eBay Reveals America's Top Obsessions

Hot items in 2008: high-tech toys, teens stars, politics

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Dec 10, 2008

Americans were obsessed with three things more than anything else this year, according to eBay: high-tech toys, politics and 16-year-old Miley Cyrus.

The world's largest online marketplace recently looked at the most popular items on its virtual shelves to see what—and who—got the most attention from shoppers in 2008. With 100,000 new users a day and 120 million searches a day, eBay has become a reflection of pop culture.

"We've seen it time and time again—when a hot topic surfaces in the world of pop culture, eBay listings related to that topic increase," says Karen Bard, eBay's pop culture expert. "For example, when Michael Phelps brought home those eight Olympic gold medals in Beijing this summer, we saw a spike in all Phelps-related listings. The same spike was seen when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate."

Consumers clamored for video game consoles—one of the few items that continued to have good sales despite a rough economy. The Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 were the top two items on eBay. Shoppers bought more than 2 million Wii-related products and more than 1.2 million related to Xbox 360. Buyers also liked Guitar Hero III and purchased more than 98,000 items related to the game.

Apple's iPod Touch was also popular—with 281,361 related items sold—making it America's third-biggest obsession. Apple's iPhone 3G wasn't far behind, with 212,837 items sold.

Teen star Cyrus had a good showing as well. Her 'tween fans and their parents forked over lots of cash, making the "Hannah Montana" star America's fourth-largest obsession. With 223,139 items sold, Cyrus was the top-selling teen act, out rocking even the wildly popular "High School Musical" cast—which ranked eighth on eBay's list, with just over 109,000 items sold.

"In this business, where there're a lot of copycats and wannabes, Miley's able to really stand out," notes Adam Bonnett, Disney Channel's senior vice president for original programming, in reports.

Cyrus' popularity led her to be named to Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year list and Hollywood Reporter's list of 100 most powerful women in entertainment.

And with an historic presidential election this year, politics couldn't be overlooked. In fact, Americans seemed to flock to their computers to buy lunchboxes featuring President-elect Barack Obama, glasses like those worn by Gov. Sarah Palin and Cabbage Patch dolls of the presidential candidates and their running mates. Goods relating to Obama did the best with 111,546 items sold. Consumers bought about 5,000 products related to Vice President-elect Joe Biden; 33,377 related to Sen. John McCain and 20,712 related to Palin.

When it came to films this year, "The Dark Knight" made other classic superheroes and adventurers seem pale by comparison, with 60,484 related items sold. "Iron Man" sold 38,760 related items and the latest "Indiana Jones" flick sold just 3,235 items.

Buyers also supported musical comebacks this year by shelling out cash to get their hands on items related to Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, The Police and Phish. Madonna, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey were also popular.

Says eBay's Bard: "If it was a hot topic this year, then it was also hot on eBay."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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