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.

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

 
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Reynard

Legend
Eg 2E has outsold most modern editions but its seen as a "failure" because TSR went under or 3.0 outsold it for a year or two.
I have never, in all my years in the hobby and on messageboards, ever heard someone say 2E was a "failure." Lots of people did not like it for various reasons, but no one that I am aware of ever claimed it "failed" -- certainly not in the way people claim that other even numbered edition did (at to be clear, they are apparently wrong about that, from a pure sales standpoint).
 

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I'm surprised how close the numbers for DMG and PHB seem to be. I'd guess that by the end of the cycle shown something like 60+ % of PHB customers also bought the DMG and that seems really high. I would imagine those numbers to be closer to 25% nowadays (guessing, really).
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm surprised how close the numbers for DMG and PHB seem to be. I'd guess that by the end of the cycle shown something like 60+ % of PHB customers also bought the DMG and that seems really high. I would imagine those numbers to be closer to 25% nowadays (guessing, really).
No, based on what WotC has said DMs basically buy the vast majority of books. That's why every single book beyond the PHB is aimed at DMs, with player material baked in.
 



Reynard

Legend
The art in the revised 2e black books was awful. It was a completely new direction from previous art, and not in a good way. In hindsight, it's clear they were not hiring the same quality of artists due to costs. IMO, it was the worst interior art in the core books from any other edition. For example, from the PHB:
I was going to argue with you and went through my black border books to find example and I realized EVERY piece of 2E art I loved was either from the Blue Books, a supplement, or Dragon magazine. Oof.
 

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
I'm also not a fan of the "black" reprints. I much prefer the art in the original versions and I quite dislike the layout. I was very disappointed that the black version was used for the premium reprints and I cherish the PDF of the 2e PHB that I bought back then from Paizo.
 

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