Cassettes are the fastest-growing format of the big three sold on Discogs. They are cheap to produce, making the format appealing to DIY artists looking to release music without investing thousands of dollars. They are also less frequently purchased than vinyl and CDs, which drives production and supply down. Which, in some cases, can make them phenomenally rare. All of the top 100 most expensive cassettes sold on Discogs are $500 or higher – which is remarkably expensive considering the known physical shortfalls of the format. The vast majority of cassettes do not hit these prices though and they are often more affordable than vinyl equivalents, making them appealing to many physical media enthusiasts.
The cassette market, though growing, is still relatively small. Just 1.8% of all Discogs purchases in 2018 were of a cassette tape, which was up slightly from the year before. There were just about 200,000 cassettes purchased on Discogs in 2018, which is an increase of 24% over 2017. More than a third of these expensive cassettes were sold in 2017 and 2018, with 2019 sales pacing slightly higher than those in 2018.
Signs are pointing to a strong high-end cassette market, much like the trends we have noted in the vinyl market. For a deep dive into the data of cassettes on Discogs, I recommend reading our article about the comeback of cassettes from coverage of Cassette Store Day.
Cassettes are trendy now too. For many younger folk, they are a trinket to express ironic love of long-forgotten retro culture. Look no further than the most frequent item found on the list, the Beer On The Rug limited cassette release of Macintosh Plus – Floral Shoppe, for evidence of this. The seminal vaporwave album, ironic by design, perhaps has no better format than a cassette. The limited release of 100 paired with remarkable demand has driven the median sale price of the release to nearly $800. Considering hundreds were allegedly ghosted on the bubblegum pink vinyl preorder, maybe the cassette is your best non-bootleg option?
The most expensive cassette on this list was sold for well over $4,000 and is from an artist you almost certainly know. It was handed out to attendees of a Paris Fashion Week show in 1995 and was recently re-released for the first time on Record Store Day 2019. We’ll let you find out what it is on your own below.