D&D General TSR D&D sales numbers compiled by Benjamin Riggs

D&D historian Ben Riggs--author of the upcoming Slaying the Dragon, which is a history of TSR-era (not that TSR, the real one) D&D--compiled some sales figures of AD&D 1st Edition's Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide from 1979-1990.

Behold! Some actual D&D sales numbers!

While working on my book #SlayingtheDragon I got a ton of primary source documents containing sales data for D&D. With the book coming out, I've been looking for a way to get that data out into the wide world. I'm going to start making charts, and simply posting them. If people want the raw data, I can post that too, but obviously, charts are prettier.

I'm starting with AD&D 1st ed Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. You'll notice a crash in the mid-80s, and then the sales peter out with the release of 2nd edition.

The sales point to a fact that I believe hasn't been given enough play in our hobby. Namely, TSR was in a tight spot when Lorraine Williams took over the company from Gary Gygax. If it weren't for Lorraine, D&D may have died in the mid-80s.

Just an idea for your consideration...

Oh, and if you haven't preordered my book on D&D history yet, I'll put a link in the comments.


Go get his book! It’s going to be interesting!

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Yea. A “starter set” for AD&D would have been a better idea. Except it kinda worked that way for us and I am very glad that we got a different game from AD&D.
Mike Mearls used to say that if Basic-Expert was just D&D, with no AD&D style, TSR probably could have just iterated on it forever.

The only numbers I can find for the 5E starter Set are a bit old, from before the Essentials Kit and variant Starter Sets:




source of 4e sales data?
Well, here's some old analysis:

I remember loads and loads of unsold books at Half-Price Books, and nobody ever reporting finding a second printing of the PHB.



Sadly, the same announcement for 4e was part of DnD insider, and vanished into ether with its deletion.
Crazy to think that there have been 6 solid years of consistently strong sales since we had confirmation that 5E already outdid every prior WotC edition's lifetime PHB sales.

Based on the Bloomburg numbers, it seems sales accelerated after that point, it wasn't even the peak yet.


I crit!
Wow, that’s right, 5e PHB lifetime outsoles 3, 3.5, and 4 by 2016.

And it’s sales rank has remained very high ever since.

And Mr Riggs May provide us with Basic and 2e numbers in his book or in the promotion leading up to it.

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