Fandom isn't just about enthusiasm, it's about money. Excitement for franchises first sells movie tickets, then it inspires those viewers to get busy spending their hard-earned cash on merchandise until the sequel rolls around. It's a brilliant cycle that has kept Hollywood in business and helped give leverage to sites like eBay, which have since become the champions of the most coveted items in fandom history. From newfangled gadgets to relics of a bygone era, the e-commerce mogul is home to some of the most precious and expensive items on the market.
In fact, eBay recently released the top 15 most profitable fandoms from 2006-2015, whittling their findings down to a science. eBay can actually track the average time each particular fandom sells an item, so in the time you've spent reading this article, thousands of dollars have already been made.
Ranked in order, here are The 15 Biggest Earning Fandoms Of The Decade:
15 South Park: $8,784,974
Trey Parker and Matt Stone had a fun story to tell and crazy characters to explore, but no one could predict the mega hit South Park would become. Not only have the adventures of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny stayed on the air for nearly twenty years, the property has generated nearly $9 million of eBay business since 2006. What kind of goodies are selling the most, you ask? Collectible toys, action figures, messenger bags, pinball machines and even embroidered patches. These statistics should come as no surprise though, given South Park t-shirt sales hit $30 million during the first season.
Despite the polemical nature of the show, where no public figure, religion or creed is safe, South Park struck a nerve with Americans over the years and has been part of the zeitgeist ever since. The show's fearless lampooning of the self-righteous and the absurd has been endearing to its fandom.
14 X-Men: $11,947,018
Though Marvel's recent efforts at slowing the production of X-Men merchandise, eBay has seen an uptick in sales. Despite the success of Captain America: Civil War, with Spider-Man: Homecoming swinging in our direction, X-Men remains the only Marvel property on eBay's fandom list. Since Stan Lee kick-started the series in 1963, X-Men has become one of the most popular franchises in history, spawning multiple video games, books and a nine-film box-office run that has banked over $4 billion and counting.
When you peruse the shopping aisles of eBay, you'll find Wolverine art for sale, original copies of vintage comics, and action figures galore. While Apocalypse may have been somewhat lost in summer blockbuster melee (though it made over $534 million around the globe), the X-Men franchise is still at the peak of its game. With a new TV series in the works at Fox, Charles Xavier's mutants will be firmly back in the public eye.
13 Doctor Who: $21,209,540
As the longest running scripted TV series in British history (and the most successful sci-fi franchise of all time), it would be a crime if this show didn't land a spot on eBay's top 15. Since 1963, the Doctor and his TARDIS have been ingrained in both British and global culture. Doctor Who has inspired spin-offs like Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures that seem to suggest the infinite possibilities of the source material. Thanks to the series' convenient theory of regeneration, the Doctor himself has been played by twelve different actors, with Peter Calpadi currently commanding the role.
As a series that only adds to its timeless popularity, you'll find collectible postcards and stamps on eBay, wall clocks featuring a doctor for every hour, and of course, Sonic Screwdrivers of all kinds. There are high-priced action figures, pinball machines and computer games, along with entire compendiums of books and literature on the show.
12 Game of Thrones: $22,115,854
Before analyzing the numbers, just know that you can buy Jon Snow's Longclaw on eBay. If you want the White Walker-beater along with its scabbard, be ready to shell out a couple grand. That's just one slice of the pie, which likely has yet to peak in popularity. Season 6 tied together a myriad of loose ends in grand fashion, and while the penultimate season is a year away, fan anticipation is at fever pitch to watch the fateful battle for the Iron Throne.
For nearly $2,000, you can buy a twelve-foot tall replica of the Iron Throne (a welcome addition to any home), in addition to House Stark and Lannister tournament banners, Daenerys Targaryen coins and Arya Stark "Needle" letter-openers. We can only hope George R. R. Martin's lawyers ensured he'd get a piece of the merchandising profit, because if HBO intends to pursue a prequel series once the Game of Thrones has been won, expect this fantasy property to only climb higher on the sales list.
11 Naruto: $23,471,413
In 1997, Masashi Kishimoto published a one-shot manga about a teenager who yearns to become the Hokage, the preeminent ninja of his local village. Like the speed of its stealthy warrior, Naruto jumped to popularity across Japan. As of 2013, over 130 million copies of the manga had been sold, spawning hundreds of TV episodes, the Naruto: Shippuden sequel, eleven different movies and countless video games. Naruto wasn't just a part of the culture in Japan. It shaped the zeitgeist and formed a generation.
For cosplay enthusiasts, eBay is a mecca for Naruto fans. In addition to buying warrior cloaks and exact-replica costumes, you can also buy a variety of weapons Naruto has employed. From throwing stars to katanas and swords of all sizes, the eBay Naruto pages look like a weapons cache for 15th Century Japan. If that's not your style, there are an abundance of collectible game cards and pendants at your disposal.
10 The Lord of the Rings: $41,323,469
One does not simply walk into Mordor and refuse to shop around a bit. Indeed, since The Return of the King premiered in 2003, the series has maintained its grip on the fantasy world. Beating out even the internationally-beloved A Song of Ice and Fire (though GRRM's series is far younger than The Hobbit), J.R.R. Tolkien's crowning achievement continues to be a source of revenue for both his estate and the barterers of the digital domain. Though it ranks just one spot above Naruto on eBay's top fifteen fandoms, The Lord of the Rings has made nearly twice as much money as the Japanese manga over the last decade.
What generates the cash flow? Swords aplenty, like Thranduil, Sting, and Anduril, which dominate the market at fairly reasonable asking prices. Or, should you be feeling lucky and ready to part with over $25,000, you can buy the first edition set of Lord of the Rings complete with their original jackets.
9 The Walking Dead: $54,635,144
Over a year ago, true loyalists had the opportunity to buy one of the show's featured towns for $680,000. While many fans likely mulled over the opportunity, the Grantville property sold on eBay to a Florida marketing company. For less punitive fees, however, you'll find all manner of action figure collectibles on the e-commerce site, along with a tricked-out pinball machine going for $8,400. Once we find out who Negan offed at the end of season six, certain characters may get an uptick in their value on the digital marketplace.
For a series that saw its first issue released in just 2003, the meteoric rise of The Walking Dead is truly unrivaled. At San Diego Comic-Con, it took home the Eisner Award for best continuing series in 2007 and 2010, the same year the show premiered on AMC. With Fear the Walking Dead trucking along and season seven of the original series en route this fall, expect Robert Kirkman's zombie creation to continue climbing the eBay fandom ranks.
8 The Legend of Zelda: $83,046,559
The Ocarina of Time plays on. Since its inception in 1986, The Legend of Zelda has inspired eighteen video games that have sold over 62 million copies. With Breath of the Wild (the first in the series to feature voice-over acting) heading to the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017, the franchise continues to gain momentum. Link's adventures in Hyrule against Ganon have also been featured in an animated TV series, and despite exciting claims that Netflix would be taking on the mantle, those rumors have since been denied.
The cost of vintage Zelda on eBay is often greater than Link's sacrifices for the princess. An original Super Nintendo The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is selling for $999. Though these may be some of the best reviewed games of all time, that's a steep asking price for a 25 year-old, two-dimensional game that might not even work anymore.
7 Harry Potter: $84,791,533
Quite frankly, it's surprising that Harry Potter doesn't rank higher on this list. Not only have JK Rowling's original seven books spawned eight movies that dismantled box-office records, her magical universe has since been turned into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at four theme parks around the world. You can sip Butterbeer for goodness sake. What's more, universities around the world have made Quidditch tantamount to their football programs. With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hitting book stands on July 31st and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them bursting into theaters this Christmas, it appears the Hogwarts battle between Harry and Voldemort was but a momentary conclusion.
It may not be Diagon Alley, but eBay has countless wands for sale, sorting hats up for grabs, the Triwizard Tournament cup and even Hogwarts Acceptance Letters. If you want one of the original scripts for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, that'll cost you $1,125. Indeed, the muggle demand for wizardly gifts sees one Harry Potter item purchased on eBay every seventy five seconds.
6 Superman: $96,015,809
From George Reeves to Christopher Reeve, Superman has been firmly entrenched in the American national identity. Even abroad, the Man of Steel maintains a healthy appeal perpetuated by a long line of movies and a lengthy comics history. Thanks to director Richard Donner, Superman became the first truly beloved big screen superhero in Hollywood history.
Every 72 seconds, eBay sells one Superman-related item to contribute to the franchise's ten-year haul of nearly $100 million. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Kal-El, would certainly be proud. If you want one of the original Christopher Reeves costumes for Halloween, get ready to spend $50,000. How does a quarter of a million bucks sound for Andy Warhol's take on the character? You can get that, too, and the good news is, the shipping is free! Superman is apparently more than invincible, he's better for the economy than any stimulus package.
5 Star Trek: $112,305,369
Trekkies live long and prosper, and they also account for $112 million of eBay activity since 2006. Though it's not quite warp speed, Star Trek fans have purchased items on the e-commerce giant once every minute for the last decade. With Star Trek: Beyond about to make its mark in summer theaters, expect these buying numbers to rise as even more action figures, memorabilia and merchandise flood the stores.
Ultimately, given all of the Star Trek incarnations since Gene Roddenberry's original series, true fans want the vintage goods. If they can't buy William Shatner, they're going to want the things he used as Captain Kirk. The Star Trek signed LP soundtrack features Shatner's signature along with the late Leonard Nimoy's, selling for a tolerable $1,500. That's just a drop in the bucket compared to the trading cards from the Leaf Stark Trek set, of which a 1967 version is currently selling for $144,000. Whoever buys that is going to have to beam up their bank account in record time.
4 Pokémon: $173,476,395
Check back on this list next year, as Pokemon Go will have single-handedly vaulted the franchise to new heights. While the beloved app is currently selling maxed-out accounts for thousands of dollars, you can quite literally catch 'em all on eBay, where Pokemon items sell once every 28 seconds. Now that Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to a live-action movie, where Pikachu will be more yellow than ever before, the Pokemon franchise will become truly ubiquitous.
Though the addictive world was created just twenty-one years ago, Pokemon is the nearly the most successful video game franchise in history, second only to Mario. The franchise has banked over $50 billion worldwide, statistics that do not incorporate the most recent era of Pokemon Go. Mint Charzard card collections are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dewgong is somehow going for $20,000, and Pokemon domain names are selling for even more than that. But hey, you can't put a price tag on fun, right?
"Before time began, there was the cube," along with a massive opportunity to make some serious merchandising money. Since the Autobots first assembled in 1984 and Transformers: The Movie debuted two years later, the Hasbro toys have dominated the pop-culture scene. Thanks to Michael Bay's blockbuster behemoths, Transformers will soon see its fifth big-screen movie in just ten years. Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Age of Extinction both pulled in over a billion dollars from movie theaters around the globe. As a result, the pandemonium surrounding Optimus Prime has resulted in eBay charting massive sales to the tune of $178,227,137. This puts Transformers firmly in third place on the fandom list before The Last Knight goes global next summer.
And just what kind of Transformers merchandise is dominating the eBay search pages? An original Protectobots set is selling for $25,000, while a first generation Transformers Takara is going for $19,000. As the seller states, "If you know what you are looking at, you realize this is IMPOSSIBLE and only one left in this condition." Better start bidding.
2 Batman: $216,670,864
He may have spared the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but on eBay, the Caped Crusader kills the competition. On average, Batman items sell every 37 seconds from the online barterer and have generated nearly a quarter billion dollars since 2006. The charts started tallying these results midway between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and given the resounding success of Christopher Nolan's film trilogy, it's no wonder that eBay saw a dramatic increase in online sales.
Born in 1939 to artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman has history on his side. Whether in voice-over or in live action, eleven actors have stepped into his shoes and sought justice in Gotham, from Adam West to Ben Affleck. Speaking of the world's most dangerous city, you can buy an original map of Gotham for a few shekels on eBay (at around $165,000). Or if you want life-sized figures of Christian Bale's Batman and Heath Ledger's Joker, you can get those, too.
1 Star Wars: $593,765,974
The intergalactic space opera continues to play out. As the leader of the fandom pack, Star Wars not only comes in first on eBay's list, it utterly demolishes the competition. With a total purse of $593,965,974, George Lucas' science-fiction epic generates more income on eBay than the franchises of Batman, Transformers and Pokemon combined. All in, that means one item from Star Wars, whether it's a lightsaber or a Millennium Falcon model, sells every fourteen seconds.
Through one of the most famous deals in Hollywood, George Lucas brilliantly won the merchandising rights to his franchise and proved that when the toy industry works in concert with the movie business, everybody wins. Today, eBay is a testament to what Lucas created. Considering the Darth Jar Jar toy is currently selling for a quarter of a million dollars (and may prove the missing link between apes and -- sorry, that the Gungan is actually a Sith Lord), it's no wonder Star Wars has become the franchise industry standard.
Would you bid on any of these items? Surprised by the absence of Spider-Man and other non-mutant Marvel heroes from the ranks? Tell us in the comments below!
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