Article by Christian Braun – hobbyDB
Christian obsesses over collectibles, antiques and toys more than the average person, but (he believes) in a productive way. Documenting collectibles has been a passion since working on a book about his favorite childhood toys from Timpo 41 years ago.
First, we have to define what we are looking for. The secondary market for Star Wars merchandise consists of old-fashioned Collectibles, like the early Kenner figures but also of pencils or T-Shirts with Yoda on them – objects that just are more interesting with a pop culture twist. The boundary between these two is very fluid and we lump them together in what we call FanMerch.
The FanMerch market is now $500 billion and is supported by other studies for example LIMA’s annual survey. Here are for example the top ten companies in terms of global retail sales for licensed consumer products and experiences (with my quick estimates of Star Wars-related revenues) –
That does not for example include Lego with its $9 billion in sales and maybe around 4-5% Lego (none of these companies report the split between fandom besides Hasbro in 2015 when they announced they made $500 million in Star Wars sales). There are at least 20,000 licenses for Star Wars all churning out stuff, so since 1977 products get released into the market, here is a typical example –
- Disney sold licensing rights to a Manufacturer (say Hasbro)
- Manufacturer sold item to Retailer (say Target)
- Target sold to Consumer
- If the Consumer is a collector they keep the item (our estimate is on average for 7 years for vintage items, significantly shorter for newer collectibles)
- Consumer sells to another Consumer (or professional reseller who sells it on)
Sometimes when a retailer sells an item the Consumer turns around and sells it on within hours. For example, this Funko Ahsoka POP! San Diego Exclusive sold in 2022 at their stand for $15 (they ran a lottery) and it would have sold for a cool 100 times more minutes later (see Prices over time for her here).
Sometimes retailers sell in predominantly secondary markets like eBay and thus would get counted in the estimate of Secondary Market sales as it is impossible to remove them.
Star Wars is also somewhat unusual in that it has an unusually high number of very valuable items, either because they are sought after (they were cheap initially, sold as toys and often destroyed) or because they are just very high-end from the start, here are some good examples –
eBay is still the market leader for secondary markets even if they have lost a lot of marketshare with the emergence of a lot of other channels such as Facebook, hobbyDB (yours truly) Mercari, StockX, Whatnot – just to name a few. I estimate eBay Sales of Star Wars merchandise in the last 12 months at around $165 million worldwide (and around 4.4% of that in the UK).
eBay’s marketshare is different for different collectibles, so, for example, it commands a higher percentage of Sneakers than the Comics market (even after four specialist sneaker competitors getting funding over the last few years). I think a 5% assumption here is reasonable (and slightly higher in the UK, say 6%).
That would make the secondary markets for Star Wars worth $3.3 billion worldwide and $120 million in the UK (the BBC wanted the UK market size).
Sounds nuts? But to put it into perspective, the market sizes for Pecan Nut and Almonds are $1.6 billion and $7.4 billion annually.