What Is It Really Worth, Man?! An Open Discussion on the Current Price Phenomena in the VHS Collecting World with Recent Examples and A Chance to Voice Your Analog-Lovin’ Opinion! VHShout It Out!
While doing my daily diggin’ through the world weird web this morning, a thread on the analog-obsessed, video vindicating Facebook forum VHS MISFITS IRON FIST BLISS! struck me as especially provocative and important in relation to today’s VHS collecting culture. It tackles a topic that has caused a massive amount of discussion, communal laughter and sometimes, even a bit of analog outrage. The subject? The going-rate of certain tapes in comparison to their generally accepted value, as defined by seasoned and experienced collectors. This is a subject that can set online opinions ablaze, and has the potential to display the passion and (unfortunate) disdain that exists within the VHS collector community. I carry and subscribe to the same passion, so I can of course relate, but I am intrigued by the (mostly) lighthearted scorn that seemed pervade this particular thread. I wanted to write this article to further explore the “price of tapes” phenomena, not only because someone suggested it in the thread (it’s a good idea, Eric!), but I also wanted to explore the scope of the situation and elicit opinions from other analog addicts and the collecting community at large. First, we must set the VHStage. We begin with a link to a completed listing on eBay with simple caption “LOL!!!!!” I didn’t click the link. I first navigated the comments section, already assuming by the nature of the post that this tape probably went for much more than usual. Faceplam memes and accusations of insanity populated the thread coated with a thin layer of chagrin. Why? Is it the feeling of culture invasion? Is it passionate pity for analog ignorance? Or is it the sheer fact that particular tapes shouldn’t be selling for this much, and there’s a fear of peripheral damage to the collecting culture? All of these are merely VHSpeculation at best. Ultimately, the reasons for these reactions are all very personal, hence, the call and response nature of this article. Let’s dig in some more. Here are the two cases that were in question: First, we have the U.S.A. Entertainment big box release of the creepy Christmas Horror essential Silent Night, Deadly Night. Here’s a capture of the ended auction:
The high-priced auction that inspired the thread, and ultimately this article. Das a'lotta Christmas clams VHSpent, mang!$112.50 was the final price. I have to admit: I was VHShocked to see it, as well. Don’t get me wrong: aesthetically, this tape is radical, and the film itself is absolutely awesome. It’s a must-see. But the confusion and subsequent derision came to be simply because this tape doesn’t go for this exorbitant amount. Silent Night, Deadly Night in the U.S.A. big box form is seen by the majority of collectors as fairly “common” i.e. it shows up a lot in the mix, is fairly easy to obtain and doesn’t usually demand more than $20 - $25. There’s even another auction (that was linked by a research-inclined Tapehead) that has it going for less than $30. In short, someone paid way above the average amount for this tape. That’s inarguable. However, this tape IS really cool, and for the uninitiated analog aficionado, this just might look like a serious slab of video bliss that could command some change. Plus, it’s almost Christmas, guys. With the theme of this flick, you gotta consider that. Later on in that thread, another link (sampled from the same seller) shows a completed listing for the Continental Video big box of the revenge exploitation flick Avenged. Now, to me, this is a VHSexy tape. It’s in really nice shape, has great colors on the box AKA no fading and even has the original issue Continental clamshell case. Assuming the tape plays fine and all, this tape could be worth anywhere from $40 - $65. How did I get this figure? Through years of collecting. I haven’t seen it in tact all that much (the box is usually cut), it has amazing artwork, and Continental big box releases are highly sought after because of the apparent aesthetic appeal. What I’m really saying is, based on my knowledge of the tape, this is what I’d pay for it (if I really wanted it), or if it went within this price range, I wouldn’t be surprised. Here’s a look at that completed listing, just for continuity sake.
Sure is a pretty tape! But is it THAT pretty? TAPEHEADS SHALL DECIDE.These are just two examples of arguably out-of-bounds end prices for tapes online. When we consider these high-priced online auctions for slabs of our favorite format, I think one of the most essential things to remember is this: it takes two (or three, or four) to get a bid up to a surprising and head-scratching total. Someone out there, no matter their expertise or inclination, wanted the tape that badly. Take a look at completed listings for VHS tapes on eBay, set from highest to lowest, and you'll see that some VHS heads mean business, and there are some folks out there that aren't really keen on what's really happening in the culture, but just list it high in hopes someone will bite. Ultimately, tapes are always going to have two values: the going market rate which is accepted by collectors and generally seen as the proper pricing, and the other? Whatever someone is willing to pay for them, as evidenced above. This is the nature of collectibles, and we have to face it: whether we like it or not, VHS tapes are now a recognized collectible, sought-after piece of media, complete with commons, scarcities and holy grails. All of the outside (read: non-alternative media) that covers VHS culture and collecting will do both good and bad. It will turn people on to the joys of analog-only gems, rare films and kick-ass cover art. It may also plant uniformed, sensationalist dollar signs in the eyes of others. This is an unsavory by-product of our expanding culture, and totally uncontrollable. Interest in value has become such an integral part of modern VHS collecting, there’s even been a book published aimed at that angle. Not to say this is necessarily bad (because I don’t think it is - interview here!), but it just shows that there is a growing interest in pricing. People want to know. I leave you, my fellow Tapeheads, with this: The culture is expanding at a rate that we can barely fathom. The power of the internet puts these tapes in front of new faces every day. And these folks aren’t necessarily equipped with the knowledge of an experienced and analog educated collector of 10, 15, 20 years. They’re just honing in on a new slice of excitement, and they don’t know the details of the hobby. They just know what they want. Accurate and useful education on the details of analog slab gathering (and I daresay lifetstyle!) comes only with experience, research and time. Though we can only guess at the motives (or lack thereof) for laying down so much money for a tape, we know one thing is for sure. VHS collecting and video tape culture is more present than ever, and in turn, more people than ever are experiencing the power of a once forgotten and forlorn format that should have never went away. And that’s pretty groovy.
Tell us what you think. Comment below. Spread Analog Awareness. Then, go FEED YOUR VCR!!!