Video Collecting

In 1977, the home entertainment and video rental industry technically began when Andre Blay licensed the right to copy fifty titles from 20th Century Fox for re-sale in both the Betamax and Vhs video formats, and started Magnetic Video Corporation. The first recognized ”video rental store” occurred late in 1977, when George Atkinson paid $3000 for one each of  Betamax and VHS, of each of the first 50 titles from Magnetic Video Corp and established 'The Video Station' from a storefront on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. He charged $50 for an "annual membership" and $100 for a "lifetime membership," which provided the opportunity to rent the videos for $10 a day, half what he asked in 1977. Before he sold his stake in the company, The Video Station had grown to more than 600 'affiliate' stores. Mr. Atkinson died of emphysema in 2005 at age 69.

Many people don't remember that “renting” a tape for a one time viewing was a very controversial act in its beginning and spawned a landmark federal court case between SONY and Universal Studios & Walt Disney Productions popularly known as "The Betamax Case". The studios only intended for people to “buy” the studios' video tapes for their own personal, private use. Although protected by provisions that disallowed the purchaser any right to exhibit and charge admissions, the studios never realized that the federal courts would uphold an individual's personal right to “time shift” their recorded television viewing or “rent” for personal viewing pleasure, another tape owner's personally purchased video tape. This misstep by the studios cost them, but the popularity of video rental and the home video entertainment industry made the studios hundreds of billions of dollars over the following couple of decades, and still does today. It also provided for a time, an ample supply of good, some bad, but many, uniquely different video entertainment experiences in the form of video tapes. Be it cinema or television sourced or direct to video, these “entertainments” found niches of small, interested fan enthusiasts who sought out these hard to find video releases to own. They became video collectors.

In 1980, as a young father, I worked part time in a video rental store recently opened at Shoppers' World in Framingham, Massachusetts. The excitement and energy of the early days of home video was remarkable. There were weekends, nearly every single video tape rented out. As the total store inventory was only about two to three hundred titles, each equally of Vhs and Beta cassettes, maybe sellout weekends weren't too surprising. We may have had two copies of the most popular big budget movies like “The Longest Day”, “The Ten Commandments” or “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, but if they weren't available, even the “Heckle & Jeckle” cartoons rented out. I sensed that people would eventually collect video tapes as they had with vinyl lp record albums, comic books or baseball cards, so when rental popularity on offbeat titles slowed, and the store owner was interested in selling, I started a new collection in vhs videos. This decision proved eventful for me in time.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s I purchased video tapes. I owned a small video rental store specializing in 'rare hard to find titles' that opened in Johnson City, New York in 1989, that was operated by my wife, Susan, while I, still on the road, selling, worked weekends. When the internet started to be developed commercially in the mid-1990s, I owned the domain and later both and I sold tapes successfully but being the collector that I am, I continually “rolled over” profits into other types of collectibles. I have now quite an extensive collection in DVDs, LaserDiscs, vintage original posters, including film as well as many other types of collectibles spanning advertising and signs, militaria, sports, taxidermy, toys and games, lp vinyl records, comic books and several other categories. I never really 'sold out' of my rare video titles, as I tracked what sold the best, archived that information for recall, and 'searched' for replacement titles Since the internet was in its infancy, there wasn't much worry about other rare vhs 'dealers' figuring out what my best-selling titles were, so competition for hot rare titles remained relatively quiet for several years. That isn't the case anymore. Everyone knows or thinks they know everything. I argue a lot of educated people, really know very little about what is really factual about this type of collectible, as evidenced by the Black Diamond Disney Hoax of recent years.