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Are Old Film Reels Worth Anything?

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By Christian Roemer

Did your long-lost, great uncle Carl whom you’ve never met die and leave you with boxes full of old film reels? Are you looking at that dusty old rag wondering if they’re worth anything? Do you also wonder why he couldn’t have left you something more practical like a mansion or pet cheetah?

We can’t help with the last question, but we can help you with the first--sort of.
Film reels are awesome to have for a few reasons. First, they hold all sorts of really cool memories from a time when photography and home video was much less common. Second, they evoke some really powerful memories in the form of nostalgia. Lastly, they might be secret tapes worth MILLIONS!!!

 

Or they could be totally worthless. It really just depends.


So what am I really talking about? Well, 8mm film, by itself, isn’t really worth much of anything. Miles and miles of old film exists all over the globe, so just having found a couple of canisters of the old stuff is probably pretty unnotable. Odds also say that your great uncle Carl wasn’t particularly interesting, so he probably doesn’t have any sort of incriminating or historically significant footage on his home movies.


So that brings us to the next question: what are the 8mm films worth?


It turns out that 8mm film by itself is basically worthless. The film is just made out of cheap plastic. But there is a bit of demand for old home movies. People will actually pay for the rights to your old home movie footage.


There’s a company down in Atlanta that actually purchases old films. They don’t publish how much the actual footage is worth, because they say the worth depends on the quality of the video. If you’re OK selling old Uncle Carl’s priceless memories to some company in the South for pennies, then I say go for it. You didn’t know the guy anyway.


It’s really hard to get an actual price for 8mm film footage, because there are so many variables to consider. It’s basically impossible to know for sure what any particular video is worth. I can’t find rates or records anywhere. It seems like the main market for old films is Hollywood, who probably just buys them to use for flashback scenes and the like. They probably also whip out obscure footage for indie music videos and album covers.


The most likely answer is that your 8mm film isn’t worth much of anything, barring any sentimental value. Honestly, the value in old videos isn’t really in how much money they’re worth; it’s about how much seeing the films is worth to you. If your film reels have footage on there of your grandmother, then it’s probably going to be worth a lot to you. If you find a box of old movies in a box at a yard sale, you’re pretty much just buying a voyeuristic look into someone else’s history.


So unless you’re holding onto some classified 8mm film of the JFK assassination or the sinking of the Titanic, your old films probably aren’t worth much.

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