For generations, people have been preoccupied with speed. They want to see how fast things fly through the air. They want to see how fast things drive on the ground. Even for speed that is hard to calculate with the naked eye, like with computers or phones, people are curious about speeding things up.
But what’s the fastest thing ever? A young boy trying to hide his copy of Playboy magazine when someone opens his bedroom door. It’s unconfirmed, but scientists have clocked it around 50 to 60 billion miles per hour.
There’s a reason for this. Playboy magazine has fed America’s natural desire to express their sexuality and has sparked curiosity in people young and old for decades. Playboy’s legacy will be empowering women to bare themselves in their all-natural state and visualizing men’s fantasies. It even created an empire whose bunny logo is as recognizable as Nike or Apple. Sadly, the rabbit community is irate that its likeness is being used and has hired Dr. Doolittle to represent its interests.
On October 12, The New York Times reported that the company was no longer going to show nudity in its magazine. To celebrate the end of an era, here is a list of the highest selling copies of Playboy magazine sold in its history.
10 Tara Reid, January/February 2010 - 200,000 copies sold
The Internet has made finding pictures of naked women really easy, but finding pictures of naked celebrities (that haven’t been Photoshopped to death) can be really tricky. This is where Playboy has differentiated itself. In 2010, the January/February issue flew off the newsstands 200,000 times, mostly because Playboy believed in Tara Reid.
Stop laughing. It’s true. Playboy has always had an eye to not necessarily spot “talent”, but to spot stars that move their magazines. Admittedly, at one point, Tara’s career was on life support. There were probably prison inmates with a brighter future than her in 2010. But now, Tara’s fame has been rekindled by her performance in the Sharknado series and a highly anticipated upcoming variety series with Tom Green and Andrew Dice Clay. This is a far cry from her days acting in movies about sex with an apple pie. Well… no, it isn’t. Playboy just knew what they were doing.
9 Marge Simpson, November 2009 - 225,000 copies sold
According to Moe Szyslak, Springfield bartender and local weirdo, “The first time I heard that Marge was going to be on the cover of Playboy, I was upset. I mean, when she found those naked pictures I took of her, she got all up in my face! Of course, she didn’t know I was taking them, but that’s all politics.”
For this issue, Playboy intended to reach out and touch (figuratively, not literally) people in their 20s by including Marge Simpson in the issue. Throwing back to the October 1971 edition where the first black centerfold, Darine Stern, posed for the camera, Playboy’s plan worked like a charm, resulting in 225,000 copies sold. Cue Mr. Burns: Excellent.
8 Carrie Radison, June 1957 - 1,000,000 copies sold
A lot of schools pay homage to the 1950s by having a “50s Dance” where everyone dresses up in their favorite 1950s gear. The boys pretend to have cigarettes packed in their sleeves, roll up their blue jeans, and put on some Converse All-Stars to complete the look. Girls will wear poodle skirts and tie their hair up in a perky ponytail. They all rock out to 50s music and have a great time. The fantasy of a more wholesome era continues decades after the fact.
Did people in the 50s also like gawking at pictures of naked models in Playboy? Did they ever! The June 1957 issue was the first one in Playboy’s history to sell over 1,000,000 copies. With this new information about how society really was back then, there should be immediate changes to the 50s dances where Playboy magazines should be handed out to the kids to make it truly authentic… wait. No, don’t do that. That’s a terrible idea.
7 Sable Wilson, April 1999 - 1,000,000 copies sold
A quick note: the June 1957 and the April 1999 issues of Playboy both sold around 1 million copies. But take a long look at the difference between the 1950s and the 1990s. In the 1950s, people used some frightening contraption called “paper” to write their “letters” to their “actual friends.” In 1999, websites opened the entire world to anyone with a dial-up modem. Basically, people in the 50s had few options to share information (if looking at boobs is considered information) and were forced to buy magazines. To sell 1 million copies of one magazine issue in 1999, there had to be a legitimate reason to tear people away from their computer. With Sable Wilson as the centerfold, the reason was clear.
So, the April 1999 issue is technically tied with June of 1957, but under the circumstances, this record is a little more impressive. The June 1957 issue is like going down to the YMCA and dunking on 5th graders... on a 5-foot rim. It was easy. To sell a million magazines in 1999 is similar to actually getting a shot off against Dikembe Mutombo in his prime: impossible.
6 Farrah Fawcett, December 1995 - 4,000,000 copies sold
Someone’s dad is reading this article and thinking, “I had the Farrah Fawcett poster back in the day. You know, before electricity. I loved it.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the 70s-era Fawcett that made eyes pop out. This was the 48-year-old Fawcett that definitely exposed everyone’s deep-seated issues with their mom.
At 4 million copies sold, this was proof that Playboy still ruled the days before the Internet was ubiquitous. Fawcett still clearly struck a chord with people everywhere. Sadly, this was only 14 years before Fawcett’s untimely death. Most people are not even aware that Fawcett passed away because of another news event overshadowed it. What is that? Michael Jackson’s death.
5 Lena Soderberg, November 1972 - 7,161,561 copies sold
When people opened adult magazines from the 1970s, all of the models had so much hair their bodies looked like one giant sideburn. The November 1972 edition of Playboy wasn’t much different. So what made it so successful? Like anything extremely popular, it’s all about timing.
For the three people in the world who love image processing, they claim that one image, the “Lena” photo, is the reason copies flew off the shelves. There’s some dry and hard to understand jargon about detail, shading, and texture which made the photo so popular among virgins and image processors alike (often, the two are the same). The real reason is that this was the closest those nerds would ever get to a woman who could melt steel with her looks. The strangest part? The photo had no nudity at all.
4 La Toya Jackson, March 1989 - 8,000,000 copies sold
The March 1989 issues’ sales figures were nothing short of a phenomenon. Here’s why. The cover model was La Toya Jackson, one of the survivors of the Jackson family. Remember, the Jacksons were the Kardashians before there were Kardashians. Just look at the similarities. The entire family is in the public eye, their parents are crazy people, and there’s innocent children in the mix who will pay their future therapists a fortune to undo this mess. Putting one of them in a magazine like Playboy can be risky because controversy constantly surrounds them.
Also, she looks just like Michael Jackson. It may be hard for Playboy’s target audience (heterosexual men over 35) to fantasize about La Toya without seeing Michael’s face. The fact the magazine sold 8,000,000 copies either says that people ignored this... or they liked it (shudder). No matter what, March of ‘89 was a good month.
3 Kim Kardashian, December 2007 - Broke Ad Sales Record
The majority of this list focuses on the actual issues sold of Playboy at a typical newsstand. But judging a magazine strictly off the number of copies sold at newsstands can be misleading. Subscriptions and bulk orders by convenience stores are not included in the numbers. Plus, if a magazine sells out its supply, it’s indicative that demand is so high that it has trouble keeping issues in stock.
This brings us to America’s favorite trainwreck: Kim Kardashian. When advertisers found out she was on the cover, Playboy added 57 pages of ads when the average is only around 37. This was the most in Playboy’s history.
2 Marilyn Monroe, December 1953 - 54,175 copies sold
There are probably more Reddit users subscribed to a discussion board about the thickness of their dog’s fur than people who bought this issue. But there are a few things to keep in mind to understand why this issue was so successful.
First, this was the magazine’s inaugural issue and Playboy only printed around 70,000 copies. For those who aren’t math majors, that’s about 77% of all the issues printed. This thing was like the iPhone, but with more boobs and fewer abused Chinese workers used to make it. For a magazine who didn’t offer a subscription, received little press about its release, and was kind of an affront to traditional family values, to nearly sell out their entire supply was unheard of at the time. In the odd, scary land before Google made finding naked women easier than baking a cake, this copy broke the mold.
1 Playboy.com - 53,000,000 million visitors
OK, so this isn't an actual issue, sue us - but judging Playboy on copies sold in an almost entirely digital era would be irresponsible without mentioning just how much traffic Playboy’s online enterprise gets. Between its website and social media presence, Playboy garners over 53,000,000 visitors per month. This is in an age where Playboy has to compete with people who can make their own scary versions of adult entertainment right from their iPad and post it online immediately.
This data shows that people are deeply interested in Playboy’s content. Since Playboy cleaned up its online presence to make it safe for work, people can now say they were just “looking at the articles” and not lie through their teeth, saving jobs and reputations for everyone.