The pandemic stopped swap meets from happening across the country. For the first time this year, the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival presents their VHS Swap.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Dust off your old VHS tapes, they might be worth something to someone.
Tomorrow, the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival (PUFF) presents their VHS Swap at 2223 Theater from 12pm - 4pm. Visitors will be able to buy, sell, and trade VHSes, DVDs, baseball cards, video games, books, and any other physical ephemera you can find.
“It’s the first one we’re holding this year,” a spokesperson from PUFF told NewsBreak over the phone.
Even as technology evolves and VHS falls further and further out of mainstream fashion, the tapes have become popular among passionate hobbyists, indie retailers, media experts, and average film-watchers. For these people, they find nostalgia and charm in what others consider otiose.
Jonathan Levin, who lives in the Philadelphia area, for instance, says he likes to unwind with a movie every Friday night with his boyfriend, so he rummages through his collection of VHS tapes and puts a movie into his VCR player for date night.
“It takes us both back to simpler times,” he confesses. “Plus, since I’ve already owned many of these movies for years, it’s cheaper than having to pay a rental fee every time I want to watch JAWS or E.T. or any other movie I grew up regularly watching.”
The only downside, Levin claims, is that some movies that aren’t already in his collection are hard to find. Understandable, considering Hollywood studios stopped releasing movies on tape 15 years ago. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and WiFi-powered digital behemoths now dominate the home video market with sprawling libraries and crystal-clear picture quality.
Levin says he plans on attending the swap tomorrow.
Those living in the Philadelphia area and beyond who are fascinated with the dated technology also have plenty of places to turn online to explore their interest.
On Instagram, fans of VHS post photos of their collection under the hashtag #vhscollectorsunite. Graphic designers and visual artists share images they’ve created of modern movies reimagined as retro VHS box art. Similarly, on TikTok, users show off their collections and vintage televisions with the hashtag #vhscollection.
Locally, Philadelphia has several Free Blockbuster boxes throughout the city. The little lending libraries are similar to the Free Little Libraries, where neighbors leave books for others to pick up and enjoy, except these boxes are filled with VHSes and DVDs. Both types of lending libraries are technically illegal on city streets, but officials are leaving them alone for now, local news outlet Billy Penn confirmed earlier this year.
In May, a new type of VHS-related box showed up on the streets of Philadelphia: The Shrek Box.
Located in Bella Vista, the box was created by Wil Keiper and his partner Lauren Devlin. The creation happened when Keiper found an old newspaper box on the side of the road years ago. Keiper and Devlin kept the box outside in the backyard for a while, until they thought of a better purpose for it in May.
That’s when the couple painted it green, decorated it with the phrase “From our swamp to yours,” and painted everyone’s favorite ogre on the side. Their goal was to create a Free Blockbuster box - but just for the Shrek franchise.
According to an Instagram post, the duo will be at the VHS swap tomorrow.
“Bring [VHS copies of] Shreks and we'll deliver them to the box for you,” they wrote in the comment section of that announcement.
You can read more about PUFF here. Entry to the event is free; $10 for vendors. 2223 Theater, where the swap is held tomorrow from 12pm - 4pm, is located at 2200-2290, E Dauphin St, Philadelphia, PA 19125.
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