With decluttering all the rage, you may be unearthing old VHS movie collections from the 80s, 90s, or earlier from your basement or the back of a closet. Perhaps you saved your kids’ or grandchildren’s beloved Disney tapes figuring another generation would surely want to watch them.
Now that you may not even own a VHS player, you may be wondering how much cash your outdated technology could bring in. The answer: Probably not much, but it greatly depends on what you have.
“What drives value is rarity, scarcity, and desirability,” says Megan Mahn Miller, an appraiser based in Minneapolis who specializes in celebrity memorabilia and collectibles. “We may be seeing that VHS tapes are becoming rarer, but I don’t think that means that they’re becoming more desirable.”
There’s also the problem that many of the movies on VHS are now available via streaming. “We can download The Little Mermaid whenever we want,” Miller says.
That said, some old VHS tapes fetch real money because they’re hard to find, fans are especially nostalgic about the film, or, in one infamous case, a mistake led to true scarcity.
So before you take a box of old tapes to the dump, see if you own any of these minor treasures.
VHS tapes for kids you can cash in on
eBay is littered with Disney classics with asking prices of just a few bucks. In two cases, though, you may be able to do far better. (And, as with toys, games, or any collectible, factory sealed packaging helps—maybe your daughter got two copies of Beauty and the Beast for her birthday?)
The first is if you own The Little Mermaid with the original cover art from 1990, which depicted a castle spire that some said resembled a part of the male anatomy. Since Disney issued a redesign after that mistake came to light, those are scarce. An unsealed one sold for $119 on eBay.
You could also get some money from your old tapes of Disney movies if they are Black Diamond editions, which were the original series of VHS tapes released between 1984 and 1994. Look for a black diamond with the phrase “The Classics” on the spine of the VHS clamshell case.
Still, the hype can get ahead of the sales prices: One article, for instance, suggests that the Black Diamond edition of 101 Dalmatians is worth $6,000. Good luck with that. On a bad day, even a Black Diamond might sell for just a few dollars.
Here are a few that have appeared on eBay recently:
- 101 Dalmations, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $15.
- Aladdin, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $316.
- Sleeping Beauty, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $65.
- Alice in Wonderland, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $22.50.
- The Jungle Book, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $80.
- Beauty and the Beast, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $20.
- The Rescuers, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $24.96.
- Bambi, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much sa $23.99.
- Cinderella, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $39.99.
- Dumbo, Black Diamond edition, has sold for as much as $60.
You might also have success selling a batch of Disney movies together, like this lot of 12 Disney VHS movies that sold for $21.
Cult classics that can bring in real money
If you happen to have VHS copies of older or more unusual movies that are hard to find now, you might have a winner. Old horror films tend to do well. For instance, Basket Case, a horror/cult film from 1982, recently sold on eBay for $30.
“There absolutely is a used VHS market,” says Tim Allen, a VHS enthusiast and collector who runs a pop culture blog called Video-Tron 2000. “There are enough people out there that enjoy buying video tapes that if you came across a box of old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, you could probably sell them.”
These five have scared up decent selling prices lately:
- Friday the 13th (1980) has sold for as much as $39.99.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has sold for as much as $199.
- Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) has sold for as much as $96.
- The Shining (1980) has sold for as much as $50.
- Intruder (1989) has sold for as much as $34.99.
Collectors often crave particular editions. For example, the Director’s Cut of Alien on VHS from 2004 sold for $50. And Mental Floss reports that Star Wars fans will pay up for the 1982 rental version of 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope, which doesn’t have the later additional special effects and other changes.
Curb your enthusiasm
If you’re curious about whether what you have is worth selling, try an eBay search for your title.
Check the box next to “Sold Items” to see what similar listings have sold for. Uncheck the box next to “Completed Items” to see only what’s been sold.
In some cases, the same item might sell for significantly different amounts of money, so temper your enthusiasm.
“It’s like any auction: It depends on the day and it depends on the bidder,” Miller says. “If you’ve got two people who really want something, that’s going to drive your price up.”
Bonus: How to store your old VHS tapes
VHS tapes should be kept out of the sun in a cool, dry place where the temperature is consistent. Extreme cold and heat degrade tapes more quickly. Like CDs and DVDs, tapes should be stored vertically to cut down on the risk of warping or cracking.
It’s also wise to rewind VHS tapes fully after watching them. Don’t leave them inside a VCR, where they can get stuck or accumulate additional dust or debris.
A final piece of advice: Store videotapes away from anything that can create a magnetic field, which in some instances can erase the contents of a tape.
That means not storing them alongside loudspeakers, which may contain magnets; surge protectors; or high-voltage electrical lines.
And if you want to digitize old-school media to archive or restore, you should do it sooner than later. A lot of the information stored on a film negative or a VHS cassette will lose clarity and vibrancy with each passing day.