Priceless Preservation

Precious Memories

Memories are some of our most valuable possessions. Weddings, holidays, family vacations, reunions, birthdays, and many other special occasions are exactly that – special. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to record these events and other great moments in our lives. And those recordings can be – as the popular MasterCard commercials would say – priceless.

VHS Tape Label

Our memories can last forever, but not on VHS!

“Uh oh,” you might be thinking. “This sounds like a sales pitch.” I guess I would be guilty as charged. After all, I used “the P word.” But I hope you’ll indulge me for a few moments. I’ll warn you, this is a 3-page article – pretty long by Internet standards. However, the  coming paragraphs could save some of your priceless memories from decay and destruction.

Decay and destruction?

The recommendation for long-term storage of VHS tapes is a maximum of 50% humidity and 70° Fahrenheit. Most folks store their VHS tape collection in the basement (higher humidity) or the attic (huge fluctuation in temperature). Even under archival conditions (25% humidity, 40° F), VHS tapes will last about 15 years before they begin to suffer serious degradation.

We had a portion of our VHS home recordings in a trunk in the garage for years. I knew better than to subject them to the huge fluctuation in humidity and temperature. However, my plans to convert them to something more robust suffered from a serious case of procrastination. Recently, I rescued most of my precious family footage.

We're breaking up!

Distorted image from a wrinkled or torn VHS tape.

My success rate for converting these old VHS tapes was about 80%. That’s the good news. The bad news is that 80% refers to the number of tapes, not the amount of footage. In other words, entire tapes were lost: when they won’t play, they won’t play.*

What can happen to these stored VHS tapes?

You see, VHS tapes are susceptible to mold. That’s why they are to be stored in low humidity and temperatures. When mold invades, it causes the layers of tape that touch to stick together. If broken loose, the magnetic media can completely detach from the tape backing. Your precious memories are destroyed, and the shedding material can clog and damage your VCR as well. That’s called a lose/lose scenario.

A typical approach is to open the box and immediately try to play the tape in your VCR. Often, when a VHS tape has not been played for years, the tape pack (the layers or loops of tape laying next to each other on the reel) will either become loose, or stick together. As the VCR motor does it’s best, the tape can slacken or catch, causing wrinkling in the tape. This photo shows slightly wrinkled tape – the surface of the tape should appear almost as smooth as glass. Creases in the tape at any point can cause a loss in the picture and sound. Trying to play a creased tape can result in even more damage to the tape.

vhs tape surface

The surface of a slightly damaged tape.

Even worse, the tape transport can foul, and you end up with knots of tape tangled in your VCR mechanism. Most folks don’t have the skill to untangle this mess without damage to the VCR. Unless you have the tape professionally repaired, that tape is lost for good.

The correct approach can take one of several different forms, depending on the condition of the tape when it’s first taken out of storage. This is the point in the process where a fair amount of research and experience is needed. The best strategy for many folks is to work with a professional.

Ideally, what should I do with my VHS tapes?

If you’re among the many families that still has a collection of home recordings on VHS tapes hidden away somewhere, it may be time to take action to preserve your memories by converting them to DVD. DVD is a far more robust medium, and when handled with care, can last for decades. In addition, home recordings on DVD can be digitally copied and shared with others, and identical archive copies can easily be made to safeguard your memories even further. And what’s more, recordable DVDs have become fairly inexpensive.

What will it cost to have Marketing Mercenary transfer your VHS tapes to DVD? A typical transfer would be one VHS tape, up to 120 minutes long, recorded onto one DVD: $11. Multiple tapes combined onto one DVD, up to 120 total minutes: $11 for the first tape, plus $5 per additional tape.

What if the tape is longer than 120 minutes? Then, it’s $11 per DVD needed to complete the transfer.

Except for a few…exceptions, that’s our basic pricing scheme. And, I promise, your family memories will be handled with care.

We can provide some “extras,” such as a DVD cover containing an image captured from the tape.  Let’s discuss your project right away – don’t lose one single minute of your priceless memories!

Please e-mail any questions to

*Various tactics were used to restore the “playability” of the tapes. Some were not successful.


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