A Guide to Buying Used Vintage Video

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A Guide to Buying Used Vintage Video

Good movies have a way of capturing the imagination and staying with the viewer long after the end credits roll. Many people remember a time when a particular movie inspired them, comforted them, or made them laugh. A viewer may have an emotional attachment to certain movies because of the friends or family members with whom they shared the movie experience. However, in some cases, people are just nostalgic for the video formats they watched as children. Many have memories of watching ‘Star Wars’ for the first time on VHS, or the ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on LaserDisc. It is this nostalgia that inspires many to collect used vintage videos.

There are two popular types of used vintage video: LaserDisc and VHS tape. For those seeking to assemble a collection of vintage video for the first time or those looking to add to their treasure trove of vintage video, is important for the collector to familiarise themselves with the storied histories of these two formats. They should also know how to search eBay’s extensive listings for used vintage video titles and vintage video machines, and how to properly store and maintain a used vintage video collection.


LaserDiscs actually preceded video cassettes in the video market. LaserDiscs were large, flat discs, similar in size to vinyl records. The LaserDisc format was the first video medium to be designed for home use.

History of the LaserDisc

LaserDisc debuted in the North American market in 1978, but it failed to catch on with North American consumers. In Europe and Australia, few people used it, preferring the more durable and more affordable VHS tapes. LaserDiscs offered better quality in both audio and video when compared to VHS. However, consumers still chose the tough, affordable, and compact video cassette over the more expensive LaserDisc.

In Japan and other Asian countries, the story was very different. LaserDiscs proved very popular in Asian markets. During the 1990s, when citizens of Hong Kong wanted to rent a movie, they rented it on LaserDisc, not VHS. LaserDiscs were also widely used in Malaysia and Singapore.

Successors to the LaserDisc

Video cassettes would eventually edge LaserDiscs out of the home video market. However, the technology that would eventually overthrow VHS represented a return to the disc. The current DVD and Blu-ray video formats can trace their lineage back to LaserDisc technology.

Collecting LaserDiscs

People collect vintage LaserDiscs for a number of different reasons. They may like LaserDiscs because of the formats cover art, the video and audio quality, or the rarity of the format.

Cover Art

The cover art on LaserDiscs is larger than that on a video cassette cases or DVD cases. LaserDisc movie cover art can make for beautiful wall art. LaserDisc aficionados often frame LaserDisc cover art and display these farmed covers on walls. Collectors often mount a series of narrow shelves and display their LaserDiscs with the covers facing outward.

Video and Audio Quality

As previously mentioned, LaserDiscs offer superior audio quality when compared to VHS tapes. Some vintage movies that are not yet available on DVD or Blu-ray may be available in both VHS and LaserDisc formats. In such cases, movie fans would probably want to own the LaserDisc of that particular movie, since the quality of the soundtrack on LaserDisc is better than the VHS version.

Rare LaserDiscs

LaserDiscs are generally sold only by specialty stores. They can also be found online and purchased from number of different auction websites, like eBay, and other websites specialising in vintage video. LaserDisc aficionados often commit days or weeks to tracking down a coveted and especially rare title to add to their collections. People collect LaserDiscs, not because they are better than modern video formats like Blu-ray, they’re not, as far as quality is concerned, but because of the excitement that comes with chasing down a particularly rare LaserDisc title and the thrill of satisfaction that comes when they obtain it.

Obtaining a LaserDisc Player

Of course, to fully enjoy a LaserDisc collection, a collector must have a LaserDisc player. Today, these players are rare, but they can be found in vintage shops that specialise in vintage electronics, and online. Currently, the prices on functioning LaserDisc players are a little high, but still manageable for most collectors. However, as the years pass and replacement parts for these old players become rarer still, the number of working LaserDisc players shrink, and the prices rise. If a buyer has just begun to build a LaserDisc collection and does not yet have a player, they should consider purchasing one as soon as possible. One of the top brands of LaserDisc players is Pioneer. Their players were more advanced for their time and usually last for a years under moderate use.

Establishing a Theme for the Collection

Collecting LaserDiscs can be much more fun if an owner establishes a theme for their collection. It helps to focus the collection. Collectors might choose a particular span of years and collect movies released within that time period. They might opt to source tiles from a genre like westerns, horror movies or science fiction. They could also choose to collect only special editions, or all the movies featuring a specific actor, or only movies from the Criterion Collection, which were released between 1984 and 1998.

Preventing Laser Rot

Laser rot begins to afflict LaserDiscs as they age. LaserDiscs suffering from laser rot skip during playback. The user also has difficulty in accessing chapters. Laser rot also gives the images a speckled and spotted appearance. Sometimes a collector thinks that when they see spots on the screen, the LaserDisc has laser rot, when in reality it is the imperfections in the original 35mm film master that have been transferred to the disc. In this case, the LaserDisc may be in perfect condition, but the medium used to create it was damaged. To avoid true laser rot, users should store their collections in dry, dust-free environments They should always keep LaserDiscs in their original sleeves and store them high up where they are less likely to be disturbed and damaged.


Videotapes or cassettes are often referred to as VHS tapes. VHS stands for Video Home System. The VHS format was developed in 1976 and moved into standard use by the 1980s. VHS tapes enjoyed a brief period in the limelight until they were outsold by DVDs in 2003. Nearly all studios had switched to DVDs as their main home video release format by 2006.

Availability of Videotapes

VHS tapes are still widely available, and many are available at extremely low prices. As more consumers make the switch from DVDs to Blu-rays, they have had to get rid of their old stocks of VHS tapes. Buyers can find them at garage sales, in charity shops, and bargain bins in consumer electronics shops. These tapes, once the standard for home cinema collections, would be obsolete were it not for those that avidly collect VHS tapes.

Storing and Caring for Videotapes

Videotapes need to be stored at room temperature, between between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius. The humidity in the room should fall somewhere between 40 and 60 percent. Any higher, and the tapes could suffer damage from the moisture in the air. Hot attics and dank basements are not ideal locations for storing vintage videotapes.

VHS tapes do not react well to abrupt changes in temperature. The switch from hot to cold and back again can cause condensation on the tape. If the tape is played while there is moisture on it, the tape itself could become damaged. If the VHS tapes are exposed to sudden temperature or humidity changes, they should be allowed to dry out for a full 24 hours before they are played again.

When the movie is over, a user should rewind the tape back to the beginning. They should use a slower rewind speed to preserve film quality. If a videotape has not been played in a few years, the user should insert it into their VHS player and allow the tape to fast-forward and then rewind. This keeps the tape in optimum condition and prevents the tape from becoming stuck.

Videotapes should be kept upright in the original case. They can be stored standing vertically in a box, or they can be vertically displayed on a shelf. However, if they are displayed, a collector should take the steps necessary to keep the tapes free of dust.

Collecting Videotapes

A collector of videotapes should have a monthly budget for their hobby, plus a little extra cash on hand should they happen across a very rare VHS tape. A collector should also set standards or criteria so that they can judge whether or not a particular tape is in good enough shape to be part of their collection.


Buyers should always check or test the videotape before buying it. Often, the level of wear evident on the outside of the VHS tape can provide clues to the condition of the tape inside. If the cassette looks a little worse for wear and has a well-worn label, it has probably been played many times and the tape may not have much life left in it. However, the only way to truly test the condition of the tape within the videotape cassette is to slip it in a VCR and watch it. This may not be possible if the buyer is shopping online on eBay. In such cases, the buyer should check the seller’s feedback ratings. If their feedback rating is high, it means that the seller can be counted on to deliver quality merchandise every time. The buyer should ask the seller about their individual return policy in the event that the tape that arrives by post does not work.

Picture Quality

The picture quality from VHS is just not comparable to a contemporary format like DVD. Depending on when the movie was transferred from the original film master to VHS, it may have an almost old film look and sound, complete with occasional pops, specks, and scratches. However, collectors often appreciate these minor imperfections. It is evidence of a vintage format.


When DVDs came to market in the late 1990s, their sales numbers quickly oustripped those of videotapes. Many companies began transferring movies from VHS to DVDs and re-releasing them to the public. However, some say that only about half of the movies released on VHS are currently available on DVD. The remaining half are available only on VHS. Many collectors take it upon themselves to preserve these movies from being lost forever.

Obtaining a VCR

A collector needs a VCR (video cassette recorder) to play their videotapes. Since households have moved beyond VHS tapes for the most part, many VCRs are available at low prices. The availability of VCRs, as well as replacement parts and repairs for VCRs, likely continues as long as there is sufficient demand for the format.

Buying Used Vintage Video on eBay

If you are interested in collecting used vintage video such as VHS tapes or LaserDiscs, you may find some rare and interesting titles in local antique shops, thrift stores, or video stores. However, you should head online and view eBay’s broad selection of vintage video titles. Start your search on the homepage by typing ‘VHS tapes’ or ‘LaserDiscs’ into eBay’s search bar. You then see hundreds of listings, which you can then sort by selecting search filters related genre, certificate, condition, price, edition, and release decade. If you would like to stay up to date with eBay’s vintage video listings, save your search and eBay emails you as new listings appear. Another place to check would be eBay Shops, a section of eBay’s website that features retail listings only and includes no auction listings.

You can ask sellers about the condition and quality of their vintage video products by clicking ‘Contact Member’ in sellers’ respective profile pages. You may want to give more consideration to a seller that is offering free shipping, a return policy, or showcasing a bundle or package deal that contains several titles at a bargain price. Look for listings posted by eBay’s Top-rated sellers. These sellers have great feedback scores, and they are likely to provide you with prompt, professional service as well as a high-quality product.


Some collectors enjoy used vintage video because they admire the quality and the history associated with these older video formats. Others may be interested in vintage video because they connect the formats with certain treasured memories. These memories may be of animated movies watched at a grandparent’s home, horror movies shared with friends, or romance movies enjoyed with a first love. Often, these memories are linked with video formats like the LaserDisc or the VHS tape. Whatever their reasons for collecting vintage video, they get more out of their collections by first establishing a theme for their collection and some selection criteria. The collector also needs to set up a budget for their hobby. However, there should be some flexibility in the collection’s budget in the event of a rare and unexpected find. With some careful investigation and smart shopping strategies, buyers should be able to locate and secure sought-after titles in marketplaces like eBay.

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