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How Much Did a VCR Cost When it Was Released?

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By Dillon Wallace

Have you ever looked back at an old piece of technology – something obsolete by today’s standards – and marveled at how expensive it was?

 

Take the Mac OS 1.0 computer which hit shelves in 1984. The now archaic 9-inch black-and-white monitor carried a hefty price tag of $2,500. That’s a 2-5 with two zeros behind hit!!

Inflation aside, that was a lot of money back in the day.
Just think, today’s iPhone 11, which is leaps and bounds more powerful and capable than that early Mac (and with as nearly as big a screen to boot) retails for right around $1000.

 

It really puts a perspective on the trifecta of technology, time and money. Which brings us to the question of the hour – how much did a VCR cost when it was first released?

 

The first VCRs

This question is actually a two-part answer because to properly diagnose the cost of the first VCR, we have to acknowledge the first great format war between Betamax and VHS.

 

You see, both media used VCRs to play their respective formats, and clearly VHS ended up on top due to its more universal appeal and cheaper price point. So what were the original retail price tags for each?

 

Betamax

In 1975, Betamax was unleashed on the home video scene. It ushered in more of an opportunity for the general public to watch and/or record movies. The price point for this new media player retailed at $2295 for higher end models and just under $2,000 for base models. Just think about that for a second. A format that was only around for a mere few years (especially after VHS rose to popularity) cost you $2000 … yikes!

 

Adjusted for inflation: Around $9,500+

 

VHS

When the VHS dropped on the home theater scene in 1977 (a couple years after Betamax’s introduction), VCRs retailed between $1,000-$1,400. Now, that’s still a boatload of money (especially for the time), but you can see why people flocked to the nearly half price VHS/VCR format. After all, Betamax may have had a slight edge in technology over the VHS, but was it really a $1000 worth advantage?? Nope.

 

Adjusted for inflation: Around $4,400+

 

DVD

Yeah, yeah … this article is about VCRs, but figured it would be a fun stroll down memory lane to point out the price of the first DVD players. Released in 1997, the DVD quickly rose to prominence after stealing popularity from the VHS market. But how much did this shiny disc player cost? Shockingly about the same price as the first VHS players that came a decade before it – between $700 to $1,200.

 

Adjusted for inflation: Around $1,950+

That’s substantially less than the VHS adjusted for inflation. Pretty miraculous what 10 years can do.

 

Digitizing your VHS collection

Sure, the cost for a VCR in the 70s was pricey, but the memories on the VHS tapes … priceless. And if you’re not careful, you may risk losing all those memorable recorded moments. Much like the VCR, which has been obsolete for years, the tapes themselves are ticking expiration date time bombs deteriorating right before your eyes. Luckily, you can digitize your Betamax, VHS and other tape formats to preserve those memories for many years to come. 

 

And that’s worth more than $1000 back in 1977. It’s priceless.

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