CASSETTES are growing in popularity in the collectors’ market, which means digging around in your loft could earn you a few quid if you’re lucky.
Like any collectables, the value of cassettes massively varies – from £1 or £2, all the way up to more than £3,700.
The world’s most expensive cassette is a self-titled, self-released record by Linkin Park under the band’s original name, Xero, according to music collectors’ marketplace Discogs.
The demo tape is one of the only recordings from the group before they changed their name, which is why one fan was willing to fork out $4,500 – or £3,740 – for the super rare cassette.
Steve Asher, specialist music valuer at Sheffield Auction Gallery, says condition, rarity and artist popularity are the three big things to consider when determining a cassette’s worth.
“Audio cassette collectors are like collectors of anything – they dictate the price,” Steve explains.
“But the key here is rarity, finding a big band or artist that’s really collectable and making sure your cassette is in mint condition.”
So what else are collectors looking for when it comes to cassettes? Steve gives us his top tips on looking for value.
The bigger the name – the better
If you’re sitting on a huge collection of special edition cassettes by rock legends, you could be quids in.
“The more collectable the band, the more valuable the cassette,” Steve explains.
He says rare cassettes by big name rock bands like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Metallica can fetch high prices at auction.
He also says Britpop artists like Oasis, Pulp and Blur are popular.
“If you’ve got an early Metallica tape, you could be talking hundreds – or even thousands of pounds,” he adds.
“And anything early from Nirvana is also a big hit.”
The second most expensive cassette sold on Discogs is a rare promotional tape made by Prince, one of the best-selling artists of all time.
The tape, called The Versace Experience – Prelude 2 Gold, was handed out to attendees of the Versace show at Paris Fashion Week in 1995 – and sold for $4,011, or £3,327.
Steve also says trendy bands, like 80s alternative rock group The Pixies, can also be a big hit with collectors.
“If you’ve got anything self-released from the early days by them, book your holiday now,” Steve says.
One of The Pixies albums even made it into the Discog’s top 50 most expensive cassettes of all time.
Coming in at number 21, their self-titled, self-released 1987 tape sold for $1,200 – or £995.
Rarity is key
An old mass-released cassette of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon probably isn’t going to get you very far – but if you’ve got anything limited edition or rare it could be very valuable.
“Completist collectors want every version of big albums that’s ever been released,” Steve says.
“So if you’ve got a rare version of Dark Side of the Moon, that can fetch a good few hundred pounds.”
Steve says the best example of this is a high fidelity specialist release of the famous Pink Floyd record from the early 80s – which can be worth up to £800.
Look for old promo tapes
Your favourite rock band wasn’t always famous and if they were trying to make it in the 80s or 90s, chances are they have a promo cassette or two knocking about.
“Bands used to make promo tapes to send to record companies or DJs to get their name out there,” Steve explains.
“Bands like Oasis, Metallica and Placebo all made promo cassettes with their early stuff on and some of those are still around now.”
Steve says these promo cassettes from big bands like Metallic can fetch into the thousands.
The best-selling promo tape on Discogs was a 1980 demo tape by Depeche Mode, featuring three tracks from the then-unknown band. The cassette sold for $1,667 – or £1,384.
Steve says hip hop is another big genre for early release mixtapes – especially from rappers who went on to become megastars.
This is made clear with a cassette by Eminem coming in 12th on Discog’s top 50 list after selling for $1,500 (£1,244).
Mint condition items fetch higher prices
Having a rare release by a big band is one step in the right direction, but if it’s a battered old cassette the price will probably be limited.
“As with anything, condition is key,” says Steve.
He says cassettes need to be in mint condition to sell for top prices, which Steve considers to be unopened.
“If it’s unopened that’s what you call mint,” Steve explains.
“If it’s been opened, but has no marks and looks brand new then that’s near mint.”
The scale then downgrades from there, through very good plus, very good, good plus, good and further down.
Steve says: “Monetary values can drop off dramatically the poorer the condition gets.”
Fan club favourites
Another type of cassette to look out for are special fan-club releases.
“A lot of bands and artists sent cassettes out to fan clubs and they’ve become really popular with collectors,” Steve explains.
Steve says he himself has been trying to get hold of all the fan releases of live concerts from his favourite band, The Mission, but admits: “Even I’m struggling to get hold of some of their stuff!”
As well as keeping an eye on auction houses and websites like Discogs, Steve says eBay can be a great place for picking up in-demand cassettes like these.
Although he warns sellers: “If you are selling on something like eBay just make sure you’re starting off at the right price and that you’re selling exactly the release you’re advertising – because the guys out there buying will know.”
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