Why Do People Want Thousands of Dollars For Disney VHS Tapes on eBay?

Illustration for article titled Why Do People Want Thousands of Dollars For Disney VHS Tapes on eBay?

If you do a search for “Disney VHS” on eBay, you’ll find plenty of 1990s Disney movies to choose from. You’ll also notice something strange: a lot of people are asking for a ton of money. Literally hundreds of people are asking for more than $1,000 per tape for everything from Beauty and the Beast to The Little Mermaid. Dozens more are asking for over $10,000 per tape. One person is asking for $1.5 million for 12 Disney tapes. What’s going on here?


First things first, you’re not going to get rich from your Disney VHS collection. Literally every middle class family of the 1990s had these tapes, and unless Walt Disney’s frozen head personally signed your copy of Aladdin, its street value is roughly $1.50 at your local Goodwill. So why are so many people asking for outlandish prices on eBay?

It all started with an article in the Tech Times that was published back in May of this year. The provocative title “You May Have Hit the Jackpot If You Still Own This Disney Movie on VHS,” certainly caught plenty of attention and it spread like wildfire from there. Even respected news outlets around the world like the Sydney Morning Herald were tricked into reporting on this non-story recently.

The original article and subsequent viral articles that followed looked at eBay listings for Beauty and the Beast VHS tapes from 1992, which were part of the “Black Diamond Collection.” This collection, like all of Disney’s home video releases, were only available for a limited time to preserve a kind of artificial scarcity, despite the fact that they literally sold millions of copies.

Some of the sellers on eBay from May were asking for nearly $10,000 for this “incredibly rare” version of Beauty and the Beast. The catch? Obviously they’re not so rare since they sold millions of copies. And more importantly, asking for a particularly high price on eBay isn’t the same thing as actually selling something for that price. The original article in Tech Times doesn’t seem to understand that.

It’s certainly possible that some people have gotten confused and purchased a regular, old 1990s Disney VHS tape for more than a few bucks on eBay. But that doesn’t mean you should. Unless, like I said, Mr. Disney somehow managed to put his John Hancock on the thing.

Update, August 12, 10:23am: To be clear, a handful of people really have spent absurd amounts of money on Disney tapes on eBay, as you can see from the June 3, 2016 auction below. But if you spend $18,990 on a Beauty and the Beast VHS tape there are only two possible explanations: You’re either very unwell or you’re laundering money.

Illustration for article titled Why Do People Want Thousands of Dollars For Disney VHS Tapes on eBay?

Matt Novak is a senior writer at Gizmodo and founder of Paleofuture.com. He's writing a book about the movies U.S. presidents watched at the White House, Camp David, and on Air Force One.


better red than dead

I own a comic book store. It’s bordering on tedious at this point to explain to people that their beaten-to-death ‘80s and ‘90s Marvel/DC/Image comics are worth somewhere between jack and shit. I know that hologram cover was special, man, so special that they made eight billion of them.

(Whereas those Magic Beta cards they tried out in high school then tossed after they got a driver’s license are worth ridiculous amounts.)