May 28, 2016
Remember that "Beauty and the Beast" VHS tape you watched over and over again as a kid in the early '90s? You know, the one that came in the clamshell case that Disney used to package all of its animated films.
Well, that same VHS tape is being listed on EBay for $18,990. Several other Disney animated features – including "The Little Mermaid," "Cinderella" and "101 Dalmations" – also are being listed for thousands of dollars. Yes, thousands.
Before you go digging through your parents' basement in search of those childhood relics, know this – it does not appear that many VHS tapes actually fetch that cash, even if they contain the original shrink wrapping.
But there is a market.
"There's a whole VHS community," said Neal Moore, who works at CeX, an entertainment exchange store on South Street. "Nobody is out looking for "Casino" on VHS. They want that more obscure stuff."
That, to some extent, includes classic Disney films, released for a limited time before Disney stashed them back inside its infamous vault.
But $18,990 for "Beauty and the Beast?" That's the "Buy It Now" price on one "Black Diamond edition" of the VHS, released in 1992.
The Black Diamond, found on the spine of the case, denoted Disney's "Classics" collection. It was included on 18 Disney animated features when they were first released to VHS format between 1988 and 1993. "Aladdin" was the last film to be released with a Black Diamond.
But while one eBay user paid $9,000 for a pair of "Beauty and the Beast" Black Diamond tapes – and three others spent at least $250 for a single tape – most copies seemingly sell between $5 and $25. Other popular films, such as "The Little Mermaid" and "Robin Hood," fall within a similar range. Naturally, sealed tapes tend to go for a little more.
Tom Barbano, owner of Beaux Vintage (formerly Beaux Arts Video) in Center City, surmised nostalgia drives a lot of VHS purchases. It harkens people back to the days when they regularly went to video stores on weekends, he said.
"There were a lot of connections people made going into the video store," Barbano said. "It was a big social thing. They had a common interest in movies."
Barbano has not had any customers specifically inquire about Disney VHS tapes, but he said VHS collectors are among his most loyal customers. They also spend the longest amount of time in his store, poring over old tapes.
"It's something that makes them smile and brings them back to when they were young," Barbano said. "You see people stop and look at vintage stuff. It puts a smile on their face."
Many VHS collectors seek films that are no longer available on any other format, Moore said. Others purchase old VHS tapes because they like the cover art.
For instance, the original cover art featured on "The Little Mermaid" has gained notoriety for a castle spire that some believe looks a little like something else.
"Cover art is a huge deal," Moore said.
Apparently, that's especially true if that Disney binding cover includes a Black Diamond.