How Much Was a VHS Player in the 80s?
How Much Was a VHS Player in the 80s?
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How Much Was a VHS Player in the 80s?

By Dillon Wallace

The cost to be kind, rewind

Long before Netflix was even a blip on home entertainment’s radar, before Blue-ray brought us into the realm of HD, even prior to the reign of DVDs, the VHS player was home theater king. Sure, some people had projectors prior to its release to watch home movies and film, but the VHS player made home entertainment mainstream.


It was the 1980s, and in between riding bikes to the local mall to burn through quarters at the local arcade, kids were hitting video rental stores like West Coast Video, Family video, and of course, Blockbuster, on the reg. Face it, “Blockbuster nights” just hit the spot back then. You could stock up on popcorn and candy, pick an anticipated new video release (or an old favorite) and watch the night away. It was the OG Netflix and chill … with late fees.


But just how much did a VHS player in the 1980s cost? After all, the VHS had been around since the mid-70s after beating out Betamax for its rightful spot on TV mantels across the world in the first great home entertainment format war.


Let’s make like Marty McFly and travel back in time to find out. (*Disclaimer: No DeLorean needed)


The year was 1977 …

When the first VHS player was released to the U.S. masses in the mid-70s, it was seen as a status symbol. An object in your home that you could brag about to your guests because you were cutting-edge and could afford the latest and greatest. Even though Betamax players were technically more technologically advanced, hence the more expensive price tag (retailing for as much as $2295 for top tier models), the VHS player was the new kid on the block. And with an original price tag between $1,000 – $1,400 (still outrageously expensive for the time, even for today’s standards), you can see why Betamax waned from competition.


The VHS player’s technology was newer and cheaper, and its shelf life as the prime piece of home theater entertainment would last more than 20 years, until the DVD made its debut in 1997 to take the crown.


By the 1980s …

When the mid-80s rolled around and the VHS player had been around for ten years, that hefty price tag started to see significant reductions. That nearly $1,500 top retail price had fallen to an average of $200 – $400, a fraction of the college tuition it once costed families.


But why such the price plummet? Well, it seems that brand-name marketers and suppliers everywhere wanted to cash in on the VHS boom. So, with so much saturation in the market, and the fact that the technology had been around for a few years, there was no other choice but to lower the price. Not only were the machines cheaper in 1985 than they were in 1977, but the technology was significantly better, too, including features like remote control, freeze frame, search, auto-tracking and more. You never realized how much of a godsend auto-tracking was until you watched a VHS tape on a VCR that didn’t have it.


Once the 1990s hit …

Unfortunately, by the mid to late 90s, it was already the beginning of the end for the VHS player. The price had fallen to an all-time low, approximately $100 or less in some base model cases. And once the DVD player made its way onto store shelves as the new go-to home entertainment video player in the early 2000s, people were jumping at the bit to try the fancy laser disc technology, even for a larger $700 – $1,200 price tag. Sure, LaserDisc had come and gone years before the DVD, but the discs were as large as 12” vinyl albums and despite the massive size, required flipping them over like a pancake (or inserting another disc) mid-movie for the second half. And finally, “bye, bye VHS” happened in 2006 when A History of Violence became the last Hollywood movie released on the player. Too bad the last title wasn’t more fitting, something like “As Good as It Gets” or maybe a more ominous title, “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”


If history has taught us anything, it’s that technology knows no remorse. What was king for more than 20 years met its demise in the same way that it began its reign – overtaken by a newer technology. The same thing happened to DVDs when Blu-Ray was released. And then streaming services stole Blu-Ray’s thunder before it ever really had the chance to get comfortable on its throne. Who knows what will be next?


So now if you’re feeling all nostalgic, wanting to bust out that dusty old box of VHS home movies but have no VCR – don’t fear. We can help you convert those old analog memories into fresh digital ones – no player necessary. No rewind to be kind, either.

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