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Home /History / How Much Did Cassette Tapes Cost in the 80s?

How Much Did Cassette Tapes Cost in the 80s?

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By Dillon Wallace

Imagine (if you had the luxury of doing so back in the day) walking through your local shopping mall rocking your Sony Walkman on the hip of your acid washed jeans, wafting remnants of hairspray throughout every store on your way to the food court to grab a slice of ‘za from Sbarro’s. 

It may sound like the plot of Stranger Things: Season 3, but this is what people did in the 80s and it was awesome.

And after you were done cruising the food court and mingling with your teenage crush, you’d find your way to Sam Goody to probably pick up the most popular Rush or Police cassette tape to pop in for the trek home.

 

Which makes you think: How much did people actually pay for their favorite cassette tapes in the 80s?


After all, that slice of pizza was mere cents compared to the near $4.00 it costs now. In today’s world, where tapes and CDs have gone the way of the dinosaur for $10/mo. streaming services, how much were cassettes back in their heyday? And how much are they now, on their recent comeback tour?


Single albums in the 80s

If you can believe it, pre-recorded cassette tapes were on average about $6-8 for a single album. Of course, that depended on title and obscurity, but for the time (and to be able to listen to it on the go), that was a decent price. Better yet, if you were just looking for the latest single of your favorite band, that tape would cost you about $2-3. That may not have been the best deal price-wise, but some people just wanted the artist’s single and not the whole album. There’s a reason songs like “Hey Mickey” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” are the only major hits from some of the 80s biggest one-hit wonders. Nobody needs a full album of filler tracks they’re never going to listen to.


Packs of blank tapes

For those 80’s goers who wanted to record their own cassette tapes, mainly for the purpose of compiling the ultimate mixtape, those blank packs typically came in counts of 10 and cost around $20. Because let’s face it, the true value came in taking the time to record every individual track for the actual mixtape, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that time is money. So that would make mixtapes sentimental gold.


Fall of tapes. Rise of CDs. Rise of tapes … again.

Unfortunately for the cassette tape, CDs had started to gain some real traction in the music industry by the late 80s. People were ditching the rectangular plastic you had to physically rewind for the new shiny disc on the block. As a result, the price of tapes began to drop in order to compete with the sale of CDs, which typically retailed for around $15-20 when they were first released in the mid 80s.


The war didn’t last long, and by the early-mid 90s, the cassette tape was all but dead and buried. However, like all nostalgia infused goodies, the cassette tape has made somewhat of a resurgence over the past few years. That’s right, those fuzzy sounding pieces of rewindable history have made a comeback at music retailers and online stores for anywhere between $9-15 for new single album releases. What can we say, there’s a price to pay for following hipster trends. The real question is still forthcoming: Are CDs poised for a comeback in 5-10 years? 


Digitized your cassette tapes

So yeah. That mixtape you received in 11th grade from your high school sweetheart probably doesn’t hold much physical value today. More like a zero dollar value. But the sentimental value could be priceless. If you’ve got a collection of old cassette tapes, whether they’re personal recordings, bootlegs, rare/early band recordings or all of the above, you can send those into Legacybox and we’ll digitally preserve them for you. That way you don’t have to worry about digging out your old Walkman and finding a shopping mall that’s still in operation.


After all, times evolve. Your tape collection should, too.

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