Bernard Bennetto's Video Pages - Terminology


When you acquire a book, you acquire far more than the book. The book consists of the specified number of pages of printed text, the end papers, the boards and the dust wrapper/jacket. The value of the book rests in the entire package and, normally, the earliness of the date of the original first publication of that package.

Similarly, with a video, when you acquire a video it constitutes a similar package and it is in the entire 'package' and, principally, the completeness and the date of the particular package which has been acquired which determines the value.

There is now an agreed terminology for the book collector. This terminology covers such characteristics as the size and type of books (hardback or paperback), the component pages/components (end papers and dust jackets) and publication details (edition and impression).

No such agreed terminology exists for the pre-recorded video collector. The discussion below suggests such a scheme which covers all the various component parts of that pre-recorded video 'package'.


Normally the pre-recorded video package includes the following components:


The BOX is normally a rigid, black or transparent, plastic, protective package or container which opens like a book and which is designed to house both the VIDEOCASSETTE inside and the printed JACKET behind a clear acetate see-through cover. While the format of the box is now relatively standardised, there were a variety of materials and designs for the box due to a lack of standardisation and these formats are classified below.


The multi-coloured printed JACKET, equivalent to the dust wrapper, is housed behind the clear acetate see-through cover of the BOX. Like a dusk wrapper, it consists of a front cover, a spine and a back cover describing the contents and copyright details of the videocassette. It can be printed on both sides.


The CASE is a term which can be used to refer to the combination of both the BOX and the JACKET housed behind the clear acetate cover of the BOX.


The VIDEOCASSETTE consists of the outer videocassette casing and the reel of magnetised tape which is housed within the videocassette casing. It bears a variety of LABELS.


The self-adhesive LABELS are attached to the VIDEOCASSETTE casing or to the JACKET for identification and authentication purposes and consist of a wide variety of both DISTRIBUTOR LABELS and RENTAL DEALER LABELS. They are classified below.




The principal label is a self-adhesive sticky labels which identifies the title, the distributor and the catalogue and certification details of the video. It is affixed to the top cover of the VIDEOCASSETTE casing. An additonal label identifying the identity of the video can also be attached to the spine of the videocassette casing.


The AUTHENTICATION LABEL is a sticker or hologram which authenticates that the video has been distributed by a particular company and is not an illegal copy. Such holographic AUTHENTICATION LABELs are difficult to copy and they are normally affixed to the jacket and/or to the VIDEOCASSETTE casing.


The INSERT is optional card, inserted into the BOX along with the VIDEOCASSETTE, which provides either a facsimile of say an original still/poster or additional details such as credits and cast lists and which could not be inluded on the JACKET.


The unofficial, RENTAL DEALER LABELS are also of the sticky, self-adhesive type and are those placed on the box, jacket or cassette casing by the rental dealer. A dealer will normally have added:

- some numeric identification to identify its stock location

- an overnight or weekly rental price

- BBFC self-certification stickers to non-distributor certified editions and

- tamper-proof stickers.

These labels are normally removed on the basis that they disfigure the original package and that the package should be maintained in the condition in which it was originally purchased.



While the video distributors have experimented with a variety of packaging formats and while there are only two which are current now, there are five basic packaging formats which have been used and which should be noted by the serious video collector. The three obsolete formats are the cardboard slip case (C), the large soft box (S) and the clear, rigid perspex box (P). The two formats which are now current are the large, rigid or dealer box (R) and the little, rigid or sell-through box (L). Additionally a range of very rare, exceptional (X) box formats exist. These codings will be used in subsequent sections to describe collectible videos.


Throughout the United States, the four-sided cardboard slip case is the recognised means for selling pre-recorded movies. Because of this previous acceptance, it was used in the very early years of video retailing during 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981. It was used principally by the early distributors:

- Magnetic Video Company

- Hokushin

- Intervision

- CIC.

However, such packaging did not find much favour with the early rental shops. The cardboard case could not be easily displayed and could disintegrate easily with repeated handling. The videos contained in such packaging are the very first releases of such collectible and extremely valuable titles as Carrie, The Blues Brothers, Annie Hall, African Queen and Casablanca. While these videos do turn up, it is extremely difficult to find them in their original mint packaging and it is more than likely that the case has been mutilated.

Normally only three sides of the original four sided box are available - the front, the back and a spine. This can be re-contituted by pasting the three available faces to a regular blank video case box. When the four sides are available then a new tab must be attached to the front or back spine. An unmutilated package has four sides plus a top and/or bottom flap.

Rank and, more recently, CIC have attempted to re-introduce the cardboard slip case format for sell through releases. Despite a considerable price premium in favour of the slip case (£5.99 compared with £10.99), they do not seem to have found additional favour with the purchaser or collector.


This was the box used by Warner Home Video, Guild Home Video and Rank Video Library for their early releases in 1980 and for several years following this. In terms of external dimensions, the box is approximately 9" high by 5½" wide and 1¼" deep. It came with either a wholly rounded or slightly squared and reinforced spine and while unstable on a shelf is regarded as highly aesthetic by many collectors. While more acceptable to the dealers, it was particularly subject to damage in the region of top and bottom edges of the spine and along the length of the spine.

The inner cover of the large soft box often contained the distributors monogram in embossed or recessed lettering.


Eventually dealer complaints about the durability of the large soft box caused the distributors to drop the soft box format and replace it with a rigid box of similar dimensions (nb. the overall height was slightly smaller and between 8½" and 9").

This has now become the standard dealer format. All rental releases and therefore first releases invariably appear in this format. Like the soft box, the inner cover of the large rigid box can contain the distributors monogram in embossed lettering.

Incidentally Warner persisted with the soft box format for many years despite the complaints of the dealers. MGM, on the other hand, were the first company to adopt this format.


CIC and Fox who had used the cardboard slip case format for their early 1980 releases, responded to the dealer complaints by introducing and adopting a rigid but smaller format box. The external dimensions of the smaller box are approximately 8" high by 5" wide and 1¼" deep. This format was readily accepted by the dealers for both rental and sell through releases. However, CIC and CBS/Fox now use the large format box for dealer releases and reserve this format box for sell through titles. It has now become the standard for sell through editions only. The inner cover of the box can contain the distributors monogram in embossed lettering.


Examples of such boxes are extremely difficult to find since they were invariably damaged. The boxes were based on the audio cassette box and scaled up to take a video. They opened in a similar fashion by being pivoted on two rigid platic pins. The offered the advantage that the sleeve could be be printed on two sides. However, the rigid plastic used in their construction was subject to fatigue and the pins snapped.

Precision Video, Spectrum and Picture Time Video were the principal distributors to use this format. Unlike the cardboard slipcase, few collectible titles are to found in this format. Notable exceptions, however, are 'Trafic' on Spectrum and 'The Wanderers' on Picture Time.


Examples of such excepional boxes are even more difficult to find since they were invariably mutilated or damaged. They consist of a large, recessed cardboard case which opens at the top. Notable releases were MGM's early releases of Sellars' 'Being There' and Fuller's 'The Big Red One'.


The terminology introduced here covers the video package. The terminology must also cover a series of additional terms which will be to describe condition of the package. The value of a video will be based on the quality of its current condition and the relative rarity of the video in that particular packaging and that particular condition. These are based on existing book collecting terminology. The terminology is introduced introduced below. The terminology relates to the relative rarity/scarcity of the package, the range of variations in the video package (small and large boxes and soft and rigid boxes) and the state and conditions of the parts of the package which might be encountered (frosted boxes, chipped boxes, faded jackets, torn labels, etc).

Last Updated: 30th July 1996
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© Bernard W Bennetto 1996