Trust me, I did NOT expect something from 1985 to have an original price tag this high.

In the last year or so, I've shown some casual curiosity in retro tech. People who are drawn to retro tech are usually interested in the nostalgia, aesthetic, and historical significance (or insignificance) of machines from a bygone era. Earlier this year I purchased a LaserDisc player and some LaserDisc movies, just because it was something that I'd always heard about, but never actually experienced. The same holds true for Betamax.


Betamax was the first widely available format of analog home video, first introduced by Sony in 1975. Betamax was popular in the beginning, but eventually lost the format war to VHS, whose tapes offered longer recording times. There's also a rumor that VHS jumped ahead after pornography chose that format over Betamax, although the accuracy of that is hard to prove.


Will Phillips
Will Phillips

I had an opportunity to scratch the Betamax itch recently at a Remsen estate sale. I bought the Sony SL-2400 model, along with a box of Betamax movies, for a decent price. The player even had the original manual, which I thought was cool... But it was only after I brought the Betamax home that I made an astonishing discovery: the original purchase receipt was stapled to the back of the manual!

Will Phillips
Will Phillips

Turns out the player was purchased on August 25th, 1985 for a grand total of $326.29! That's roughly $895 in today's money! Today, we're all streaming movies digitally in 4K, and if we still want to play home video, you can get a brand new BluRay player for around $70. Crazy.

Oh, and the place of purchase? It still exists! It was "Tehan's Catalog Showroom," aka Joe Tehan's! I guess back in the '80s they sold more than furniture. Pretty cool!

(SIDEBAR: Back on August 25th, 1985, the day of this purchase... Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets became the youngest pitcher to win 20 games.)

I'm really excited about my new (old) purchase, and can't wait to fire up The French Connection (1971).

The Remsen estate sale is being conducted by TLC sales, and is going on now through tomorrow, June 24th.

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