Originally posted in July 2016. This post got a bunch more views than most of our posts because people do tend get fired up over clickbaity claims that their old junk is worth megabucks. Approach such articles with the utmost caution. Nearly seven years later there are still people convinced that these things are worth something. That's the TL;DR for the following, which has been only lightly edited:
Articles have popped up recently about the value of old VHS, particularly the Disney Black Diamond editions from the 1990s. Look at these headlines.
- You May Have Hit The Jackpot If You Still Own This Disney Movie On VHS
- Disney VHS Tapes Are Selling for $500 on Ebay! How Much Are Yours Worth?
- Collectors Are Offering Large Sums Of Money For Disney VHS Tapes
- If You Have ANY Of These VHS’s, It May Be Worth OVER $10,000
etc. Guaranteed to get people’s pulses racing. Classic click-bait.
This has, apparently, been going on for years. It is typical for the internet to pick up on sensational, crazy articles and spawn dozens of clone-articles. And a few counter-arguments. An article written on eBay, from 2010, gives a lot of details and discussion on the fad:
- Why You Should Be Collecting Disney Black Diamond VHS’s.
- A long rambling discussion on reddit: Why are Beauty and The Beast VHS tapes selling for $500?
Are they valuable? …no. At least, there doesn’t seem to be any reason under the sun why anyone would pay anything significant for these Disney VHS. One issue that a lot of people point out is that these VHS may be listed for thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars on eBay, but that doesn’t mean that they actually sell for those amounts. Truth. Truth for all things – you can absolutely try to sell your used socks for megabucks, but that doesn’t make your socks worth megabucks.
- Disney’s Black Diamond VHS Tapes Are Worth Thousands-Fiction!
- Is Your Dumb VHS Copy of Beauty and the Beast Worth $10,000? (No)
[2023 edit: I'm gonna briefly paraphrase a longer section I had here - On eBay, you can check the recently sold listings, and at the time of writing in 2016 there were several examples of VHS apparently selling for thousands. But a listing will register as "sold" whether the sale was finalized or not. I don't know what kind of scams people are trying to run. Do yourself a favor and sort the sold listings by LOWEST to highest price!]
One poor soul thought he was going to be able to pay off a significant portion of his student debt by selling a Disney Black Diamond VHS. He started the bidding at .51 cents. He sold it for $2.01, with free shipping. In other words, he sold it AT A LOSS. Oops. One thing I’ve learned: if you really do want to sell something on eBay for tens of thousands, make it a Buy It Now with a Make An Offer button. Maybe you’ll catch your one rich idiot. But everybody and their mother are trying this – eBay is a-swarm with these VHS. Rare? Not according to the sheer numbers listed on eBay. I don’t know why some VHS have sold for megabucks. Rich people who have just read and believed the sensational articles? Is this all just flat-out fraudulent?
This is an extreme example of what my colleagues and I do almost every day – trying to assess value based on what is listed against what has sold. You can’t always find what a book has sold for, so you have to assess if the sellers are thinking wishfully, or whether their price-point is actually valid.
Sometimes it’s obvious but other times you have to do the research to find out if there’s any history or notoriety behind the book. One article attempts to make sense of the Disney VHS fad. Amazon has the benefit that I can judge by the sales rank (the BSR) what the level of interest might be, and therefore I don’t always need to know the story behind the book. We’ve sold some odd books on Amazon for a lot of money for no particular rhyme or reason that I can tell. On eBay, the seller has to provide all the information themselves – nothing is automatically filled out for you (2023 edit: they're better about this now if your book has an ISBN, at least). Not only do you have to (or at least should have to) describe the condition, but also edition, year, printing, author, and any description of what the book is about or who the author is. On eBay, it helps immensely to know and appreciate what you’re selling.
Yesterday I stopped at the thrift store and found a Black Diamond edition of The Rescuers Down Under. I did not buy it. One copy on eBay appears to have sold for $425…. but mostly copies are selling for under $10. If I had bought it to resell, I could only hope to maybe break even after time spent physically dealing with the thing.
Do you have a bunch of these stashed away? Will you keep your eye out at thrift stores and garage sales? Can you imagine why anyone in their right mind would pay more than $10 for any of these? Even IF these Black Diamond editions were super rare, would you bother paying so much? Books I can understand some of the insanity…. but VHS, let’s face it, are just defunct media.
People are weird.
In 2023, people are very still weird. Since sort of reluctantly joing TikTok a year ago, I have found any number of fascinating individuals with very impressive collections of LP records, cassette tapes, and yes, even VHS. I'll be the first to admit that all of these defunct media tech can have their charms, and it does make for an entertaining minute or two to watch someone talk about something they're so enthusiastic about...