Why Old Movie Reels Are Worth More Than You Realize

Why Old Movie Reels Are Worth More Than You Realize

Whether you have old movie reels of Hollywood classics or simply your own 16mm, 8mm, or Super 8mm home movies, you might be wondering how much they are worth. Well, it can greatly depend on the content. 

It’s unlikely that your home movies will hold monetary value, but the family memories contained in them could be priceless. On the other hand, some vintage film reels with classic movies like Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, or even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, could be worth a suitcase full of cash. 

That’s why our expert archivists here at Capture put together this guide, so you could learn more about old movie reels, why they are rare, and how much they are worth. Then, you can determine whether your reels are worth anything. 

Keep reading to learn about old movie reels and their history, factors that determine how much they are worth, how to determine the worth of a specific vintage reel, and more. 

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What Are Old Movie Reels?

Old vintage movie reels are the circular component on which films of old motion pictures and home movies were wrapped around. This circular metal reel could then be placed on an old movie projector for viewing in a movie theater, movie room, or your living room surrounded by friends and family. 

Different types of film rolls can be placed on a reel. For example, 35mm film developed by Kodak was the most commonly used type for old Hollywood movies. However, for your old home use film reels are more likely to use 8mm or Super 8 film. If they are older, then they might also use 16mm film. 

Whichever type of film the reels use, they will be placed on the reel canister. Then, the sprockets are used to place it on a projector. Additionally, the hubs, flanges, and leaders ensure smooth spinning and quality projection. 

The development of film reels greatly influences the movie industry, allowing for affordable projection of the motion picture. While they are rare, countless iconic movies used film reels for recording and/or projection including Star Wars, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, and even your favorite horror movies from the 80s. 

Factors That Determine the Worth of Old Movie Reels

How much a film canister spool is worth depends on various factors including the condition, rarity, historical significance, provenance, and content quality.  


A film reel in poor condition is worth much less than one that looks like it was never touched. This includes physical damage like scratches, breaks, or splices on the film as well as the condition of the movie when viewed through a 35mm, 8mm film projector, or Super 8 projector

This also depends on how it was stored because excessive humidity, temperature, or light can hurt the film reel. Finally, whether it has the original canister with complete labeling can also help determine the price of the movie reel.

Rarity and Demand

Some movie reels are more common than others, which can drastically impact the price someone will pay. Additionally, there is more demand willing to pay a higher price for rare films, iconic classics, and the popularity of the movie. Sometimes, a movie in English is worth a different price than one in Spanish, Japanese, or another language. 

Collectors might also be looking for specific movies to add to their collection and be willing to pay more for it. Others, like any MGM studio movie, are contained underground in a vault, making them extremely rare.

Historical Significance

Some Hollywood classics as well as historical footage hold profound historical significance. This includes the first color movie, A Visit to the Seaside, early Disney films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first silent film, and historical footage from the moon landing, Woodstock, and JFK’s assassination. 


Knowing where a film reel came from can be a major factor in how much it’s worth. This is especially important as it has documentation that details its journey from the beginning. If you don’t have that, then you can at least try to get a certificate of authenticity for the old movie format. 

Content Quality

Finally, is the quality of the film on the vintage metal reel. Is it complete or is the footage broken up into fragments or splices that disrupt the viewing experience? You also want to check the video and audio quality of the analog film rolls. Also, some are black and white, and others are color which is an important distinction. 

Since film strips can deteriorate over time, you’ll want to check your home movies too and get them digitized as soon as possible so you don’t lose those family memories forever. 

How to Determine the Worth of Old Movie Reels

Now that you know what can influence the value of your movie film reels and retro 8mm film reels, how do you specifically determine how much yours are worth? 

Initial Assessment

First, you’ll want to visually inspect the old film reel for damage, mold, and wear. Sometimes it’s possible to clean the film strip with alcohol and a cotton swab, but tears might require splicing. Either way, this damage can hurt the value. 

During your assessment, you should also look for key features like the production studio, year, title, directors, and other information. Finally, is it from an 8mm film camera or is it 35 mm film, Super 8, or some other type? This is an important fact you’ll want to determine. 

Research and Documentation

Next, you should do research using online databases, forums, and other resources. You might also want to consult with film history experts and archives to learn more about your old movie camera reel. Finally, you can have an expert produce a certificate of authenticity. 

Professional Appraisals

The next step is to get a professional appraisal. This should only be done if you discover during the first two steps that you have collectible movie reels in good condition. When doing so, you should get 2 opinions if possible. You can find reputable appraisers online. Just make sure you check reviews. 

Market Analysis

Finally, rare movie reels are only worth as much as someone will pay for them. Check auction sites and past sales to see what they’ve sold for. Follow forums and see what collectibles are looking for and keep track of market trends and fluctuations. You can also read the next section to get a good idea of how much it might be worth. 

What Are Old Movie Reels Worth?

The value of old movie reels and vintage 8mm film reels can vary greatly from being worth almost nothing to being worth thousands of dollars. Here are some basic templates to get an idea. 

Low-End Value Reels ($10 - $100)

Low-end film movie reels are the most common and mass-produced titles, usually from the 70s and beyond because less have been lost or damaged. It also includes any 35 mm film reels that are excessively damaged or those with minimal historical significance or collector interest. However, they are good for a retro movie night in a home theater or used as DIY wall art & film frame keychains.

Mid-Range Value Reels ($100 - $500)

Mid-range value reels include more popular films from well-known directors. Generally, these reels have little damage other than normal wear. Additionally, these have moderate demand among collectors, but aren’t the most sought-after titles. 

High-End Value Reels ($500 - $5,000)

These reels are getting to be more valuable and include rare limited-release films, hard-to-find titles, and older reels in good condition (those from the 30s and 40s particularly.). They also have documentation and are in excellent condition. 

Premium Value Reels ($5,000+)

These are the rarest titles and are generally in above-average condition at the very least. These have historical significance either from the film itself or the fact that it’s a special or first edition. Some are worth significantly more because there are only 1-2 known copies, if any other copies exist at all

Where to Find Old Movie Reels

You can find old movie reels for purchase online or in person at a variety of locations. These are some of the most common places for buying old movie reels:

  • Auctions and Estate Sales
  • Online Marketplaces
  • Antique Shops and Collectible Stores
  • Film Festivals and Conventions
  • Networking with Collectors

However, not all reels will be in good condition, so make sure you find a reputable seller with good reviews if you’re buying online. If buying in person, just make a good close inspection of the movie reel so you don’t overpay. 


As you can see, antique movie reels could be worth a ton of money to movie reel collectors and experts, but many aren’t worth much at all in general. Now you know how to determine the value and see if your movies are worth something based on condition, rarity, and significance. 

Some of the worthless options include your own home movies, but they are only worthless to collectors. To you, the memories contained in the movie reels could be priceless, which is why it’s important to have them turned into digital copies that will last forever. 

Capture offers film scanning services with top-quality results and utmost security for your family memories. Tap here to learn more. 

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