15 Most Expensive VHS Tapes
VHS tapes became available in the United States in 1977, following a successful reveal in Japan, and it didn’t take long for home video technology to take the world by storm. Thousands of homeowners jumped at the chance to bring their favorite films to their televisions for an affordable price, amassing substantial VHS libraries during the 1980s and 1990s.
Now, collectors have begun to take an interest in VHS tapes in another way — not to watch but to preserve — especially sealed VHS tapes. Because many home video enthusiasts opened their tapes to watch after buying them, still-sealed VHS tapes are hard to come by. Collectors who come across sealed VHS tapes usually send them to be graded by companies like CGC Home Video™ to protect their condition.
Grading also affords some VHS tapes a premium price at auction. In fact, many sealed and graded VHS tapes have demanded five or six figures in recent auctions! To track the rising popularity of VHS collecting, we’ve put together a list of the most expensive VHS tapes based on recent auction prices. Pay attention — if you have any of these in your basement, it may be worth getting them graded!
Without further ado, here is our list of the most expensive VHS tapes!
15 Most Expensive VHS Tapes
15. Halloween II - $15,000
The first VHS tape on our list is Halloween II, the sequel to the 1976 horror film Halloween. The film picks up right where its predecessor left off, with Laurie Strode being transported to the hospital after her encounter with Michael Myers, an escapee serial killer who is set to be incarcerated for murdering several people around the city. Meanwhile, Doctor Loomis continues his hunt for Michael, who seems to be after Laurie once again…
Although Halloween II was a box office success, it received mixed reviews from viewers and critics alike. It received its first home video release on VHS in 1981. Very few videocassettes of Halloween II are still sealed, so they are very rare and valuable to collectors. A sealed and graded copy realized $15,000 in a Heritage Auctions sale on October 31, 2022 (on Halloween!).
14. A Nightmare on Elm Street - $15,000
A Nightmare on Elm Street had just about everyone scared of their own beds in 1984, and for good reason. The slasher-horror film tells of a group of teenagers who are tortured and murdered in their dreams by Freddy Kreuger, a vengeful spirit of a serial killer who was once murdered by his older peers. The film was such a major success that it is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, and it was even selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry.
In case seeing Freddy Kreuger slashing up his victims in theaters wasn’t enough, Media Home Entertainment introduced A Nightmare on Elm Street on home video in 1985 on VHS and Laserdisc. Horror film fans jumped at the chance to bring their favorite thriller home and sales skyrocketed. Original copies of the first release of A Nightmare on Elm Street are becoming hot in the collecting community. One sealed and graded VHS copy sold for $15,000 on October 31, 2022.
13. Back to the Future: Part II - $16,250
Marty McFly and Doc returned to the big screen in a direct sequel to Back to the Future, a wildly successful science-fiction film released in 1985. The movie takes place right where Back to the Future left off, with Marty, his girlfriend and Doc traveling to the distant future (2015) to prevent Marty’s future son from sabotaging the family’s future.
Although not as popular as its predecessor, Back to the Future: Part II was still considered a commercial and critical success. The film was praised for further pushing visual effects to their limits, as well as implementing a motion control camera system developed by ILM (Industrial Light & Magic). All in all, Back to the Future: Part II is a popular choice for collectors, and a graded VHS copy sold for $16,250 in a lot that included a personal, handwritten note to Tom Wilson, who played the movie’s antagonist.
12. Disney / Pixar’s Cars - $16,280
In 2006, Pixar released their newest film, Cars — a story about a hot-headed racecar who learns humility and compassion when he becomes stranded in a country town on the way to a climactic race. The film was a commercial and critical success, becoming the second-highest grossing animated film of 2006 behind Ice Age: The Meltdown. Cars won several awards, including an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature in 2006.
By 2006, the popularity of VHS home video releases was declining rapidly as homeowners turned their attention to DVD. Disney made the switch to DVD home video releases around this time as well. However, members of the Disney Home Video Club were treated to an exclusive VHS release of Cars in 2007. Because Cars’ VHS release was so limited and exclusive, it is very elusive on the secondary market and one of the most expensive VHS tapes online. A Cars VHS sold for $16,280 in an eBay sale on August 11, 2023.
11. Top Gun (Pepsi Promo) - $17,500
Top Gun was released in theaters on May 16, 1986. In the movie, a naval aviator and a radar intercept officer are given the chance to train at the United States Navy’s Fighter Weapons School following the resignation of another officer. Fans fell in love with the inspirational film, and it became the highest-grossing domestic film of 1986, bringing in $357 million in theaters globally.
Fans eagerly awaited a home video release of the record-breaking film and were shocked when the price was revealed: a mere $26.95, the lowest-priced VHS release at the time. It was also the best-selling VHS in the industry’s history on pre-orders alone, with over 1.9 million units ordered before the home video's release in 1987.
Part of Top Gun’s home video release’s success is owed to a massive $8 million marketing campaign. The campaign included a commercial from Diet Pepsi, who aired a Top Gun-themed advertisement. In addition, a special Diet Pepsi promo version of the VHS was released with new box art. This version of the VHS release is significantly rarer than the other home video releases and demands a premium. A graded copy of the Top Gun Diet Pepsi Promo VHS realized $17,500 on June 9, 2022.
10. The Return of the Living Dead - $18,750
The Return of the Living Dead is a classic among comedy, horror and zombie enthusiasts. The movie is known for introducing several popular concepts to the zombie genre, including zombies eating brains and being invulnerable to gunshots. It was a critical success that spawned four sequels and a large cult following.
Though the VHS release of The Return of the Living Dead isn’t exactly elusive, finding a sealed copy in exceptional condition is nearly impossible. When one such certified copy entered the market in October 2022, collectors went wild trying to get their hands on it. The graded copy sold for an impressive $18,750.
9. First Blood - $22,500
Following a series of failed adaptations in the 1970s, Ted Kotcheff’s 1982 version of First Blood finally brought David Morrell’s novel of the same name to the big screen. It was a box office success that became the 13th highest-grossing film of 1982. The film was also popular overseas — it sold 76 million box office tickets in China, making it the highest-grossing foreign Hollywood film until 2018.
Though First Blood received mixed reviews from critics at first, it has been re-evaluated several times and the consensus now is that First Blood was a major contributor to the action genre of film. Because of this — and the film’s continued popularity today — VHS copies of First Blood realize high prices at auction. A sealed and graded First Blood VHS sold for $22,500 in an auction on June 9, 2022.
8. Ghostbusters - $23,750
Everyone knows the best ghost-busting team in New York City! Ghostbusters is a 1984 supernatural comedy film that tells the story of three parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in the Big Apple and end up solving a few mysteries and a city-wide crisis along the way. The film starred some of the biggest actors of the 1980s, including Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver, and was directed by Ivan Reitman, one of the biggest comedy directors of the 1980s and 1990s.
Ghostbusters became more than a box office hit. The movie impressed so many that it became a cultural phenomenon. It was one of the most successful comedy films of the 1980s, grossing a total of around $295.2 million by the end of its theatrical run. The film's popularity led to the launch of a multi-billion dollar multimedia franchise, including movie sequels, an animated TV series, video games, clothing, music and more.
When Ghostbusters was released on VHS, it was priced at $79.95. It was expected to sell well but underperform because of its higher price. However, sales numbers shocked producers — Ghostbusters was the tenth best-selling VHS during its launch week in October 1985, and a record 410,000 VHS tapes were ordered. Today, original releases of the Ghostbusters VHS can go for five-figure prices in auction, making it one of the most expensive VHS tapes in the collectibles market. One certified example sold for $23,750 in a Heritage sale on June 9, 2022.
7. Rocky - $27,500
Everybody loves a good “rags to riches” tale, and Rocky certainly doesn’t disappoint. Rocky Balboa’s tale of going from a loan shark enforcer and small-time boxer to fighting in the world championships enraptured audiences across the country, and fans were eager to take the story from the big screen to their home televisions.
Luckily, they didn’t have to wait long. 20th Century Fox released the first VHS edition of Rocky in 1982. Nearly all of these VHS tapes were opened by eager fans in order to view the movie again at home. One of the only known factory-sealed copies of the 1982 Rocky VHS recently sold in a Heritage Auctions sale for $27,500 on February 17, 2023.
6. The Terminator - $32,500
In 1982, James Cameron fell sick while working on another film in Rome, Italy. While sleeping off his illness, he had a strange dream about a metallic torso dragging itself from an explosion, all the while holding a set of kitchen knives. Inspired, Cameron went on to turn this dream into a slasher-style film that ultimately culminated into the 1984 classic we know as The Terminator.
Orion Pictures originally did not have faith that The Terminator would perform well in theaters. This expectation was contradicted in the best way — in its opening weekend, the film grossed $4 million and hit number one in the box office. By the end of its run in theaters, The Terminator had made $78.3 million worldwide.
When it was released on VHS and Betamax in 1985, The Terminator reached number 4 on the sales charts by its second week on shelves. Back then, a VHS retailed for around $60. Nowadays, a first print VHS copy of The Terminator can sell for much, much more. One first print VHS sold for a massive $32,500 on ComicConnect in February 2022!
5. Jaws - $32,500
What do you get when you present Steven Spielberg and award-winning composer John Williams with a script about a killer shark? A box office blockbuster! Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean; a feat that is considered a turning point in film history. Jaws was also the highest-grossing film of all time for two years after its 1975 release — Star Wars blew it out of the water two years later in 1977.
Despite its critical reception in theaters and beyond, Jaws almost bankrupted Spielberg and his crew. The film went massively over budget because of filming issues and prop difficulties. Luckily, it all worked out, and the film made it to theaters and, later, home video. In 1980, MCA Home Video released the first VHS edition of Jaws, so audiences could finally enjoy the movie at home. Over 40 years later, Jaws has become one of the most expensive VHS tapes of all time. A sealed 1983 copy of Jaws sold for $32,500 in a Heritage sale on June 9, 2022.
4. The Thing - $37,500
John Carpenter’s The Thing is famously known for having crashed and burned during its theatrical release, and then rising from the ashes as a cult classic. The film tells a story of American researchers in Antarctica who come across an extraterrestrial life form, which they nickname “The Thing.” The Thing can impersonate other life forms and causes chaos and deaths among the group in its attempts to escape and wreak havoc on Earth. As the group fights The Thing, they become distrustful of each other, which eventually causes their relationships and efforts to subdue The Thing to self-destruct.
While this type of horror and thriller may have been appealing to audiences on its own, The Thing unfortunately had E.T. to compete with — its polar opposite in terms of themes and plotline. Because E.T. came out first and captured the hearts of fans, The Thing was left with negative reviews and bashing from critics. It also faced an audience that was living through a recession and who was not in the mood for themes of betrayal and doubt.
Luckily for The Thing, home video gave the movie a second chance. When The Thing was released on home video in 1982, it discovered a new, more open-minded audience that embraced the film’s themes. Now, The Thing is considered a classic among horror film enthusiasts, with some even going as far as to call the film John Carpenter’s finest masterpiece. It has also become one of the most expensive VHS tapes at auction, with a sealed first edition 1982 copy selling for $37,500 on October 31, 2022.
3. The Goonies - $50,000
The Goonies is a timeless classic about the adventures of a group of children, nicknamed “The Goonies,” who discover a treasure map and decide to find the treasure to save their homes from foreclosure. Its story has delighted children and adults alike for generations — so much so that the film was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2017.
The Goonies was first released on VHS in 1986 and has since seen many more home video releases on various platforms. However, none of these home video releases are more sought-after than the original 1986 release. Collectors are willing to put down a lot of money to own a still-sealed copy of the first release of The Goonies on VHS — a fact demonstrated by the staggering amount of money a graded copy realized in 2022. A sealed and certified copy of The Goonies on VHS sold for $50,000 in a Heritage Auctions sale on June 9, 2022.
2. Back to the Future - $75,000
The ultimate time-travel film, Back to the Future is one of the most beloved movies of its era. The 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd is a celebrated classic that tells the story of Marty McFly, a teenager who is accidentally sent back in time and, in the process, prevents his future parents from falling in love. To preserve his existence, Marty must somehow get his parents back together while also finding a way to return to the future.
Back to the Future was such a critical success that it became the highest-grossing film of 1985 worldwide, with over $381 million in the box office. The film has only grown in esteem over the years, and it is now considered one of the greatest science-fiction films and one of the best films ever made. Along with being preserved in the National Film Registry, Back to the Future has spawned two sequels, a multimedia franchise and a widespread fanbase that remains active to this day.
Following a successful theatrical release, Back to the Future was released on VHS in 1986. Homeowners could either rent it or buy it for themselves for $79.95 — a higher price for a videocassette at the time. Despite its high price point, Back to the Future became the first film to sell 450,000 units at that price point and became the most-rented cassette in 1986. The film’s continued popularity has only made the value of Back to the Future on VHS rise with time, until now, when it has become one of the most expensive VHS tapes out there. A sealed and graded copy of Back to the Future sold through Heritage Auctions for a staggering $75,000 on June 9, 2022.
1. Star Wars: A New Hope - $114,000
Regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, Star Wars: A New Hope revolutionized science-fiction films with cutting-edge special effects and world-building that influenced generations of film enthusiasts. The movie tells the story of the Rebellion against the oppressive regime of the Galactic Empire — a tale full of action-packed combat. The George Lucas film was such a major success that it ran in theaters for a full year and grossed over $775 million at the box office.
Unfortunately, Star Wars’ home video release wasn’t nearly as smooth as its theatrical debut. Fearing competition with Laserdisc technology and rising box office sales, 20th Century Fox delayed Star Wars’ release on VHS as long as it was able, opting instead to release smaller clips through various media products. When audiences requested a true home media release, Fox responded by finally releasing a VHS of the film in 1981… for rental only.
This decision caused chaos for Fox — video rental stores violated rental agreements, offering instead to sell the rental VHS to customers for upwards of $100 for a “lifetime” rental. Other copies of the tape mysteriously went missing, and pirated copies of Star Wars increased. Fox eventually had no choice but to offer an official retail VHS release of Star Wars in 1982 to appease the hungry fanbase.
The first release of Star Wars on VHS is, by far, the most expensive VHS tape on our list. Consumers eagerly bought VHS copies of the space drama when it came to retail shelves, and many of them opened the film right then to watch at home. Finding a sealed copy of the first release of Star Wars on VHS is next to impossible. And when one example sold through Goldin on October 29, 2022, it went for an incredible $114,000.
Since revolutionizing comic book grading in 2000, CGC has grown to include certification services for many other types of pop culture collectibles. These divisions include CGC Cards, CGC Video Games and CGC Home Video. CGC Cards provides expert card grading for TCGs, sports cards and non-sports cards. CGC Video Games is dedicated to video game grading for the most popular consoles, including Nintendo, Sega, Atari, PlayStation and more. The newest division of CGC, CGC Home Video, provides expert VHS grading in addition to other types of videocassettes.