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Why are some people in Japan paying big money for an old cassette tape?

12 Comments
By Katy Kelly, SoraNews24

Recently you might find a strange sight if you step inside a thrift store or resales shop inside Japan. You may spot cases of recordable cassette tapes, the ones frequently used from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, lined up on the shelves. Curiously, some of these cases are labeled with price tags that outstrip the cost of an overnight ferry trip across the country. So what’s the deal?

▼ “All the metal particle tapes are wiped out! Social media is incredible!”

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The “metal particle” part refers to the kind of tape used in these Type IV recordable tapes and produces the best quality sound. They were the more expensive option even at the peak of the cassette’s popularity, but back then only fetched a few hundred or maybe a thousand yen for a case. Now people will readily hand over 1,000 yen for a single unused tape.

▼ A Twitter user shows off a collection of blank tapes. (Translation below)

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“Here are the cassette tapes everyone’s been talking about. I’ve managed to buy about 170 unused tapes since last year.

The metal particle tapes are particularly precious, so I’ve only been able to find single tapes sold for 1,000 yen. Right now I only have about seven of those.

The scary thing is that even though they’re blank tapes, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re still fit to be recorded on…

So I’ve left them unopened and they’ve become a kind of collection.”

Cassette tapes first began manufacture in Japan in 1966, spearheaded by Maxell. They became hugely popular for their ease-of-use and portability– it was common to spot boombox-toting young people out on the streets with cases of cassettes to play. In 1979, they got another boost in popularity when Sony began selling its portable cassette-player, the Walkman.

▼ From the dark times before we all listened to music on our phones.

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Cassette tapes’ biggest commercial year was in 1989 where they saw sales of over five hundred million!

As previously mentioned, the highest-grade of cassette tape was the metal-particle variety. Sadly, this production of this kind was discontinued in 2001. Maxell is now the sole surviving distributor of cassettes within Japan, shifting around 8,000,000 tapes (exclusively Type I/Ferric/normal tapes) per year.

Recently, though, and perhaps partly because of their scarcity, cassette tapes have become more popular with young people. The tactile aspect of holding a physical release in your hands and the slightly imperfect warmth of the sound recorded onto these tapes all result in a quiet legion of devoted fans, both young and old. Some new songs are even being released specifically in a cassette format.

But the appeal of cassettes isn’t just limited to its practicality. They’ve joined VHS tapes to become something of a style symbol in themselves, representing 20th-century vibes and nostalgia with their chunky plastic cases, small ridged “eye” holes, and spools of clear tape.

In an increasingly digital world, it’s little surprise that some dedicated fans of music want to hold on to these little relics of the past — both metaphorically and literally. Maybe in 20 years or so we’ll see a dramatic resurgence of classic iPods? We’ll just have to wait and see!

Source: NHK News Web

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Sony to stop selling Betamax video cassette tapes in March

-- Pico Cassette looks to keep cartridge games alive in a smartphone world

-- Is this modern art? Masking tape exhibition unrolls in Chiyoda

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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You may spot cases of recordable cassette tapes, the ones frequently used from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, l

You're off by about 15 years. Lots of people were recording on cassette tapes by the mid-70s.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Cassette audio quality may have been a long way short of lossless standard, but nothing has ever replaced the sheer fun of putting together a good themed mixtape and swapping them with other people.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

No surprise the source of this story.

"Curiously, some of these cases are labeled with price tags that outstrip the cost of an overnight ferry trip across the country. "

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Still got boxes of them, somewhere? Also three rain/tape/dvd players.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Awww the memories, yeah making mixed tapes, or sitting listening to the radio with a finger ready to hit pause to tape songs I liked & hoped the DJ wouldnt ruin them too much by talking at beginning and\or end! And was awesome if the next song you wanted as well.....assuming I didnt stop the recording LOL!!!

And then crying when a great tape got EATEN so bad by a player you couldnt play it anymore!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Clutchy hopkins latest lp only came out on tape!!

I used to hate fast forwarding a tape to try and find a track I liked....and then when the batteries started to die, the tape speed would slow down!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Cassette tapes first began manufacture in Japan in 1966, spearheaded by Maxell."

Wow, that is earlier than I had imagined!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

To make it short, in the music scene or among audiophiles the often poorer sound quality of such simple tapes, also effects when listening, like noise or scratching, blurring away when often used, they are all a special feature, part of the art. And the handling itself has to do with nostalgic feelings, remembering own youth, or simply wanting to know with what things the elderly have played around in their youth. And if not too often, there is even fun in repairing a ‘band salad’ and use a cassette repair kit to restore the tape. lol

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My 8 Tracks still make a wonderful click, kachung, Click

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be. Cassette tapes were ruddy awful. Let them die already.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I remember having little money but taping albums on the radio, like Beatles Anthology 2 or a Counting Crows album or having the radio on and a cool song was on, I would tape it and make a cool compilation. I could tell what bands were the best if the tape broke, since I played it so much. You could share with others. I remember liking the Charlatans and lending my tape to a neighbor after I had taped one of their early singles in the early 90s. I was getting music for free, just paying for a blank tape.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be. Cassette tapes were ruddy awful. Let them die already.

Good tape players had a decent sound. Better than the quality of compressed streamed music.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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