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The return of the video cassette as a collector’s item

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During the same sale, organized at the beginning of June by Heritage Auctions, a VHS tape of Back to the future (Back to the Future) was sold for 75,000 US dollars (97,000 Canadian dollars), while a copy of the Sea teeth (jaws) sold for US$32,500 (C$42,000), and one of Rambo at 22,500 US dollars (29,000 Canadian dollars).

There has been a circle of collectors and collectors of cassettes since the release of the first copies at the end of the 1970s, but today, for almost all of them, VHS are worth next to nothingsays John, a resident of Newmarket, Ontario, who says he has sold about 3,000 in more than 20 years. You will be lucky if you get $5 from it.

Only certain niche horror films or feature films offered only in this format have so far managed to do better, at a few hundred dollars, or even above a thousand.

Renewed popularity of certain films

However, it is now popular films that are on the rise, especially the big hits from the first half of the 80s, provided the tapes meet certain criteria.

A VHS from the first edition of a film placed on the market, in its original unopened packaging, will be more interesting, as will a special series produced in small numbers, which automatically excludes the majority of existing cassettes. , including funds from former video clubs.

Star Wars (Star Wars), released in theaters in 1977, the year the first video cassettes were marketed in the United States, is a current benchmark. Multiple cassette copies of this film have exceeded US$10,000 (C$12,900).

The Grail would be a copy taken from the very first American delivery of VHS, that is to say the films MASH, Patton and The melody of happiness (The Sound of Music), released in 1977 by 20th Century Fox studio and Magnetic Video.

The price? It’s really hard to say. I would say a six-digit number, or even a seven-digit numbersays Jay Carlson, director of VHS activity for Heritage Auctions, a position created only a few months ago.

Why this popularity?

Several people, including long-time collectors and collectors, are wondering when they see the sudden acceleration of this market, 16 years after the last release of a film in this format: A History of Violence, by David Cronenberg. In addition, VCRs have not been produced since 2016.

I think it has a lot to do with nostalgia, says Philip Baker, who runs the Video Collector site. What makes VHS special is that it was the first accessible way to watch a movie at home.

Pat Contri, who co-hosts the podcast Completely Unnecessary, sees in this movement a parallel with video games. In addition to people who have been collecting them for a long time, it is now added people who just decided to get into it. They thought, “I’ve got money. Let’s invest in it.”

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For 10 years, several families of objects have thus been attacked by individuals seeking to diversify their investments, whether it be sports shoes, video games or now video cassettes.

For a new generation of people sensitive to their cultural value, these items have replaced stamps or coins.

Hundreds of old VHS tapes stacked on top of each other.

The technology changes, but the traces of the old tapes are still there.

Photo: /TurnedNews.com / Joane Bérubé

Facebook groups dedicated to this video format, multiplication of rating services that assess the authenticity and quality of a cassette, auction houses on the go; the collectible VHS industry is taking shape at breakneck speed.

Pat Contri is wary of this organized fever. It’s similar to what happened in the video game market, where instead of letting a hobby develop naturally, you try to instill a fear of missing out. and miss an opportunity to make a lucrative investment.

There are people who collect used tapes and are very skeptical of [exemplaires encore emballés]recognizes Jay Carlson, but I think that [ce mouvement] is a good thing. […] It’s just a different way of collecting.

For him, the market potential of video cassettes is greater than that of video games, which saw two sales exceed one million US dollars last year.

I know a lot of people who aren’t into video games, he argues, but I don’t know many who don’t have a favorite movie.

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