Film Talk Archives: 7 Reasons You’re Irrationally Clinging to Your DVD Collection

I purchased the domain over two years ago, and for months, I kept telling myself, “I’ll write on it soon.” Then I just forgot about it. Then, last month, I discovered that a film blog I once wrote for shut down and removed all of their old content. Without informing its contributors to make backups.

Luckily, I had backups of (most of) my articles there. And so, now I’ll be posting them from time to time here. So I guess that’s one positive thing: it motivated me to get off my ass and do something with this domain.

Of course, I’ll be posting new content as well, such as my first post Pictures from the 2014 Nashville Mini Maker Faire. And when I do post old film blogs from time to time, I’ll always mention they are archives.

This first archived blog, which is about entreating people to sell their DVD collections, comes from July 27th, 2010, when Netflix streaming was still a nascent enterprise. In the four years since, the home video market has experienced a revolution. I think it’s safe to say I was right about DVDs going the way of the dodo. But I got a few things wrong. For one, the streaming and digital markets still have nowhere near the content library of DVDs. Even if you subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, the selection is still spotty. For example, I wanted to watch Disney’s Frozen a few months after it was released on home video, and I had a hell of a time finding a digital copy I could rent, not own. I eventually found it on the Playstation Network. (By the way, is an invaluable resource.)  When I wrote my article, I did not anticipate all the media companies hoarding their content for their own services.

The second thing I did not anticipate was the value of certain DVDs rising. While I maintain that most DVDs are worth less now than they were four years ago, some that have yet to be released on Blu-ray or digital are now fetching high prices on Ebay. But the fact remains that if you were to sell your entire collection, you would get less overall in 2014 than in 2010.

Here’s the article. I edited a few sentences for reasons of style, but I did not alter the arguments. What do you think?

Not my collection. Can we agree this is out of control?

Not my collection. Can we agree this is out of control?

Originally posted on, July 27th, 2010. 

Over the past year, I’ve been gradually selling off my DVD collection on Ebay. Last Sunday, I listed the final stragglers. Once the auctions are paid for and shipped, I will be, in effect, DVD-less for the first time in 10 years.

And that fills me with a mixture of loss and freedom. I had built up an impressive collection of oeuvres: the near complete works of Bresson, Kurosawa, Rohmer, and more; delicacies hard fought and won through online DVD stores, brick and mortars, and internet auction sites; items from every region code, PAL and NTSC; editions rare and out of print; artifacts enshrined in special collector’s tins, lunchboxes, and vacuum-molded plastic. Many of the DVDs — not the movies themselves but the actual physical containers — were embedded with memories: where I was when I purchased it or whatever emotional state I was in when I first or last popped the DVD into the player. And while I made sure to “back up” all of the DVDs on hard drives anticipating a future home media computer, I felt like I lost a little bit of myself with every auction listed.

And then I smacked myself out of that sentimental fantasy world.

When you make a DVD purchase, you think you’re refining your collection, gaining grounds on a better definition of you. But in reality, you are slowly encasing yourself in a cocoon of junk. DVDs become closet-fillers, bookcase-hoggers, table decoration, and step-around stacks.

“But not me!” you say. “My collection gives me meaning and value.”


Here are 7 reasons you’re irrationally clinging to your DVD collection:

1. I only buy films I watch on a regular basis.

That’s how it always begins. But as your collection increases, the time to watch decreases. With a steady stream of incoming Netlflix rentals, instant ques, Xbox live, video-on-demand, Tivo, Hulu, and torrents; the items you own always drop down a peg on your to-do list. You own them after all; you can watch them anytime.

You are an evolved animal, replete with cognitive biases. Your well-meaning buying strategy gets exploited by the dopamine rush of the hunt.  “It makes economic sense for me to purchase this.” “Owning this product will give my life meaning and value.” But really, they’re all just excuses. The reality is it’s fun to shop. Even if you DO watch most of your collection at least once a year (which you DON’T), economically, it just doesn’t add up. You’ll still save money by renting instead of buying.

2. I like being able to pull any title on a whim and watch.

A few years ago, this argument made sense. If you wanted to watch something not in your collection, you had to go out and rent it or wait for your Netflix to arrive in the mail. But with the advent of instant streaming, you can watch titles you don’t own on a whim. And while the streaming selection is far from complete and the quality isn’t yet on par, both get better every day. Digital songs killed CDs. Xbox Live, the Wi Virtual Store, Valve’s Steam, and the Playstation Network will one day kill physical video games. Kindle and iPad are already taking a chunk out of physical book sales. This is something you can champion or lament, but it is happening. The cold hard fact is that physical media is dying, and the sooner you make peace with that, the sooner you will regain your guest bedroom.

3. I’m waiting for the values to rise.

. . . because that worked SO well with CDs. With very few exceptions, DVDs will never increase in price above their retail value. Most will in fact plummet; and the longer you hold onto them, the less they will be worth. With instant streaming gaining more ground, prices are dropping even more rapidly. When you hold out for a higher worth, you are like the loss averse investor who irrationally clings to a withering stock in hopes that it will regain its value. Forget about recouping your DVD investment. But you will earn more overall by selling today than you will by selling in a year.

4. I can’t stop until I’ve collected the entire series.

“Just one more Warner Film Noir box set!” Maybe you’ve spent years collecting a particular director or series, and you can’t let all your hard work, dollars, and emotional investment go to waste. Besides, your collection would look silly without the 6th and final season of Lost sitting beside the first 5. But there’s another way: sell now and cut your losses. Humans are wired against cognitive dissonance. Instead of correcting a past error and admitting we were wrong, we’ll continue making the error. Some wars should be pulled out of, and some Dr. Who collections should be dismantled.

5. I like the texture, smell, and tangibility of the physical medium.

This is the one plausible argument in the list. No matter how great the quality of digital media, we can’t thumb the pages of an e-book. I believe the resurgence of vinyl records is due more to the tangibility of the medium than any perceived difference in quality. But we have to weigh the benefits of each medium, and digital media has many compelling advantages. For one, digital frees us from the anchors of space-hogs. It’s nice to be able to walk into a clean room without having to brush past stacks of CDs, records, and DVDs; nice to be able to move to a new house without devoting an entire U-Haul trip to your preciouses. The accumulation of things can weigh you down. Shedding excess junk will set you free and help divert focus to the few items that are actually worth cherishing. And in an increasingly overpopulated world, your physical footprint may mean everything.

6.  My DVDs are who I am.

Oh please. Wait until you’re over 30 and then get back with me on that.

7. I keep my DVDs for the sentimental value.

As humans, we tend to see in ordinary objects almost-supernatural underpinnings. This happens when we covet an autograph or a golden age comic book. In his book The Science of SuperstitionBruce Hood calls this our SuperSense. We evolved it to help make sense of a world we couldn’t fully understand. It rained after we danced, so we imbue dancing with the essence of rainmaking. Similarly, we attribute a sacred quality to the objects we collect. DVDs are more than just paper, plastic, and silicone. Perhaps by owning a physical copy of our favorite film, we feel an intimate connection with the filmmakers or that we can better absorb the film’s meaning. I would argue this is an urge we must curtail. Many a family has been broken up because of a collector’s obsession. I’m not advocating selling all of your worldly possessions or decoupling the sacredness from the objects you most covet (because, let’s admit it: it’s fun); just be aware of what you’re doing and recognize when your brain is talking you into a bad buying decision.

Sometimes we forget why we began buying DVDs in the first place: our love of movies. NOT gimmicky cases, limited pressings, or collectible booklets. And today, we have at our fingertips access to more films than ever before. And THAT is what we should be embrace. Don’t let your collection obfuscate the pleasure of watching a great film. Casablanca can hold a special place in your heart whether you own the Ultimate Edition or not.

8. I AM getting rid of my DVDs . . . to replace them with Blu-ray!

Ummm. . .

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