s interest. If anything, these online auctions prove beyond any doubt VHS collecting is as alive and well as ever. And it’s starting to get a little pricey. That’s why us over here at Lunchmeat encourage you all to kick it old-school and pay routine visits to thrift shops, yard sales and flea markets: the places where VHS is still the best bargain on earth. -Josh Schafer

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