Your old VHS tapes could be worth a small fortune

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Like other pop culture memorabilia from the 80s and 90s, video tapes have a moment of glory — and some of these tapes could potentially be worth a lot of money to collectors.

“There is an interest from new Gen Xers and Millennials to revisit the technology and media of their youth,” Megan Mahn Miller, a Minneapolis-based entertainment memorabilia appraiser, told Nexstar. “You can see the same thing happening with old video games and Pokémon cards.”

But unlike Nintendo Games or trading cards, VHS tapes have yet to prove themselves as big earners on the auction block.

“It’s a whole new hobby,” said Joe Maddalena, executive vice president of Texas-based Heritage Auctions. “[VHS sales] are doing well, but there’s a lot of unboxing to do on rarity and rarity.

Still, Maddalena said he sees “all the ingredients” for VHS to become the next big collector’s craze. He will know for sure in June, when Heritage Auctions will hold its first ever VHS auction only with over 300 titles.

“This auction could go well, or it could go well,” Maddalena told KTLA. “We do not know.”

Heritage Auctions first noticed secondary market VHS sales a few years ago, when “a lot” of video game collectors also started collecting VHS tapes, according to Maddalena. And while there haven’t been many — if any — VHS-only auctions, he told Nexstar he’s optimistic after learning about some recent private sales.

“This auction is expected to fetch between $500,000 and $1 million in total,” he predicted. “If it goes over a million, it’s a huge success.”

Many of the titles in the upcoming Legacy auction reflect another “ingredient” sought after by Maddalena and her expert evaluators: for the most part, these are all films that elicit strong emotional reactions from people who grew up in the years 80.

“‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Goonies’, the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise, the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise, ‘Star Wars’… You’re talking about iconic, iconic movies,” Maddalena explained. “And then the horror films – ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ – the ones that are the most popular.”

Of course, every item on the auction block is also factory sealed in its original packaging, and each has been authenticated and graded to condition by a verified grading service. Buyers are also primarily interested in first editions – which were typically printed in smaller quantities and often purchased by video stores in the early years of the rental market.

“These first-run tapes were limited, and people [who bought personal copies] usually opened them,” Maddalena said. “Other prints came after, when the studios saw the market.”

The less-perfect VHS specimens may not be entirely worthless, however. It’s possible that more obscure titles will also become collectibles depending on continued VHS demand.

“If it’s a terrible B-movie that never made it past VHS and DVD media… or if there’s a misprint or something wrong with a cover – think ‘The little Mermaid’ from Disney – and the cover was pulled from the shelf and replaced, that might be of interest to a buyer,” Mahn Miller said.

Maddalena also suggested that there could be a future market for second-edition prints of popular nostalgia-evoking titles, but only if current demand for VHS really takes off.

“We’re just not at that stage of the hobby yet,” Maddalena says. “You really need the auction market to come…to know where it is.”

In the meantime, sellers can try their luck on online auction sites like eBay, where many users are already trying to make a quick buck off their old VHS tapes. Don’t go there with huge expectations.

“It all depends on what ‘precious’ means to you,” Mahn Miller said. “If you can sell an item you’ve owned since the 1980s for $5, it might be valuable to you.”

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