Slasher Index's Secrets to VHS Hunting!
Around 3 or 4 years ago, I wrote an in-depth article entitled "Slasher Index's Secrets to Horror VHS Hunting." It listed every tool I've ever used to acquire some of my most precious gems. While some of these methods were of course common sense, others were only utilized by the most savvy of VHS hunters. Much of my greatest finds were a combination of heavy internet sleuthing and the implementation of the techniques below.
When the article was first written, I was hesitant to post it since I was still very much an active hunter. These days, not so much. I've been able to attain many of my most wanted videos, and also, I've decided that my work with VHSCollector.com is more important than what I have sitting on my shelf. With that said, here it is folks! Best of luck and happy hunting!
You can find almost anything on eBay. If it’s not illegal or Nazi paraphernalia, then chances are there is (or will be) a listing for it.
A. Just Search
Just place a simple search in the box, and be sure to choose the VHS category to narrow down the results so DVD or other formats don’t get thrown into the mix. Common terms to use are “rare,” “OOP,” “HTF,” “big box,” or the name of any distributor you’re interested in. Often these days, sellers take advantage of such search words or phrases, making this part of the hunt a bit more tedious.
B. Check seller’s other listings
This seems like common sense but for some, this doesn’t occur to them. If you find a great deal from a seller, check his other listings for more. In most cases, people aren’t selling just a single VHS tape. A lot of these sellers buy out a video store’s inventory and piece them out as a home eBay business.
C. Saved Searches
Saved searches are a godsend! These things cut your work by more than half! No more will you have to search once a week or more for that super obscure VHS you’ve been looking for. You can set up your notifications so that they’ll contact you via e-mail daily on new matches based on your saved searches. Be sure to including the category (in this case, VHS) to narrow down the results. You may also want to exclude words. This is accomplished by placing a dash before the word you would like to exclude, for example “-enchanted”. If I create a saved search for the 80's slasher, the Forest without excluded words, I will be notified each day with unrelated films with the word “forest” in their title. For instance, the Enchanted Forest. By placing “-enchanted” in the search box, you’re narrowing down the results. You must be as precise as possible. If it’s a vague title such as The Forest, Spine, or Nightmare. Sometimes you’ll have a string of 10 or more excluded words!
D. eBay Lots
These things are great. Just do a search for “horror VHS lot” and you’ll find a bunch of stuff to sift through. Often times you’ll find lots of junk VHS’s like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. But with clever sorting, you can find lots that have mostly 80’s VHS’s. Or if you’re very lucky, you’ll find a diamond in the rough. A friend of mine found a lot on eBay that included the super-rare Donna Michelle release, The Abomination. He simply offered to buy the Abomination by itself for 20 bucks, and the seller took the deal. One time, I bought a lot that included the rare Donna Michelle title, Splatter Farm for only $13!
Another trick with eBay lots is to tick the box for "search descriptions". Sometimes, a seller selling a lot will list the videos in the description of a listing since they cannot fit it in the listing title.
E. Make an offer to the seller
This is against eBay policies so do it at your own discretion! Sometimes you’ll find a rare gem that had recently been listed starting at 99 cents. In this case, you can sometimes get lucky and charm the seller into selling it to you directly for a decent price (many times these sellers don’t know the value of what they’re selling), or to relist it with a “Buy it Now” option just for you as to not violate eBay policies. Tell the seller, “This film brings back many memories. I remember seeing it at a drive-in with my father” or you could be a bit less devious and tell them, “I’ll be out of town around the end of the auction and I’ve been dying to see this film for a while, is there any way we could arrange something?”
F. Bookmark eBay correctly
Most people have eBay bookmarked to open on the eBay homepage. This does nothing but shows us the latest fashion or electronic trends. Instead, bookmark eBay to open on the VHS category sorted by “Newest Items” and “Buy It Now” listings. Doing this will show you exactly what was just posted on eBay with a “Buy It Now” price. The point of doing this is get first dibs on those ridiculously low Buy it Now prices for those super rarities. I’ve been successful with this several times. I once have gotten Night Ripper for $30 and White Cannibal Queen for $25. I’ve seen people do even better than that, getting videos like Warlock Moon from Unicorn Video for only $20 bucks! Some people also use eBay’s RSS feed for the latest VHS items. I’m not quite sure how this works, but it might be worth figuring out!
Side Note: Ever wanted to know how much a VHS you’re interested in might go for when you don’t see any listed on eBay? When you search the item, be sure to click “Completed Listings” and you’ll find a list of ended items for that search. For instance, If you’ve been looking for Microwave Massacre and wondering how much you might have to shell out for it next time it appears on eBay, you can do a Completed Listings search and find out how much it went for. Also note that a lot of factors go into how much a VHS will go for on eBay, such as the time the auction ends and it’s starting bid.
Half.com is a site also owned by ebay dealing with mostly media such as books, movies, music, etc. It's been mostly used to buy used college textbooks in recent years, but its a great little known spot to find VHS gems as well! But like Amazon, the listings don't include images so you take some risks. I have bought a whole lot with half.com, probably because most haven't considered using it for their VHS hunting!
I’ve gotten some amazing lots on Craigslist and you could too, but you have to earn them! To find good VHS deals on Craigslist could take some work. The first thing to bear in mind is that most of the people selling VHS’s on Craigslist are selling their home VHS collection, which usually include VHS’s from the 90’s and above, and of course, we generally don’t want these. So how do you go about finding worthy stuff?
A. To put it bluntly, just sift through it!
Search for “horror VHS,” Horror video,” or just “VHS” itself. Many times, lots would be posted without “horror” in the title. I’ve gotten big boxes of Capture of Big Foot and Grim Reaper from a lot that wasn’t advertised as horror. I nicely asked the guy if he would be willing to sell me them separately, and he agreed.
B. Search alternate cities
Do searches in cities like Atlanta, Dallas, etc. If you find something worthy, email the guy asking if he would be willing to ship. If not, offer him a few more bucks if it’s worth it. A shortcut to this process is doing a Google search of “horror VHS craigslist” or “horror video craigslist” or using the site allofcraigs.com. You’ll find a bunch of related listings from various cities. From this, I found a guy in Nevada that had an amazing lot of rare stuff. I got 90 videos for 120 bucks. Included in the lot were the Abomination, Venus Flytrap, and Microwave Massacre. Also keep a look out throughout your searches for lots of over 1000. Chances are they’re from a video store inventory and that’s what we want. If you find an ad on Craigslist for the "Going out of Business" sale of a video store, then you found your golden ticket! (Although sometimes, they've already been sorted through for the good stuff).
C. Place a want ad
I have never done this so I don’t know how successful people have been. More and more frequently, I’m starting to see want ads for horror VHS. I’m sure the collectors posting these ads get a bunch of responses from people trying to sell them Jeepers Creepers on VHS. Whether they ever had a decent hit from these want ads, I have no idea.
Purchasing VHS’s from Amazon or Half.com could be risky, but it’s only as risky as you allow it to be. I’ve found lots and lots of oversized boxes in great condition on Amazon for less than 5 bucks. Now of course, throughout this process, I’ve gotten some duds and misrepresented items, but in the end it was worth it.
A. ASK QUESTIONS
And make sure they’re specific, such as “is this VHS in an oversized box? Is the box cut or faded in anyway" and "who’s the distributor?” About half the time, they’ll answer your questions. You could also ask for an image of the item, but the majority of the time they won’t even respond since taking a picture of a $5 item isn’t worth their time.
NOTE: Be very careful buying vintage videos advertised as New and sealed. I had once received a cut box of Class Reunion Massacre that was re-shrinkwrapped but was advertised as new. It even had a sticker on it stating “previously viewed!” Another time, I bought a Midnight Video sealed big box of Microwave Massacre. I even asked him if he was sure it was new, and he confirmed it was. When I got it, it looked damn good, but it certainly wasn’t brand new. You could tell from the corners underneath the plastic. I asked him for a partial refund, and he agreed. If you ever do get a VHS which was not what you expected, ask for a partial refund or just simply mail it back. Often times, you’ll find out they rather just give you the partial refund!
Wow, all I can say is that when it comes to the net, this this has been my biggest secret of all. I’m not sure how many of you guys actually do this, but I’ve been very successful using this method when it comes to Amazon or Half.com. What you do is make several wishlists in Amazon. For instance, several of mine read “VHS-Midnight Video,” “VHS-Thriller Video,” “VHS-Super Rare,” etc. What this allows me to do is quickly access and scan particular item pages without having to go down one wish list with dozens of pages. What you want to do is check your “VHS-Super Rare” wishlist early in the morning, or first before any other so you could snatch those up before anyone else. This method doesn’t necessarily give you better deals, but it makes it incredibly easier and quicker to find those deals! Using this method, I’ve gotten White Cannibal Queen for $5 and a ton of awesome Wizard boxes for around $5!
C. Ask for similar items
Also what you can do (and you can do this with eBay as well) is ask the seller if he has any other similar VHS. Let’s say you bought S.S. Hell Camp (Video City Productions) on Amazon for $20 bucks. This says several things about the seller. First, that he doesn’t know the true value of collectible VHS, and second, that if he has a title like that, he may certainly have similar titles. I’ve been very successful with this method and I’ve notice that a lot of collectors are beginning to do this. I was able to get all the Video City Nazi exploitation videos for $50 a piece. This may not seem like a super great deal, but considering how rare these videos are, getting them all in one shot is amazing, not to mention I also got a Snuff big box from that same guy for $100, about half its value.
4. Flea Markets / Thrift Stores
Flea Markets and thrift stores are awesome, simply put. There’s guaranteed to be VHS tapes at any second-hand marketplace. There's lots of junk of course, but you can get lucky! I’ve gotten lucky by meeting a guy selling tapes at a flea market. From him, I’ve gotten 2 copies of Psychos in Love, 2 copies of Killer Party, 2 copies of Headless Eyes, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, and about 30 other big boxes. He had told me he won a storage unit auction which contained thousands of video tapes from an old video store chain. Since I had gotten tons of stuff from him at the flea market, I asked him if he would be willing to take me where the videos were stored so I could sort through them. He agreed. It was definitely the greatest find I’ve ever had. Below is my very first VHS YouTube video, motivated by a huge VHS find at a flea market!
5. Video Stores
Video stores used to be a premiere place to get old horror VHS’s, but most seem to be cleaned out these days. I rarely if ever find anything at video stores. Once responding to a craigslist ad, I went to a tiny video store in upper Manhattan. It was clear that the collectible horror videos were already picked out. I was able to pick up a few worthy tapes but the one video that blew me away I didn’t even find in the horror section. It was the Spanish version of Unicorn Video’s A Bell From Hell. A true rarity worth a lot.
Another time on a road trip through New Mexico, I spotted a video store in a small town right next to a franchise video store ironically. I found lots of awesome stuff there. Some of the big boxes were incredibly worn, but others weren’t too bad. A very successful hit none the less. I bought about 60 videos and packed them up to be shipped back home. As for all the other video stores I saw in New Mexico, almost all were boarded up. It was quite sad actually.
6. Search the net!
As obvious as it sounds, just search the net. Search forums, online stores, etc. Delve right into those cracks of the internet and scoop out something good. Some people have gotten great stuff from emailing the websites of video stores still in business. You can also check out competing auction sites. You almost never find anything on these other auction sites and some of them charge you a fee just for signing up, but if you see the right video (which is incredibly rare) it might be worth the signup fee. Bear in mind that with these other auction sites, their security measures aren’t has tuned as they are with eBay so be cautious of shady sellers looking to rip you off!
7. Trading and selling between collectors
This has been incredibly popular through the years, especially recently since VHS collecting grew in popularity. Facebook groups are probably the best place to start. If you find the right group, such as “Horror VHS Collector’s Unite!,” or similar trading groups, you’ll find a lot of people looking to rotate the videos in their collection with trades or other who simply lost interest with the hobby and are looking to unload what they have. Also check out forums on horror or DVD websites. Many of these have threads for people who collect rare VHS so you’re bound to find a user there who can help you out. Just be careful, I’ve heard horror stories of people getting ripped off making deals with strangers who have no reputation in the community.