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Black Friday Deals History

A Look Back at the Best Black Friday Deals in Recent History

Erika Stalder | Nov 4, 2019

Black Friday sales were once a breezy opportunity to do a little light shopping for family or friends...or so legend has it. With retailers offering crazy discounts at limited supply, the nature of the event has ballooned into a full-contact sport that requires serious strategy (and maybe a helmet). It’s enough to make us question whether the chaos is worth the reward — well, until we see those prices on big-screen TVs. So how does one smartly navigate Black Friday flash sale deals from the country’s biggest sellers, like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and more? The answer — believe it or not — may be found in the past. 

We took a look back at some of the most outstanding Black Friday deals in recent history to trace where and when they were found. Among the patterns that emerged were a few key reminders for traversing this season’s shopping madness: Rely on big box retailers (like those mentioned above) for the best deals on the latest TVs, laptops, gaming and other tech, but also look to less obvious sellers (B+H Photo, Old Navy, Ancestry.com and more) for bargains on smaller items, like cameras, clothes, and DNA kits. Below, see how the most popular items were bought and sold, Black Friday style, year after year.

Beats by Dre Black Friday Deals

2018: Big Savings on Little Luxuries

Since the dawn of doorbuster deals, we’ve come to rely on slashed prices on big-screen TVs, high-tech cameras, and laptops come Black Friday like leftover pie for breakfast — and 2018 was no exception. But included among the biggest money savers last year were a few unexpected creature comforts that made gift giving less ordinary.

  • Best Buy cut 40% off the $400 noise-cancelling Beats by Dr. Dre Beats Studio3 Over Ear Wireless Headphones — and it came with three months of Apple Music. (Source: USA Today)

  • The wi-fi enabled LG Styler — an at-home dry cleaner of sorts that smooths wrinkles and lifts odors and allergens from clothes with detergent-free steam cleaning — could be found at Home Depot, Best Buy, Costco, and Lowes at nearly half the $2,000 ticket price. (Source: USA Today)

  • For those wondering how (and if) they could possibly be related to the folks found at Thanksgiving dinner, Ancestry.com offered its DNA testing kit (regularly $99) at an unheard of half off. (Source: USA Today)

  • GoPro Hero7 Waterproof HD 4K Camera (which came bundled with a 128GB SD Card and $30 Best Buy Gift Card) could be scored for just $400 at Best Buy, a savings of $300. (Source: USA Today)

  • Massdrop offered the pricey Samsung Q9FN 75-In. QLED Smart 4K TV at a savings of Save $2,500. (Source: USA Today)

2017: Discounts Beyond Walmart and Target

Sometimes, the very best deals are found in places we don’t first think to look. In 2017, that meant sourcing the best holiday makeup deal at a skin-care-focused e-tailer. You could also score a killer DSLR camera somewhere other than the big three big-box retailers. 

  • Though many beauty emporiums rolled out special Black Friday savings in 2017, Dermstore took the cake for one of the most irresistible deals of the year: Tarte Cosmetics Tarteist Trove 5-piece Collector’s Set, which featured 24 very wearable matte and metallic eyeshadow shades, blush, highlighter, bronzer, mascara, eyeliner, and lip color. While the brand valued the kit at $385, it sold for just $33.60 on the e-commerce site. (Source: USA Today)

  • Sure, you can find Black Friday deals on household items that rarely go on sale (think: Dyson vacuums and All-Clad cookware), but they’re often reserved for refurbished models alone. Not so with Amazon’s KitchenAid 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer steal a few years back, which sold for more than half off its $570 sticker price. (Source: USA Today)

  • Year after year, B&H Photo offers some of the very best deals on pro-approved cameras and gear. Take the top-rated Nikon D500 DSLR, which both vloggers and sports and action photogs rave about: the nearly $3500 shooter could be nabbed at $2400 and came bundled with a battery pack, extra lens and shoulder bag, to boot. (Source: USA Today)

Apple Watch Black Friday Deal

2016: The Latest Tech for Less

Aside from standard tech (TVs, laptops and the like), drones and the brand new Apple Watch were among the most sought-after gadgets of 2016  — and some of the best steals could be found at the big three of brick-and-mortar big box retailers: Target, Best Buy and Walmart.

  • Target offered the very best Black Friday deals of the year on both the Apple Watch Series 1 (which was available at 36% off) and the iPad Pro 9.7" (which could be had at 34% off the $600 retail price). (Source: Forbes)

  • In-store shoppers snatched up Microsoft 12.3" Surface Pro 4 Bundle with Signature Type Cover at Best Buy for just $600 (and saved $400 in the process). (Source: Forbes)

  • Realtors and spies in the making were treated to sneaky deal on the DJI Phantom 3 Standard Drone, which sold at Walmart for $370 (a savings of $130 and at least $30 cheaper than at other retailers). (Source: Forbes)

2015: Pajamas for Pennies on the Dollar

This year, Best Buy remained a stalwart for seriously discounted TVs (and for iTunes gift cards, R.I.P.). But pajamas for the whole family also hit rock bottom prices, as Old Navy also offered an astounding 50% off everything in its store and Dell, of all retailers, came out on top for the best deal on the Xbox One gaming console.

  • Those who trekked to Best Buy pocketed a cool $280 in savings when paying just $150 for a 49-inch Toshiba HDTV. Also hot that year at the big box retailer: buy one, get one 40% off deals on iTunes gift cards (fingers crossed they were redeemed by June of 2019, when Apple killed the service). (Source: Money)

  • Old Navy discounted every item of their already reasonably priced gear by 50% storewide on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday in 2015. (Source: Popsugar)

  • Dell debuted the lowest price ever for Xbox One Gears of War Bundle + Fallout 4 & Extra Controller, which sold online for one day only at $300 (and a full $170 off). (Source: BestBlackFriday.com)

2014: When DVDs Were Sorta Still a Thing

Back in 2014, Staples proved a Black Friday player with the cheapest laptop price of the year and though streaming was very much a thing in 2014, Breaking Bad superfans ponied up for the series on DVD.

  • Oftentimes, mind-blowing TV deals are reserved for brands with second-tier name recognition. But Best Buy offered a 50″ 1080p HDTV from Panasonic for a shocking $199.99 (Source: BestBlackFriday.com)

  • The cheapest laptop of the year was found at office superstore Staples: The 11” Asus with Intel processor and 2GB of RAM lacked plenty of bells and whistles, but at $100 did it matter? (Source: BestBlackFriday.com)

  • After airing its final season in 2013, every episode of the cult favorite TV series Breaking Bad could be had for a steal at $150 by the following year, thanks to Amazon’s Black Friday deal. Of course, five years later, the show streams for free with a Netflix subscription, but early adapters can’t count the investment as a total loss. The special-edition Breaking Bad Complete Series 2014 Barrel came with more than 55 hours of special feature footage, a Los Pollos Hermanos apron, and more. (Source: Gizmodo)

Black Friday Clothing Deals

2013: iPhones for Under $100

Imagine scoring an iPhone 11 for less than $50 in 2019. Impossible, right? But 2013 proved to be simpler times, when the latest iPhone (a 5th gen model) could be had for the cost of a mere iPhone case today. And that’s not all: those who braved the mall were also treated to deep clothing discounts in 2013.

  • Walmart shoppers scored an iPhone 5c, which had been released just a few months before, for an unheard of $45. The only hitch? Buyers had to sign on to a two-year Agreement (Verizon and AT&T) to get the deal. (Source: BestBlackFriday.com)

  • Early birds were rewarded at Express, which offered every item in the store at half off through noon on Black Friday. (Source: Fashionista)

2012: Deals on Flash Drives and Fax Machines

Seven years ago, Black Friday shoppers were landing some of the best deals of the year at many of the same retailers that offer them today — even if they were lining up for what’s now considered dinosaur tech like Windows 8, and 12 megapixel cameras and yes, fax machines.

  • Fry’s shoppers found a workhorse computer in the 15.6-inch Lenovo laptop with AMD Vision E1 CPU, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, and Windows 8 for just $178. (Source: The Verge

  • Best Buy offered the top-rated Canon EOS Digital Rebel T3 12.2 megapixel camera for $449.99. (Source: The Verge)

  • Those still sending faxes could nab a Brother 575 Thermal fax machine for just $20 at OfficeMax. (Source: The Verge)

  • A simple SanDisk 32GB USB Flash Drive (which normally sold for $50) could be had for $18 at Staples. (Source: The Verge)

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