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Are my Tapes Blank?

By Dillon Wallace

Find out what’s on your tape – easily, quickly … nostalgically.

Imagine this scenario. It’s summer and you’re just now getting to the whole spring cleaning craze (hey, you’ve busy, and this is a no shame zone). Amongst the debris of old clothes and bins of obsolete electronics, you stumble across a box full of dusty old VHS tapes.

You’re eyes light up as you contemplate what nostalgic gems lay hidden on these tapes, but then it hits you … is there even anything recorded on some of these?

The last thing you want to do is send in a treasure trove of old videotapes for digitization just to find out there’s nothing on them to actually preserve. We’ve seen it several times before and rather than have to break the bad news to you by sending them back, we’d much rather digitize your memories than white noise. Furthermore, you may have prioritized certain tapes over others to send in to us only to find out that you accidentally sent in blanks. We don’t want that either. That’s why we’re going to give you a few easy questions to ask yourself to check whether your VHS tapes are nostalgically loaded or woefully blank.

Is it wrapped?

Okay, this sounds pretty self-explanatory we know, but it’s the quickest way to check if you’ve got footage on there or not. Most new VHS tapes came plastic wrapped with a Y wrapping job. If that factory seal is still on your VHS, there’s a strong chance it’s blanker than blank.

What’s the film roll look like?

If you look at one of your VHS tapes and notice that the film reel looks about half and half or a majority of it is on the right side, that should give you some indication that something is on it. There’s just one problem with this reel location method, and it’s ironically troubling for those of us that honored the “be kind, rewind” code. If your cassette is fully rewound, meaning all the tape is on the left side, it could be hard to tell if its actually blank (since that’s how new tapes came) or just kindly rewound. 

Do you have a VCR?

I know, you’re probably thinking, “Duh, if I had  a VCR I could easily tell whether my tapes were blank or not.” You’re also probably thinking, “Who still has a VCR these days?” And you’re right on both accounts, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a fool-proof and surefire way to know whether you’ve got footage on a tape or not. And if you’re in need of a VCR, try swinging by your local thrift shop or antique mall. There’s a strong chance they’ll have a couple to choose from, and even better, at an incredibly cheap price.

Your memories are important to you which makes them important to us. We want to help deliver a blast from your past as your relive your glory days. So ask yourself these three questions to help you discover whether your tapes are blank or recorded with tons of memories. And if you get a VCR to see what’s on your sentimental stash of tapes, try doing a little organization moving forward by labeling them (“Brittany’s championship soccer game” or “Jack’s first steps” – you get the idea) and separating your blank tapes from your recorded ones. 

And most importantly, once you’ve found which tapes have footage on them, make sure to send them to us for all your digitization needs! Our team of professional preservationists will carefully and privately convert all your VHS and other videotape formats with little to no effort on your part. Get ready to have a blast reliving the past!

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