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Check Your Time Capsules: Rocky VHS Tapes and Sealed iPhones Yield Big Bucks

Check Your Time Capsules: Rocky VHS Tapes and Sealed iPhones Yield Big Bucks
February 23, 2023
Dylan Dittrich

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When one dad of the '80s placed sealed VHS copies of Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III in a time capsule for his son, he probably expected those movies to be relics of a long gone era by the time they were discovered. Alas, here we are in 2023 with Creed 3 set to release, which of course follows Creed 2, Creed, Rocky Balboa, Rocky V, and Rocky IV.

It's perhaps because of the franchise's enduring stamina, rivaling Balboa's endurance in the ring, that those three VHS tapes are now collectively worth nearly $54,000.

The rewards could have been markedly slimmer - James Kroeger had initially selected only Rocky III for inclusion, as that movie debuted the year of the time capsule's construction: 1982. However, he figured his son might also want to watch the first two movies, so he purchased and included those as well. That was a good call, but not just financially: you'd think Rocky was pretty soft if your first encounter was watching a fear-stricken Balboa get absolutely lit up by Mr. T's "Clubber Lang."

Upon seeing news of VHS tapes drawing large sums of money, Kroeger recalled that his time capsule just might contain some forgotten treasure. As it turns out, the copies he had purchased way back in '82 were the original retail releases, the "Drawer Box" copies. In fact, they're now the only known, sealed copies from that release.

The three tapes came to auction at Heritage Auctions last week. Rocky, which we must remind you won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977, sold for $27,500. We'll pause a second. Yeah, it's true: the same franchise that eventually saw a SIXTY year-old Rocky climb back into the ring and go punch-for-punch with the current heavyweight champ in Rocky Balboa began with a movie that was nominated for TEN Academy Awards and won three.

We digress.

Kroeger's Rocky II sold for $12,500. Finally, Rocky III garnered $13,750, bringing the sales total to $53,750.

Kroeger recalls buying each of the tapes for $60. VHS was a very expensive technology at its genesis, and it wasn't until the later '80s when releases like Top Gun brought prices down under $30. So all in, he spent $180 and left those unlikely investments to grow.

And grow they did, at a rate of 15% annually for 41 years, though the vast majority of that was likely skewed to the last three.

When constructing his capsule, Kroeger sought common things that "would seem archaic or unique in the year 2022." Rocky itself....not so archaic as it turns out, but VHS certainly fits the bill.

Stories like these aren't exceedingly uncommon. Just weeks ago, we highlighted the forward-thinking dad who stockpiled mint Star Wars toys.  In fact, the Rocky VHS tapes aren't even the only example of a preserved technology that sold for big money in the last week.

On Saturday night at LCG Auctions, a sealed first generation iPhone sold for $63,356. A PetSmart manager named Karen Green was gifted the phone way back in 2007. That's an incredible gift, but there was a problem: Karen was a Verizon gal, and at the time, iPhones were exclusive to AT&T. So the phone sat unopened for years, just quietly appreciating in value faster than Apple stock (by our calculation: 35% annually versus 29% for AAPL with dividends reinvested).

These incredible outcomes leave us to wonder: does today's generation have any hope of replicating them? Can someone living in this moment find an unassuming physical treasure to sock away that they can harvest in 20 years' time to pay for a semester of college? Who are we kidding, that'll pay for a week of college by then, and the opportunity set is bleak.

Movies have gone mostly digital, video games too. While physical copies still exist, they aren't the predominant medium, meaning that, yes, supply is lower, but the nostalgic inspiration may be lacking years down the road.  Similarly, physical tickets to events are increasingly difficult to find.

Innovations in physical pieces of consumer technology, though incredibly impressive, are mostly derivative in nature, not necessarily gamechangers like the original iPhone. To the extent that changes, you can bet it'll be more than just an enterprising dad or two keeping stock in mint condition.

It's not hard to see, then, why digital collectibles have their evangelists. Digital collectibles are rife with future variability, fraught with fraud, and perhaps a bit too contrived for many. Still, the scope of new physical collectibles is narrowing, and younger generations consume almost exclusively via digital...they're digitally native. That's incredible, it's convenient, and it must be nice.

BUT...but....they'll never know the feeling of popping a VHS into the VCR to watch Rocky single-handedly end the Cold War one fateful Christmas Eve in Moscow.

"If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"

Well said, Rocky. Well said. Time will tell if that quote is applicable to the appetite for digital collectibles.

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