According to the online music database Discogs, cassette tapes are now the fastest-growing format of music sold today, behind vinyl and CDs. This means that some cassettes are incredibly rare, with collectors willing to fork over a pretty penny for a coveted album or demo recording. Here are some of the most expensive cassettes ever purchased, whether individually or as part of a set. Some of the artists are household names and others you probably haven't heard of, but either way, you'll want to keep your eyes open for copies of these cassette tapes!
Korn – Korn: $606
While not everyone's cup of tea, the American band Korn has a devoted following thanks to their music bringing the nu metal genre into the mainstream. The band formed in Bakersfield, California in 1993 and recorded a self-titled demo that featured different versions of three songs that appeared on later albums.
"Predictable," "Blind," and "Daddy" are all included, although the title "Predictable" is spelled "Pradictable" on the cassette. It could be this quirk that made the tape appealing enough for someone to shell out $606 for a copy in 2016.
Moe Shop – Pure Pure: $650
French-born track maker Moe Shop's 2015 album Pure Pure is the newest release on this list. The pink cassette tape contains the tracks "You Look So Good," "Crush," "Say," "Kawaii Desho," as well as an intro and an outro.
The album is in high demand among fans and there were only 20 copies made. In 2018, a copy of it was sold for $650, and people are still trying to find others online.
Erasure – Erasure: $742
Erasure was the seventh studio album by the English synth-pop band Erasure, and was released in 1995. The experimental recording contains 11 tracks. The band has cited it as one of their favorite works, along with Chorus.
A box set containing a cassette recording of Erasure was sold for $742 in 2017. The package also included a VHS tape, a CD, and a floppy disk, making it almost a time capsule from the mid-1990s.
Coldplay – Ode To Deodorant: $799
With just two tracks, Coldplay's demo tape is still one of the most expensive cassettes ever purchased. It was the band's first recording and is credited to "The Coldplay" rather than the name we know them as now.
According to Redditor JordanCox2, "It was recorded circa 1998 on a master CDR and distributed on cassette tape. The band agrees that Ode was never their finest work." They continue, "As the title suggests, 'Ode To Deodorant' is a song about... deodorant." Nevertheless, one of 15 existing copies of the cassette was purchased for $799 in 2016.
Nujabes – Sweet Sticky Thing (Reload All Good Music From Old To The New): $800
This rare and valuable cassette was created by a Japanese hip-hop producer and DJ under the name Nujabes. His real name, Jun Seba, is his alias in reverse.
The cassette contains a ton of hits by various soul and funk artists, like Thelma Houston's "Come To Me," Anita Baker's "Sweet Love," Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes on "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon," and many more. A collector snapped the tape up for $800 in 2018.
Various Artists – Street Punk Omnibus Tape In-Obihiro: $800
Featuring tracks from the Japanese hardcore punk bands Jisatsu, Human Gas, Stalinism, Genocide, and Traicy Rose, the Street Punk Omnibus Tape In-Obihiro cassette was released in 1986. It includes tracks such as "Blood Rain," "Field of Death," "Don't Know Future," and "Last No Body."
This cassette recording is a coveted item for many collectors of the genre, which explains the nifty $800 price it fetched from a buyer in 2015.
Salaried Man Club / Kiiro Radical / Den Sei Kwan / Invivo / Wireless Sight / Nishimura Alimoti – Limited Edition Vanity Records Box Set: $800
Vanity Records is an influential underground Japanese label operating out of Osaka, Japan, in the late '70s. In 1981 it released a set of recordings by the influential techno-pop bands Salaried Man Club, Kiiro Radical, Den Sei Kwan, Invivo, Wireless Sight, and Nishimura Alimoti.
This limited-edition box set consisting of six cassettes with original artwork, housed in a gray cardboard box, fetched a cool $800 when it was placed for sale in 2018.
Pixies – Pixies: $1,010
The 1987 self-released cassette recording Pixes is unofficially called "The Purple Tape" by fans of the iconic alternative rock group. Producer Gary Smith said that the band ordered 500 copies of the recording, which were all sent out to various labels with primarily negative feedback.
That is, until the founder of 4AD, Ivo Watts-Russell, ended up with one and the rest is history. In 2018, a copy of Pixies was purchased for the sweet sum of $1,010.
Guns N' Roses – Appetite For Destruction – Locked N’ Loaded Edition: $1,048
Another entry that's not an individual cassette tape, this Guns N' Roses box set gets a mention because of its value to fans and collectors alike. The Appetite For Destruction – Locked N' Loaded Edition brought in $1,048 when it sold in September of 2018.
Released earlier the same year, the set contained a special edition cassette, along with a slew of other collectibles. It's referred to as the Holy Grail of GN’R fans and the value is only expected to go up over time.
The Smashing Pumpkins – The Smashing Pumpkins: $1,200
Before eventually rising to international superstardom in the 1990s, The Smashing Pumpkins were formed in Chicago in 1988 by Billy Corgan, James Iha, D'arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin.
The band produced an estimated 500 copies of their self-titled demo, available in a variety of colors including green, pink, and red. With handwritten labels, these cassettes are highly sought-after by fans and one of them sold for $1,200 in 2018.
The New Blockaders / Coil / Vortex Campaign – The New Blockaders / Coil / Vortex Campaign: $1,200
In 1984, the bands Coil and The New Blockaders were invited by noise/industrial duo Vortex Campaign to participate in a collaboration. The result was a release of 50 cassettes that are referred to as "Dolbied."
The tapes, considered by many fans to be "legendary," are each numbered and packaged in a cloth bag that also includes 8 cards with visual designs by Vortex Campaign. The most expensive copy sold to date fetched $1,200 in 2017.
Macintosh Plus – Floral Shoppe: $1,300
If you haven't heard of the artist Macintosh Plus or the label Beer on the Rug, you're not alone. People who are in the know are aware that the American electronic musician Vektroid uses Macintosh Plus as one of her aliases.
Floral Shoppe was her ninth full-length album and is widely seen as a defining moment in the microgenre of music known as vaporwave. As such, copies of it can bring in a good deal of money. In fact, a cassette version sold for $1,300 in 2018!
Dépèche Mode – Violator: $1,355
The electronic music band Dépèche Mode broke into the British new wave scene with their 1981 debut album Speak & Spell. With more than 100 million records sold worldwide, it's no surprise that rare or important recordings are highly sought-after by collectors.
Violator, the band's seventh studio album, was a massive mainstream hit and brought the group to international superstardom. Containing the hits "World in My Eyes," "Personal Jesus," and "Policy of Truth," a multi-format box set including a cassette version sold for $1,355 in 2014.
Madonna – The Madonna Collection: $1,500
If you guessed that the Material Girl was going to make it to the top of the list, you were correct. The Madonna Collection, a limited-edition four-cassette tape box set released by Warner Bros. Records in 1987, fetched the nice price of $1,500 in 2015.
Included are a slew of hits such as "Like a Virgin," "Where's The Party," "True Blue," "Papa Don't Preach," and "Who's That Girl." It also came with a 20-page picture-filled booklet of song lyrics.
Dépèche Mode – Dépèche Mode: $1,500
Dépèche Mode's 1980 demo tape, understandably, is worth quite a bit to fans and collectors. Featuring three tracks, "Ice Machine," "Radio News," and "Photographic," there are allegedly only two legit originals remaining.
After recording the demo, the band hand-delivered copies to record labels and "demanded" that they be played right then and there. Singer Dave Gahan said the labels would "say 'leave the tape with us' and we'd say 'it's our only one'. Then we'd say goodbye and go somewhere else." One of these demos sold to a lucky fan for $1,500 in December of 2013.
Various Artists – Lonely Is An Eyesore: $1,629
Released in 1987 by the label 4D, Lonely is an Eyesore is a compilation album featuring a variety of artists, all signed to the label at the time. All of the tracks included were recorded by the bands from 1985 to 1987 except for one: Dead Can't Dance's 1979 demo "Frontier."
This entry is not just a single cassette: a special limited edition came in a wooden box with all three audio formats included as well as a video and some artwork. A set was sold for $1,629 in 2016. That's still a pretty hefty price!
Buck 65 – Year Zero: $1,729
This is a hand-made tape that was self-released in 1996 by the Canadian alternative hip hop artist Richard Terfry, better known by his stage name Buck 65. Fewer than 10 copies were ever made, and their rarity greatly influences the value.
To date, the most valuable copy of Year Zero was sold for $1,729 in 2017. It includes 16 tracks on Side A and 17 previously unreleased tracks on the B side.
Various Artists – De La Viande Pour Le Disco: $1,818
Released on the label Banana Split in 1995, a copy of this compilation of various artists sold for $1,818 in 2013. Of particular note is the inclusion of the French band Darlin', whose music was described by Melody Maker magazine as "a daft punky thrash."
After Darlin' broke up, its members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo went on to form Daft Punk, the wildly popular electronic music experiment. This is a likely reason for the tape's high purchase price.
Throbbing Gristle – 24 Hours: $2,200
Throbbing Gristle, pioneers in the art of industrial music, were an English band active in the years 1975–1981 and 2004–2010. Their work influenced many artists including the American beat writer William S. Burroughs.
$2,200 was the purchase price for a limited edition box set, produced by Industrial Records in 1980. The set of 26 tapes were packaged in a suitcase that included this information in an insert: "23 live performances cassettes and 3 cassettes of recordings made at the studios." Also included were a personalized collage and several autographed pictures. This $2,200 set was purchased in December of 2017.
The Artist (Formerly Known As Prince) – The Versace Experience Prelude 2 Gold: $4,117
The Prince Vault describes this release as "a compilation album of Prince's studio work, initially given away as a promotional cassette to attendees of the Versace collection of Paris Fashion Week over the course of three consecutive days, beginning 8 July 1995." Liner notes thank Versace and say, "4 promotional use only - not 4 sale."
In August of 2016, a copy of the cassette was sold for a whopping $4,117. Prince's untimely death had occurred just four months earlier, which probably contributed to the steep price.