Collectors Corner: VHS Tapes
By Michele Alice
Quick! What do Disney's Song of the South, Attack of the Killer Refrigerator, and Howard Stern have in common? They're all on VHS (Video Home System) tapes that have recently sold for $55, $172.50, and $202.50 respectively at online auctions.
Believe it or not, not all those VHS cartridges that everyone gave away, dumped at yard sales, or trashed when DVDs came along were worthless. For various reasons, in fact, some are quite desirable to collectors. Song of the South, for instance, represents those titles that received one-time or limited release and then were banned or repressed for various reasons including, as in this case, perceived negative depictions of racially-defined groups.
Attack of the Killer Refrigerator belongs in the horror/sleaze/exploitation category that appears to be attracting a great deal of attention among collectors. Joe Fay of Heritage Auctions has speculated that there are similarities between collectors of VHS tapes and collectors of books, and that idea certainly holds true for titles like Halloween (think first editions!), while titles like Attack of the Killer Refrigerator, Streets of Death, and Tales from the Quadead Zone probably appeal to collectors as much for the lurid cover art than for any directorial or thespian talents exhibited, much as collectors are drawn to some vintage paperback books. (And just as many paperbacks never made it to hardcover, many VHS titles were never released to theaters but were issued direct-to-video.)
The Howard Stern tapes represent a special class of titles that were never professionally released. One of the most popular features of VHS was that it provided anyone and everyone with the ability to record favorite programs or events directly from the TV or with the use of highly affordable portable equipment.
Over the almost 30-year reign (1976-2003) of VHS, an untold amount of programming was committed to tape and no one knows how much of it has been lost. In fact, it has been estimated that 60-90% of all titles ever released on VHS have, for various reasons, not made it to DVD. Who knows what the statistics are for all the material that was home taped? So, someone's grandmother (we're not kidding) taped some of Howard Stern's old cable shows, and her grandson auctioned them online (15 bids) for over $200 because the material was not available anywhere else.
So, while you're out there mining thrift stores, yard sales, and various other sources of material for your collections or for resale, you might want to take another look at the lowly and lonely VHS tapes that are usually tossed aside: you might be passing up a gem or two, like the WCW's (World Championship Wrestling) Bash at the Beach 2000 and the WWF's (World Wrestling Federation) In Your House '96 both of which often fetch $200+ from fans of professional wrestling. Who knew!?
Interested in delving deeper into the world of collectible analog video? Check out the resources listed below, and
VHS: Absurd, Odd, and Ridiculous Relics from the Videotape Era, by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher
VHS Video Cover Art: 1980s to Early 1990s, by Thomas Hodge
Video Hunter's Guide: Video Collector's Ultimate Resource Vol. 1, by Ron Swan and Joel Gunn
Geeking Out Over the Bloody Legacy of VHS - Collectors Weekly - Engrossing article possess a relevancy beyond the horror genre.
Is VHS the New Vinyl? - Article examines factors supporting continued interest in VHS tapes.
VHSCollector.com - Your Analog Videotape Archive - Site offers a searchable database of over 12,000 films/cover art, articles, list of distributors, forum, more.
You Paid $13,000 for WHAT!? - A Look at Collecting VHS Tapes, Part I and Part II - Interesting Heritage Auctions blog posts theorize that some VHS tapes could be considered comparable to first-edition books.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to EcommerceBytes.com and either link to the original article or to www.EcommerceBytes.com.
All other use is prohibited.