3 Things That You Can Do With Old VHS Tapes

It’s astounding to see just how many different formats we’ve all gone through in the previous couple of decades. And the passing of the torch appears to be coming more quickly and quickly as time goes on.

For instance, the age of VHS lasted for decades; while CDs and DVDs became obsolete far quicker.

Still, the fact that VHS was the reigning king of multimedia content for decades means one thing — we’ve all probably got tons of old VHS tapes laying around the house.

And even if you were born well after the downfall of VCRs and their tapes; your parents probably have a lot of them stashed somewhere around the house. So, what are you supposed to do with those tapes?

Of course, they may carry a lot of sentimental value — and there could even be personal content on some of them that you don’t want to throw away.

But there are ways of backing up VHS content — and after that, there’s pretty much no reason to keep the tapes themselves. Considering this — will give you some advice on what to do with these obsolete tapes!

Can You Throw Them Away?

Seeing as VHS tapes were pretty much the primary multimedia format for decades — you can imagine just how many of these were produced. And no, we have no concrete idea on how many of these exist.

There are some individual data for select countries; for instance, the Danish government had some estimates where more than 10 million tapes were sold only in that country on an annual basis.

And then you can picture just how many of these were produced and marketed in larger countries across the globe. Just thinking about all of that plastic that now serves no purpose is scary from an environmental standpoint.

And that also means that getting rid of old VHS tapes is not as simple as just throwing them out with the rest of the garbage. All audio, Betamax, and VHS tapes almost always had a plastic casing; meaning that they’re supposed to be recycled. However, that’s not where the complexities of this matter end.

The nature and the structure of the VHS cassette mean that you can’t simply throw all of them out — you would cause immense pollution that way. That’s because not every part of the tape is made from the same material.

When it comes to the insides of the tape, these are created from a different plastic material that you can’t recycle. Plus, the magnetic part of the tapes is coated with a metal that can be toxic.

However, the tapes themselves won’t represent too much of an issue as long as you don’t allow them to start breaking down. Once they do, though; they will contain more than enough toxicity to be classified as e-waste.

And in turn, that also means that you can’t dump them in any random landfill; after all, such metals will start leaking out of the dump, and they will surely contaminate the surrounding soil and water.

Don’t worry, though — we’ll let you know all about recycling your old VHS tapes. But before that — we’ll ensure that you can convert all of the content from the VHS tapes to a digital format; making sure that you safely use anything that you have on them.

Converting the Content from VHS Tapes To a Digital Format

Of course, if you’ve kept only commercial VHS tapes; then there’s no real need to digitize the content found on those. After all, chances are that you can cheaply find those movies, tv shows, or concerts online in a much higher resolution these days.

But let’s face it — this is far from the only thing that VHS tapes were used for.

There are plenty of examples of weddings, home videos, and all other kinds of valuable and unique content that you just can’t find anywhere else online. And preserving this is a priority even if you want to get rid of the actual tapes that they’re on.

Luckily, there are ways of converting the content found on the VHS tapes into digital files that any computer can ready. And apart from ensuring that you don’t lose any of those videos; you can also create a tear-jerking gift for your loved ones!

Now, the easiest way of performing this conversion is to simply send these tapes to a local video store; chances are that they’ve got a service that could perform the conversion for you.

This is the route that requires the least possible effort from you; in this situation, you don’t have to do anything yourself.

Still, there are situations where you may want to save a few bucks; seeing as these services will charge you a lot more for this conversion than you’d have to spend to do it yourself.

With that in mind; we’ll also present you with some ways of doing this yourself.

What You Will Require

So, you’ve dug up all of the old home VHS tapes that you’d like to convert.

The only question now is — what will you need to do this?

There are a couple of tools and devices that you’re likely to need:

  1. Your VCR; if you haven’t got a VCR of your own, find the cheapest one that you can. Luckily, they aren’t expensive in 2021 — and pretty much any VCR that you find will do the trick. It just has to contain an audio and video composite jack; something that a majority of the models will have.
  2. A USB video converter — you will find that there are more than a few video converters available on the market today. They don’t cost a lot either; the most affordable versions won’t set you back anything more than 30 bucks. Still, if you want to achieve the best possible results and conversion quality; it’s not always a good idea to go with the cheapest option. Consider something that has good software support, excellent build quality, and a convenient setup.
  3. A laptop or computer with a free USB port.

Now, in terms of your computer; each of these USB video converters tends to have its system requirements. However, the good news is that they’re rarely anything too heavy for the average user.

Most of them will run on a machine that has Windows 7 or above. And finally — the only other commodity that you need to keep in mind is time.

After all, you will need to have a few hours to spend on this; depending on the tapes that you’ll be converting and their length.

Preparing For the Conversion

Seeing as you’ve gathered all of the stuff that you’ll need to successfully complete the conversion; the only thing left is to connect all of these into a coherent whole.

  1. Take a look at the USB video converter that you’ve bought, and check the instructions to find what the converter software is. Then, find it online and download it onto your PC or Mac.
  2. Connect the VCR and the computer via the USB device. In order to do this, you hook up the USB port of the converter to your computer — and then use a composite cable to attach it to the VCR on the other end. Remember — these are those yellow, white, and red cables.

Starting the Conversion

Now that everything is ready, you may commence the conversion:

  1. Make the necessary preparations in the converter’s software suite; these are usually just a couple of clicks, though the menus themselves are specific to the exact software that the converter uses.
  2. Rewind your VHS tape to the beginning using the VCR; or to the point from which you’d like to convert the video if you don’t want the whole thing. Then, simultaneously play the tape on the VCR and press the record option on the computer.
  3. With this, the conversion process has begun. Bear in mind that it runs in real-time, so you’ll have to wait for the entire contents of the tape to run out in order for the content to be converted. However, the process will not require any further input from you until the conversion is done, so you can easily go and just do other stuff while this happens. That being said, you may want to watch the conversion if the tape is damaged, just so you know which parts weren’t salvaged.

This is basically it — as you can see, the process isn’t too difficult at all. And best of all — a majority of software suites for video converters will allow you to make further alterations to the software.

For instance; you can trim the video in specific parts and edit out stuff that you don’t deem important. And once you’re done with everything and you’ve got the exact recording that you want — the converter will provide you with a .mp4 or .avi video file.

After that, you can do whatever you want with it; backing it up somewhere or uploading it to YouTube is always a good idea.

This is an excellent thing to do, seeing as you can rest easy knowing that all of your personal videos won’t be lost with the degradation of the VCR tapes; instead, they’ll be safely digitized and potentially kept forever.

Of course, we do recommend using a cloud service or backing up these tapes to multiple devices. Though hard drivers are a much more dependable storage medium than VHS tapes; they still sometimes fail as well.

Recycling Old Tapes

Now that you’ve backed up all of the VHS tapes that are meaningful to you — the question is, what do you do with the actual physical tapes?

As we’ve outlined above, you can’t just throw them out — they need to be recycled. And unfortunately, they aren’t an easily recyclable item either. Because their magnetic strip can be toxic, they’re treated differently.

Your best bet would be to find a local recycling company that specializes in recycling techno trash akin to VHS tapes; they will be able to ensure that the remains of these tapes don’t harm anyone after their disposal.

Selling Commercial VHS Tapes

While recycling your old VHS tapes is one way to get rid of them — you should also consider if you can make a couple of bucks in the process. Now, no-one will want to buy your home videos that depict your family life — that’s not something you can market to a mass audience.

However, depending on what your VHS movie collection contains; you may find that there are some true gems in there, that has become a rare and valuable commodity.

And seeing as you’re not likely to watch these on a VCR in the future; you should think about finding a collector that could get the tapes off your hands for a pretty penny.

There are plenty of memorabilia appraisers who would probably be more than happy to take a look at your collection. And if the contents are desirable, scarce, and rare enough — you will be able to earn a few bucks.

Sure, most of the content found on these is available on newer mediums like discs or streaming services — but some of them are still considered rare commodities that collectors appreciate.

One quick look at eBay will probably tell you that there are plenty of people selling Disney movies for kids for only a few dollars. If that’s as much as you can earn with these, then they won’t be worth it.

However, a more detailed search will show you that there are some precise tapes that are worth quite a bit more money. Of course, as with most other collectibles like games or toys — if you keep them in their original packaging, they will be worth a lot more.

The uniqueness of the tapes is also a big factor. For instance, when the Little Mermaid came out on VHS in 1990, the first version of its cover art contained an undersea castle which resembled a shape not suitable for children, according to some people.

As a result, it was quickly pulled from the shelves and a redesign was made immediately by Disney.

There aren’t many of those original VHS editions, so you can see people selling those for more than a hundred bucks. The rarity of these tapes represents their main appeal.

Plus, if you have Disney tapes that were released up until 1994, you’ve got a “Black Diamond” original edition. These are also worth more on the free market.

Other Cult Classics

Naturally, Disney movies aren’t the only ones that can be sold as collectibles; they were just one of the best commercial examples out there.

But apart from them, you will also find that VHS tapes of any unusual or particularly old movies are generally a good scoop. For instance, any ancient horror films tend to fetch a fair price — anything from the early eighties will get you at least 20 bucks.

So, as you can see — there’s a market for used VHS tapes; plenty of collectors or enthusiasts will corroborate this. As long as there are enough folks that appreciate having memorabilia from the age of VHS, you’ll be able to get at least some cash for your old tapes that you have no use for.

Just remember — you will be able to get the most money out of specific editions of classic movies. For instance — the VHS edition of the Director’s Cut of the original Star Wars or Alien movies can be sold for a neat sum of money.

Though, it’s worth noting that this is an extremely unpredictable market; even professional appraisers can’t always tell you whether you’ve got a valuable hit on your hands.

That’s why you should try to search for information yourself as well. Your best bet would be searching for the movie title that you want to sell on eBay and then seeing if anyone else has sold it and for how much money.

How to Store Your Old VHS Tapes

As you may have noticed, a majority of this article was focused on what you should do if you want to get rid of your old VHS tapes.

However, you’d be right to ask — what if I simply want to keep them?

After all, there’s some novelty value in playing something on a VCR that now seems to be positively ancient. And if you’re an actual collector of VHS tapes or someone that simply has more than enough storage space and doesn’t have to get rid of anything — you will gladly keep them.

Use cases to store them safely

Okay, so while VHS tapes won’t last forever — what can you do to make sure that they’re kept pristine as long as possible?

Well, the first thing that you need to keep in mind is — the tapes should be kept in their original packaging. In other words: you should keep them in the plastic cases in which you’ve found them.

And if you don’t have that case anymore, that’s no reason to despair. If you’ve got a local video store nearby, you can just buy a plastic case; all of them are the same size, and they’re not expensive either.

But most importantly, they will do a good job when it comes to eliminating the possibility of moisture or dust wreaking havoc on your tapes. In the long term, this basic step will preserve the video and audio quality of your tapes.

Keep the tapes in a dry location

As we’ve already mentioned — the last thing you need is for your tapes to be exposed to any kind of heat, moisture, or dust. All of that is a surefire way to never being able to use them again.

However, if you take some basic precautions when it comes to these tapes; you should have no trouble making use of them later.

So, after you place the tapes in plastic containers — take those containers and ensure that they’re stored in a dry, cool area. In most cases, a well-placed cupboard should do the trick; the only thing you need to remember is to keep them away from any sort of heat or direct sunlight.

Also, you don’t want the tapes to be near any speakers or other devices which use magnets while you’re not playing them.

Remember — the tapes are essentially using magnetic tape to function, so any tampering with that will pretty much render them unusable. If you don’t do this, the recordings on the tapes may become distorted beyond recognition.

Keep them in an upright position

Most of the stuff that we’ve talked about up until now has been fairly logical — and something you may have thought to do yourself. However, there’s other stuff regarding your VHS tapes that isn’t as obvious.

For instance — plenty of people who keep a lot of VHS tapes make the crucial mistake of keeping the tapes in a horizontal position. This is something that you should avoid doing.

Generally, most of us don’t tend to use our VHS tapes for long periods of time. And that also means that, if you keep them in a horizontal position; gravity might slowly degrade your tape by making it sag — significantly reducing the picture quality over time.

Also, last but not least — when you do watch your tapes, make sure that you rewind them after each time you’re done watching. That is pretty much one of the most important steps to preserving your old VHS tapes, seeing as this will keep the actual tape responsive and tight.