Recently game historians Paul Stormberg (at Dragonsfoot) and Ben Riggs (on Facebook) have been sharing a trove of historical sales data from TSR for various D&D and AD&D products. As a nerd, I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff, but was frustrated by the fragmentary and piecemeal nature of it so I decided to copy & paste their numbers into a combined spreadsheet of my own. Once I had collected all of their data and organized it as I wanted it (chronologically by release date, more or less) I also felt the urge to insert placeholders for all of the major items (hardback books and boxed sets) that they did not provide numbers for, which became a massive rabbit-hole because I'd forgotten how many boxed sets TSR released for 2E AD&D (and I have no confidence that I didn't miss some, especially since I had stopped buying any of them by about the end of 1990 - the last two items on the list I ever actually owned were the first Ruins of Undermountain set and the Monstrous Manual - the latter came out a couple years after I'd stopped playing 2E, but I bought it anyway as a reference to replace the terrible looseleaf binders that had preceded it).
With these numbers conveniently combined, I noticed a couple interesting (to me) bits of trivia. While everybody knows that the D&D Basic Set was TSR's all-time best-selling product, with total sales of over 3 million units, if you separate out the different versions of that set (1977 Holmes, 1981 Moldvay, and 1983 Mentzer), the best-selling single product is actually the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook (with total sales of more than 1.5 million).
In all, TSR had five items that sold over a million units each:
- AD&D Players Handbook, 1st edition (1.57 million)
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st edition (1.33 million)
- D&D Basic Set - Moldvay edit (1.26 million)
- AD&D Monster Manual, 1st edition (1.16 million)
- D&D Basic Set - Mentzer edit (1.1 million)
Additionally, another 6 products sold over 500,000 units apiece:
- AD&D Player's Handbook, 2nd edition (776K)
- D&D Basic Set - Holmes edit (639K)
- D&D Expert Set - Cook/Marsh edit (619K)
- AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, 2nd edition (543K)
- AD&D Monster Manual II (541K)
- D&D Companion Set (537K)
Anyway, this is deep in-the-weeds nerd trivia for sure, but since I spent a couple hours yesterday pulling it all together, I figured I'd make it available for anyone else who might also be interested. Enjoy!