VHS may be gradually fading into obscurity, but the internet still provides a great marketplace for old tapes. And unless a video is super rare, you can find most tapes for really cheap if not for free.
It’s a great time to be a VHS collector because most people don’t care about VHS anymore. They have moved on to new formats. For most, all those old tapes are only taking up space, and their VCRs probably stopped working years ago. Now they just want to get rid of them. Luckily, the internet makes it easy for collectors like us to jump in and take them off their hands.
Not all VHS tapes are cheap though. There are lots of films that were never released on anything but VHS. These rarities obviously will cost more. But again, the internet makes finding these gems relatively easy.
Below are what I consider to be the best methods for finding VHS tapes online
This one is obvious. Amazon has a huge selection at great prices and a buyer satisfaction guarantee. Another great thing about Amazon is how incredibly organized their catalog is. There are 26 different movie genres to choose from (including Fantasy, Science Fiction, Foreign, etc) and each has its own subgenres like Martial Arts under Action and Slasher Movies under Horror. You can further refine your search by franchise, actor, director, decade, customer rating, price and condition. Looking for ’90s sci-fi movies starring Jeff Goldblum? Here you go.
In most cases, if you’re looking for a specific movie on VHS, I’d search Amazon first. After that I’d compare prices with what I find on…
eBay is the other major source for VHS online. I would guess that more VHS is sold on eBay than anywhere else, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, their selection is pretty much limitless. While Amazon is mostly limited to films released commercially at some point, eBay offers anything from obscure bootleg recordings to big boxes of random tapes. Of course, the availability of any item depends on when you look and how much you’re willing to bid.
Their categorization is not quite as deep as Amazon’s with only 18 film genres to choose from, but you can further refine your search by rating, edition, signal standard, price and condition. Use PayPal and your purchase will be protected by a satisfaction guarantee.
You can view and subscribe to a feed of the most recently listed VHS tapes on eBay here.
Half.com is basically eBay’s version of Amazon. It has a VHS section, although the selections seems somewhat limited compared to Amazon or eBay. Prices are good though, and they offer free shipping on VHS that’s $3.99 or less!
Robert Ligtermoet has been in business for 17 years and specializes in rare movies and TV shows. He has a large catalog of rare VHS available on his site, and if you can’t find something there he can try and track it down it for you. The website is somewhat minimal, but I personally emailed Robert through his contact page and he responded very quickly. If you’re looking for something rare then Robert’s Hard to Find Videos is a great option.
Started in 1985, Moviecraft is a film archive with a large catalog of archival films available on VHS. Most of the films are from the ’50s and earlier. They have some pretty interesting categories to browse through, including Saturday morning kids shows, cartoon rarities, classic commercials, burlesque, game shows, soap operas, and newsreels. Again, the website is fairly minimal, but the owner responded promptly when I emailed him. If you’re looking for older archival film elements on VHS then Moviecraft is where you should look.
Craigslist has online classified ads for a whole bunch of things including VHS tapes. Some posters will ask for money but others are just trying to get rid of them. Chances of find a specific tape are pretty low, but it’s a good place to browse for stuff to add to your collection. Keep in mind you’ll probably have to leave your house and meet with someone in the real world for this option.
There are several other classified ads sites besides craigslist, but none are nearly as active. They’re worth a try though if you need to do an exhaustive search. I did a test search for VHS on Geebo and Oodle and did find a few offers in my area. You could try Recycler, adoos, and Hoobly as well, but I had less luck finding anything on those.
Freecycle is a nonprofit network of people giving and receiving items for free in an effort to stop unnecessary waste. It’s kind of like craigslist in that people post local offers and requests, but everything is required to be free. As I mentioned in the intro, lots of people are looking to give away their old tapes, and Freecycle is a great way to find them. The first week I joined I snatched up a free VCR with remote just 5 minutes for where I work!
I personally like to look for people giving away big boxes of tapes. You never know what gems you might find in there. I especially love finding old TV recordings. Some of these have content, like TV specials and live events, that have never been released anywhere else. Bonus points if you can find tapes with the commercials intact too. It’s basically nostalgia porn.
You can actually find a lot of fellow VHS collectors on Facebook. Just search for “VHS” under Groups and you’ll get quite a few results. Here are some of the top groups:
- Cheap VHS For Sale!!! – “This group is intended for each of us to be able to offer our friends CHEAP VHS commons to help fill our collections.” The rule is that prices must be kept between $1 to $3 per tape.
- VHS MISFITS ~ IRONFIST VHS BLISS! – “VHS MISFITS are a group of collectors from every walk of life that love HORROR and SLEAZE movies and BEYOND. We dig on VHS, BETA, BATA, PAL, SECAM, SUPER 8MM, STANDARD 8MM, WARPED OCCULT MAGAZINES, VINTAGE SLEAZE PUBLICATIONS, HORROR MAGS, HORROR COMICS AND UNDERGROUND COMIX, vcd’s.”
- Horror VHS Collectors Unite! – As seen in the VHS Culture documentary Adjust Your Tracking. This group is for images and discussions about horror VHS tapes. It is not meant to be a place for buying or selling, but you may do so at your own risk. The group also holds an annual VHS convention and swap meet every spring at the Sherman Theater, Stroudsburg PA.
There are a few VHS trading groups on there, but most are pretty much dead. VHS-Trade is the only group that has any recent activity. At best, I’d say that if you were looking for a recording of something and couldn’t find it anywhere else, might as well post to the group and see what happens. It’d be a longshot, but hey, you never know.
Update: The VHS TRADE Yahoo Group is virtually 100% spam now. I wouldn’t bother with it at this point.
Any Other Suggestions?
So, those are my top recommendations. Do you guys have any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading! Hope you find these tips helpful. By making use of all the links above you should have stacks and stacks of tapes right at your fingertips!