Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

Analog-Inclined Authors Ron Swan and Joel Gunn Unleash the VIDEO HOUND’S GUIDE: An Exhaustive Rewind Reference Book to Assist Videovores in Collecting VHS in Checklist Fashion!

In the contemporary world of VHS collecting, “rare” is a word that gets a lot of airtime. It’s a term that’s tossed around on video-obsessed forums such as HVHSCU and is brought into question almost constantly, effectively operating as an adjective that inexorably inflates a tape’s anti-digital desirability, and oftentimes, influences the tape’s market value. However, the mark of rarity is usually designated by a fairly subjective observation by either an independent collector (presumably equipped with a fair share of analog expertise) or the vying-for-video community at large. The core of the “is this rare?” conundrum is this: no matter the general consensus or overall analog appeal of a particular tape, it’s decidedly difficult to actually confirm any sort of claim on rarity without any actual data. Enter authors (and ardent analog aficionados) Ron Swan and Joel Gunn with their new book Video Hunter’s Guide. Years of precise and painstaking rewind research have allowed them to articulate a wealth of analog era information and create a resource guide rife with releasing company details to assist in answering the most essential questions that arise when endeavoring to acquire slabs of magnetic magic. Read on, my fellow Tapeheads, and prepare to dive in to a most exciting addition to the Videovore’s arsenal of analog hunting equipment…


The too groovy cover for VIDEO HUNTER'S GUIDE. You know I can dig it.

Tell us a little bit about your history, Ron. When did you start work on VHG? How did you get hooked up with Joel Gunn? About how long did it take to complete? Joel and I met years ago hunting tapes in flea market. We talked shop a bit and got along really well, so we kept in contact and traded tapes and arranged hunts from time to time. About two and a half years ago, he bridged the idea of doing the Video Hunter’s Guide. Both of us had amassed huge collections of catalogs, promotional materials, and tapes. After a few months of brainstorming, we started devoting a majority of our free time to developing a proprietary method to track tape sales. In addition, we piled through thousands of catalogs, random images, and other sources to compile what we believe is one of the most complete lists of distributor rosters to date. Nearly three years later, we put a fork in the guide last week! It was done. What was the essential inspiration to create this book? Our initial inspiration, i.e. what provided us with the willingness to work so hard, were the staunch core of SOV directors, to whom we dedicated the book. These guys were pioneers that usually had very little money, sometimes very little support, but tons of passion. Combine these traits with their original idea, and we now have some of the highest value VHS releases known throughout the collecting community. The concept of the guide was spawned from several price spikes that began occurring as early as 2009/2010. Demon Queen on Mogul and Chester Turner’s Tales from the Quadead Zone shocked most of us when they sold for hundreds of dollars! That’s when we started thinking, “How can we determine value on a format that was considered ‘dead’ only a few years before?”


A full-on glimpse of the actual pressing of VIDEO HUNTER'S GUIDE! Lookin' GOOD.

VHG seemed to come out of nowhere, man! You didn’t want to let people know about what you were doing? Kind of take them by surprise? Yeah. It’s one of those things that probably every collector has thought of at one point. The work was also consuming/compiling information, doing research, and developing it for presentation. There’s been a ton of sleepless nights within the last year. It’s nice to finally have something to show. To us, being precise was most important. We went through great pains (probably too much at times) trying to gather data, help, and perfect things. We didn’t want to get bogged down with release dates or anything. It was more important to be great, than to be quick. Looking back, we didn’t have any time to tell people what we were up to! We were just doing it. I can dig it, man. The description gives a pretty good run down of the labels covered, but what about the content? Does it give full catalog information? Any cover scans? What else is in there? You give pricing in this book, right? How did you deduce those prices? Wherever possible, we’ve filled out every known title for the distributor’s included in the guide. Using photos, promotional sales sheets, distributor catalogs, and our own collections we’ve amassed a pretty consistent catalog list for many of the distributors. Every distributor in Video Hunter’s Guide includes last known address, years of operation, notable releases, and sub distributor info when appropriate. While we’ve included every known title we could muster, there are always “unknowns” and that’s part of our excitement as now there’s a record of known titles. We expect to dig deeper for future volumes and we’re encouraging other collectors to contribute where they can. With the breadth of all available titles/releases, a full run for every distributor is possibly a pipe dream, but we think it’s doable with the right amount of concentration and attention to detail. The distributor info was first and foremost in our research. We put ourselves in the grinder digging through tons of attics and moldy basements to garner a wide span of promotional items that we used to compile our database with as many distributors and titles as possible. The important thing to note concerning the prices in this guide is that they are “real.” To maintain the most accurate presentation of tape values, we decided early on that a price guide should only contain realized values. As collectors, it’s easy to spot $10, $20, and $50 tapes. Not every title in the guide has an attached price. The option was there to place an estimated price beside each listing, but ultimately we felt that individual experience is often limited. We’ve bought and sold many of the titles in the guide through the years, yet we believe that collecting has transformed to such a great extent since 2010 that “conventional wisdom” no longer applies. That being said, each of us know what we’re willing to pay, but this is often not the best indicator of what a tape is “worth.” In the spirit of providing a true snapshot of the VHS market, we opted to only use verified prices from actual sales. The end result is a platform that offers consensus. We stand behind the guide and firmly believe that users will agree with the ranges presented in most circumstances. We considered adding images and cover scans to the guide, but honestly there are so many other collectors that do that much better. With the growth of the internet in the last five years, there are more images out there than ever before. Additionally, Video Hunter’s Guide is about pricing and providing hit lists for anyone looking to increase their range of what they collect. For this purpose, we opted to devote as much space as possible to the cold, hard data. As a reference work, we think users will appreciate this focus. Although, future editions will include more “eye candy” as collectors become familiar with the guide we intend to highlight some of the more insane collections out there, so anyone reading this that believes they have a “world class” collection feel free to contact us. We’d like to start adding some of these to our website, as well.


A peek at one of the pages inside VIDEO HUNTER'S GUIDE featuring info on Academy Entertainment. Dig that attention to analog detail, mang.

How did you go about choosing the labels you wanted to document? There’s so many out there… it had to be tough to pick and choose which labels to go after… You’re right. There are too many to choose from, actually! Of more than 300 distributors we’ve marked for delineation, we had to cut deep to find the ultimate list that is included in the guide. To start, we isolated the core of what we’ve collected (among many others) for quite some time. Thriller, Wizard, Video City, Mogul, Unicorn, Camp, Midnight Video and the other “heavy hitters” were the first to be included on the “definite” list. From there we looked for distributors that had some appeal either through a healthy supply of collectible genres, or some vintage appeal due to the time of the company’s activity. Magnetic, Meda (Media), and Paragon were just a few that fell into the mid-range. We also included Vestron, Lightning and others that are considered “common” by most respects but have a wide range of titles with at least some collectability. We then grouped in most of the smaller labels (many with highly sought after releases), SOV one offs, and New VHS companies that have wandered into the collectible realm since 2013. The big question for us was, “What titles do we include?” The answer turned out to be “everything.” Video hunting requires knowledge, (what’s rare, what’s hard to find) but also knowing what else is out there. For nerds like us, we live and die by catalog numbers. In the spirit of Bruce Holecheck’s Cinema Arcana, we felt that it was important to provide the full gamut of titles from any distributor. Ultimately, this places many common titles among the rarest although from a rarity standpoint there may be many surprises. With the wealth of VHS and Beta releases, many of those never made it to DVD. Only by surveying a distributor’s full catalog can you begin to understand what’s out there, and what’s truly rare. Obviously, horror and exploitation are the predominant genres most collectors go for (us included), but we also know that people collect what they like and we wanted a guide that would open the door for finding titles that may have been overlooked through the years. Where else can you go to determine how many chapters Vestron released of its Go Bots series through the Children’s Video Library?


A peek at the contents page showing off all of the video releasing entities covered in this volume. Dang, this rules!

Can you describe the process for tracking down all of the releases and cataloging them? What means did you use to locate all the info and confirm it? We looked high and low. All of the websites listed in the other resources section were extremely helpful to us, even before the guide was a concept. Most collectors use these sites to generate their personal want lists. For us, we’ve had many of these lists for years and used them in our own collecting to isolate certain distributors. For the rest (more than 20,000 titles in the entire database) we garnered the information from wherever it could be located. Primary sources included distributor’s catalogs, which we’ve collected over the years. Promotional items such as ad slicks, posters, and other memorabilia have provided a solid foundation for verified information. Not to mention, our own collections, which amounts to thousands of tapes combined. All of these sources have generated the information found in the guide, but much of the data was collected years before. It wasn’t until 2010 that we decided to start compiling this information for use as an encyclopedia focused on video hunting. You also cover fresh VHS labels (categorized as NU VHS). What are some of the labels you cover, and how did you choose them? Labels like Briarwood, Horror Boobs, etc. didn’t make the description, but did they make the book? Once again, we had to remain selective. For this volume of the guide we included Massacre Video, Vultra, Uneasy Archive, and Psycho Video. Basically, these distributors were the simplest to garner information on and most of these distributors seemed to have provided some semblance of order by using catalog numbers on their releases, which fit within the mold of what this guide is presenting. We didn’t put nearly as much effort into tracking new releases as we did with vintage VHS and Beta. We really just wanted people to know that VHS is still being produced, after all of these years. If the guide is well received and people ask for it, we’ll cover them in more detail.


A look at the list of resources in VIDEO HUNTER'S GUIDE! Hey, cool! WE MADE IT!

What kind of effect and influence do you think a book like this will have on the collecting community? Our hope is that a solid guide such as VHG will strengthen the collecting community and help shepherd VHS collecting into a new era. One of the problems that motivated our concept was contending with spikes in the market. For groups like Horror VHS Collectors Unite! and others, pricing, selling, and trading are fairly simple. But with so many tapes on offer across the web, it is sometimes difficult for (new and old) collectors to pin down what a tape is actually worth, and the extent of its actual rarity. For example, users will discover in the guide that many of the “rarest” tapes (such as Kirk Alex’s Lunch Meat) often pop up much more often than you would expect. Claims on rarity often are hard to validate. The guide is designed to put more power in the hands of individual collectors. When five copies of a “rare” tape have been sold in the course of a stated tracking period, how rare can it be? On the other hand, users of the guide will also discover that rarity doesn’t always translate to higher values. The matrix of scarcity and realized prices will hopefully provide an acceptable margin of error among collectors actively pursuing tapes and even those who sell them. By finding a more stable market, we all stand to benefit. How can we get a hold of the book? It’s on Amazon and CreateSpace, but are you planning on a national release in stores, etc.? There’s no plan of a brick and mortar book store release. It seemed like the best way to get it to people was via Amazon, as we didn’t want to have to compromise anything to get it out there. Having experience in the publishing industry, some of the stores require things that could have a negative impact on the book’s content. What’s next for you, Ron? This is called Vol. 1, and with the rapid flux of tape prices, and all the fresh VHS entities popping up all the time, I imagine you’ll do a Vol.2 with updates and such? Time for a nap…after popcorn and a movie! Anything else you’d like to shout out to all the Videovores in Lunchmeat Land? For those of you who are into the guide, we appreciate it. Also, we encourage everyone to provide feedback once you’ve seen the guide. We’re open to suggestions as this guide was designed with the collecting community in mind. Thanks! Happy Hunting!

Oh, yo, you KNOW we’re happy, Ron! Huge analog ups to Ron and Joel for putting in the tremendous amount of time and energy to assist us in our tape collecting endeavors, offering us less guess work and more magnetic checklists! Dudes, we VHSalute you! Be sure to groove on over and grab your copy of Video Hunter's Guide to find out if you really DO have all those Charter Entertainment slips, mang. And as Ron mentioned above, they wanna hear from you! Drop a line on their Official Facebook Page and give ‘em a like to stay updated on all future editions of this killer analog resource. And just because it’s too cool not to mention, Video Hunter’s Guide was the #1 best seller on Amazon in Popular Culture Antiques and Collectibles upon its release. Now that’s pretty groovy.

Groove and Groove and Gotta Get ‘em All, mang.

Josh Schafer

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