The fascination and collecting habits of diggin for old Big Box VHS tapes falls into a similar lane as those who dig for dusty 45′s. Both can be common or rare and just like most 45′s have never been reissued, many of these tapes have never seen a DVD or legitimate release, but rather 42nd Street type bootleg issues. Both were released by obscure labels who had very short runs, no longer exist, sometimes ownership of these works are in doubt and both can be highly collectible and expensive hobbies. DJ’s often collect more than just records and have passions for other things based on nostalgia, rarity, cool factor or plain and simple they have it and you don’t. In the case of the Big Box VHS it’s all of the above plus the fact that it often has great cover artwork to be displayed, the film is a blaxploitation gem and if you’ve got the soundtrack why not have the film?
We caught up with a long time Hot Peas and Butta supporter, Wax Poetics writer and contributor Mark Randolph aka Blax who isn’t a DJ but a lover of the funk and a true historian of Black culture and it’s cinematic works that defined a generation of people, Hollywood and Hip Hop to ask him for a few tips on collecting.
Why collect this format?
I began collecting big box VHS tapes simply because I love the artwork. They generally had the same artwork as the theatrical posters or a funky derivative of it. I saw it as a naturally progression of the blaxploitation ephemera I collect as well.
What do you look for when collecting?
The art has to have “visual pop”. No photographic covers at all. It has to be hand rendered like the original posters or lobby cards.
Does a movie have to be good for it to be highly collectible?
When buying and collecting blaxploitation ephemera in general, the quality of the film and the quality of the related artwork is often mutually exclusive. Some of the worst of the genre has amazing artwork accompanying it.
How much is too much to pay?
Like most collectibles, how much an item is worth depends on how much someone is willing to pay. If pressed, I would say when a particular tape approaches 3 figures, you should proceed with caution.
What’s the difference between a Big Box and Clamshell? Is there a difference in value or collectibility?
The major difference between a big box and a clamshell is package design. The big box is slightly larger and constructed with a more durable plastic. It is slighty larger and generally reflected the artwork or ad campaign of the film. Clamshell were the bridge between big box and the cardboard sleeves that were, for the most part, the swan song for the VHS tape. Many library VHS tapes for rents are still of the clamshell variety. Clamshells are slighty more common because they were used to distribute tapes from larger entities such as Warner Home Video. These factors speak on both the value and collectibility of both types.
Be on the lookout for Mark’s column Diggin’ In The Tapes making it’s debut next week.