Here Are the Most Valuable VHS Tapes You’ve Stashed in Your Basement

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These days, there are far too many articles out there telling you that a box of old Disney VHS tapes from the ’90s is worth enough to set you up for retirement or pay off your loans. Unfortunately, these types of claims tend to be clickbait fodder. 

While there are a few VHS tapes that may be worth something to collectors, any film of real value is generally a little harder to come by than the internet would have you believe. With this in mind, we’re delving into what makes a VHS tape valuable — and which films in your collection, if any, might nab you a decent chunk of change. 

Separating VHS Valuation Fact From Fantasy

We’ve all seen those articles online that price fairly common VHS tapes at values of over $10,000. Ever wonder where they’re getting those figures from? Odds are that most people are simply heading over to eBay, typing in the title of a VHS, and basing their valuation on the highest price listed.

Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking. Keep in mind that anybody can list anything on eBay for whatever price they want. In the end, that doesn’t mean that anyone will actually buy it. So, if you want to get a much more realistic picture of how much a given VHS could fetch, reset your eBay search to pull up only sold and completed listings.

Photo Courtesy: Lucasfilm/IMDb

These types of searches will reveal not only how much someone has attempted to sell a certain VHS for, but also how much someone else has actually paid for it. Once you pull up a sold listing — click on ‘view original item’ — scroll down to the number of bids that were placed and follow the link. You’ll then be redirected to the item’s bid history so that you can get an idea of how many people placed a bid, how much they were willing to pay, and the bid amount that ultimately won.

Be wary of “sold” items that only received one bid. More likely than not, this was probably just the seller attempting to make it appear as though there was a high demand for their product. Even though these “sales” sometimes come up in a search for sold items, it’s quite possible that the owner simply didn’t accept their own bid and that no sale was actually made.

Valuable VHS Tapes Share Certain Qualities

As the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In the case of VHS tapes, it’s hard to put an exact figure to what any movie may be worth, simply because it ultimately depends on what someone out there is willing to pay for it.

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 Photo Courtesy: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle/Getty Images

That said, supply and demand tend to be the winning combination that can turn any item into a collectible. Simply put, the rarer a product is, the better. With that in mind, there are some things that can make VHS tapes more attractive to buyers. The following features always help boost a tape’s value: 

  • Films that released a limited number of copies, but managed to develop a cult following
  • Unopened and mint condition copies
  • Particular editions, such as director’s cuts or even rental versions
  • Recalled editions

Another variable to consider? Sometimes people will be willing to pay more for something just because they think it’s valuable — even if it isn’t. This is especially true if you have a VHS that isn’t currently listed on eBay or whatever other auction site you may be using. Sometimes you can get away with driving up the price a bit, simply because you’re a potential buyer’s only option.  

In Search of VHS Tape Holy Grails? We’ve Got Some Suggestions

The popular VHS value rumor that swirls around our beloved tapes of yesteryear is that Disney’s “Black Diamond Edition” tapes are super valuable. In reality, these were simply the first tapes Disney ever released. Sold between 1984 and 1994 or so, these tapes have gotten this nickname due to the black diamond on their spines, which reads, “The Classics.” 

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But it’s worth noting that these tapes were released on a pretty massive scale, so they weren’t particularly hard to come by — and, in fact, they still aren’t. While some folks will try to sell these tapes for hundreds or thousands of dollars on eBay, most actual sales reflect that the tapes are worth less than their original retail price. 

The one exception might be the banned version of The Little Mermaid (1989). The first run of tapes hit shelves in 1990 and, allegedly, illustrators hid a bit of human anatomy in the cover art. Overly concerned parents thought their kids would spy this “lewd” image — though, even when you know what you’re looking for, the banned image isn’t that all that explicit. Nonetheless, amid the controversy, Disney recalled the tapes and launched a fresh run with new cover art. 

Today, rumor has it that the banned versions go for a lot on eBay, but that’s not entirely true either. Sales history on eBay shows that the banned version has sold for $48, $10, $25, and… $5,589. Yeah, there’s one very clear outlier there. With this in mind, don’t bank on selling your Disney VHS tapes to save for retirement or pay off your student loans. WDW Magazine perhaps puts it best, saying, “tl;dr: Don’t believe the sky-high eBay listings for ‘Black Diamond Edition’ tapes.”

 Photo Courtesy: Buena Vista Pictures/IMDB

So, which tapes are the big winners then? First up, we have a few hit horror films. Well, hit might be a strong word; honestly, these are both super rare and super random. Recent winners include copies of: 

  • Alien Beasts | sold for: $880.69
  • Pieces (French edition) | sold for: $455
  • Trolls 2 | original 1992 release, factory sealed | sold for: $755

Next up is what we’re dubbing “nostalgia-filled films.” These fan favorites — which are often genre films or tied to larger, beloved franchises — tend to sell for more if they feature some sort of rare perk, from being unopened to belonging to a particular special edition release set. Recent top-sellers include:

  • Transformers: The Movie | 1986 version, unopened | sold for: $430
  • Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes IV, V & VI) | CBS Fox Red Label Editions, all sealed | sold for: $510
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast | VHS promotional promo | sold for: $1,000

Okay, it’s not surprising that genre movies with cult followings and franchise films have a lot of value. But it’s probably a little more shocking that professional wrestling tapes sell for a nice chunk of change. That’s right — wrestling fans don’t kid around when it comes to bidding on classic match-ups. Bundles tend to do especially well in this category, regardless of the condition of the tapes. Some of the most valuable include: 

  • WCW PPV 1998 VHS bundle | sold for: $145.50
  • Wrestling VHS Puerto Rico Carlos Colon AAA Wwf Nwa Estrellas, vintage lot | sold for: $316.77
  • WCW NWA VHS lot collection, (WWF/WWE 1989-1993) | sold for: $303.86

Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning the International Grading Service (IGS), a professional grading service that will evaluate everything from coins and trading cards to VHS tapes and video games. As you might expect, buyers tend to be willing to pay more for items that have received the IGS seal of approval. Some of the most valuable IGS-approved VHS tapes include:

  • Super Mario Bros. (IGS graded, sealed) | sold for: $10,100
  • Damien: Omen II (one of the 1st prints, two VHS tapes, IGS graded, sealed) | sold for: $1,009
  • Pokemon: Volume 15 (1998) (IGS graded) | sold for: $167.50* *This volume features Charizard’s first appearance, and, as we all know, anything Charizard is considered valuable

So, are you likely to make thousands off of your collection of old VHS tapes? Probably not. But if you do come across a tape that’s unopened, in mint condition, or, for some other reason, super rare, look into its value. Just be sure to have realistic expectations.

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