How Much Are Open Reel Tapes Worth These Days?

Dad died years ago. We’re still going through his stuff. He had a bunch of open reel cassettes. I’ve seen similar things at Goodwill for a dollar or two. But, just to be on the safe side, I checked E Bay. They seem to be selling for a lot more than that. Just blank reels of tape seem to be going for $20 or so. A few of the reels I have are albums (one is Iron Butterfly’s Inna Gada Davida). But most are just blank reels or things my dad recorded. My Google Fu is weak. So I ask your help.

Do you know of anyone in your area who deals in collectible vinyl or other sound media? This would be the person to talk to.

What is an “open reel cassette”?

I know what a reel to reel tape is, and I know what a cassette tape is.

I don’t think either is worth a lot; commercial tapes are worth no more than the same music in another format, and generally a lot less; blank tapes would similarly be, at best, worth the same as blank tapes are if you buy them new online, and because of their age probably significantly less.

Sorry. This is not my area of expertise.

My previously mentioned search on Ebay showed the opposite.

Nearwildheaven I don’t know any audiophiles. Most of the collectors I know deal in old toys and videogames. I wouldn’t really know where to begin if I was in Philly, and I’m currently out of state visiting family.

I assume you’re talking about these things and the tapes they use?

The machines themselves are going to vary wildly in value and depend on model and (especially) condition. Even then you’re only looking at collectors, and shipping a recorder would be expensive as they are large, fragile, and heavy.

If you have any famous, prerecorded albums on reel-to-reel and they include the box and both are in very good condition they might be worth a few bucks to collectors as well. There’s a small advantage here in that unlike vinyl, cassettes, 8-tracks or even Edison cylinders reel-to-reel was never a ‘consumer’ format so releases on it are intrinsically rarer than other versions. As you’ve already seen, even blank reels are worth something to somebody because they’re becoming rare.

It may take some time & a little effort but here are Google’s list of reel-to-reel internet forums…

I had one of these. Sold prices for sealed tape boxes on ebay are similar to new prices back in the day which is not too surprising given decreasing supply. Used prices are a lot less. Tapes (the magnetic coating specifically) tend to degenerate over time even if not used that much so I would imagine the market will get even smaller.

If they are opened boxes you are unlikely to strike gold.

It depends, certain makes are more likely to shed their oxide coating - this tends to come off as extremely fine dust. It can get into the motors and can be disastrous since if is incredibly difficult if not impossible to remove.

So you have to be very careful what you buy, BASF will usually fetch better prices, but there are many others that were cheap in their day, and are worth giving a wide berth. Some will argue against Ampex and Qantegy however thse tapes were manufactured well after most others so you would expect less deterioration.

The real problem is that you don’t know the history of how they have been kept and I have no real answer to that, other than buy them from someone who is an enthusiast and will have taken good care.

eBay isn’t the best way to judge price, though it can be. Money laundering in various ways has always inflated prices of worthess things.

If you want to account for $1,000 of money, just put your garbage on eBay and sell it to yourself under a false name. Of course do it too much and the authorities can catch on, but with modern programs capable of generating thousands of IP address from all over the world and the ability to open many accounts (google ebay stealth) it’s not as hard as you’d assume.

The only true way to get an idea is to put it up for sale and see what you get

I can get a new 7" BASF reel on Amazon for $10.
Unless there’s something interesting on it, I wouldn’t want to chance running a possible gummed up 30 year old tape over my read heads.
I salvaged all my tapes and cassettes to digital a dozen years or so ago. It was a nasty job involving prying around carfully, scotch tape, Q-tips, rubbing alcohol etc. Not something I’d gladly do again, and people who still own reel to reels are likely to know what a pita old tapes can be, and how sound quality, and recording quality, decreases over the years.