There’s a certain story that my father will never let me live down: it’s the death of the “Dumbo” VHS tape. When I was about 2-years-old, our VHS player died and trapped my favorite tape inside of it. Long story short, my father spent his Sunday afternoon schlepping around town to eight different stores in order to not only buy a brand new player but also locate a new “Dumbo” VHS for me as well.
Since then, it has been decades since the VHS system has been a form of home entertainment. Now, all of our VHS are out in the garage in a box collecting dust. While they may have disappeared from our living room shelves, there are still collectors who are actively buying and selling videocassettes all across eBay, Facebook trading posts, and other outlets, which are going for prices that can easily go up into the hundreds.
While you can forget about the Disney films, or the “Black Diamond” tapes, released between 1984 and 1994, they aren’t actually anywhere near as valuable as you’d think. Instead, what VHS aficionados are most likely to pay for VHS tapes that are obscure horror, kids’ content, and genre material that either never got a DVD release or is nostalgic in some way. Here are 10 tapes that have done pretty well, so if you have them somewhere in your garage dig them out, or better yet, keep your eyes peeled for a bargain next time you’re passing a yard sale.
1. THE DARK PLANET (1989)
Fantasy artist Richard Corben directed the low-budget sci-fi/horror anthology, which has become pretty much impossible to find – possibly for a reason. For those who have seen it, they’ve stated that it’s a pretty cheesy film that has rudimentary Claymation special effects. However, Corben fans still consider it worth the investment since the VHS release has a beautiful Corben illustration. Occasionally it will pop up on eBay, and the recent one closed out its auction at $250.
2. OUT OF THE BOX (1998-2004)
While the classics from Disney may be overvalued, some of their out-of-print work can still make a few good bucks. Commercial tapes of “Out of the Box,” a Disney Channel preschool series which aired between the years 1998 and 2004, are definitely in demand on the market. “Out of the Box: Happy Holidays” sold for $219.99, while “Out of the Box: Trick or Treat” sold for $74.99.
3. THE PROWLER (1981)
A niche horror film which opens at the end of World War II and hints that the rampaging killer is a war vet dumped by his girlfriend, only to return to kill again 35 years later. This slasher film has make-up effects done by the gore legend Tom Savini. While it was released on DVD, the cassette is still sought out by fans because the VHS was released by different home video distributors, meaning the packaging ranges from hard plastic clamshells to cardboard slipcases. An oversized “big box” version of the film sold for $336.83 on eBay, and the standard cardboard edition will on average trade for about $60.
4. TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)
This is a film which has developed a small cult following. The plot of this eccentric comedy revolves around a young man (the late Paul Walker) who has his brain put into the body of an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, while his girlfriend Tammy (Denise Richards), tries to free his mind to a more appropriate body. The movie was never released to DVD, so the VHS can sell for up to $80.
5. DEADLY PREY (1987)
A fan-favorite among those who love a good B-film, this cheaply-made action drama about a vengeful Vietnam veteran. The AV Club has described it as “if it were filmed in someone’s backyard.” An unopened copy of the film which had some incredible box art recently went to auction on eBay for $125.
6. BLOOD LAKE (1987)
This shot-on-video received praise from horror fans for the scrappy DIY filmmaking approach. Collectors have been known to pay $120 and up for a copy of the VHS.
7. BARNEY (1992-2009)
The purple dinosaur of everyone’s childhood has appeared in many, many VHS releases, with a few of them holding a particular appeal for fans looking to own their rarity. A copy of “Barney’s First Adventures” sold for $300, while the sing-along “Waiting for Santa” netted $125 while “Barney’s Rockin’ Rhyme Time” finished at $200.
8. PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING TAPES
Pro wrestling was a surprisingly popular genre for VHS release, but some events are a little more hard to come by than others. Those are usually the ones that sell at a higher price. An unopened copy of “Halloween Havoc 1993” sold for $349.99, while a copy of “Wrestlemania III” went for $190, while “Halloween Havoc 1996” has been known to sell for up to $100.
9. STAR WARS (1977)
While there is no other film franchise that is more popular or has had more home video releases than the original “Star Wars” trilogy. The VHS value of the film has been due largely because of collectors, who have been known to fork over $76 and up for the 1982 rental version of 1977’s “Episode IV: A New Hope.” The original version is also the perfect way to watch an unaltered version of the movie, since many later releases to DVD either slightly changed things, or added some special effects.
10. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)
This one is a bit surprising since it’s a film that is so easily available on both DVD and streaming services. Yet the reason behind the demand for the cassette version is that the David Cronenberg thriller featuring a family man (Viggo Mortensen) holding a dark past, was actually the last major studio film to ever get released to VHS. A copy of it recently sold on eBay for $75.