"They've hit the sweet spot for collectors," says Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association. "Their customers are passionate and want to be the first of their friends to have something that's unique."
For $8.99 a month to $44.99 a month, Loot Crate subscribers sign up for a monthly care package of selected chachkas. In January, subscribers of its "Origins" box received items that included a miniature replica of a Captain America shield, a small Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mug and a reprint of a 1930s Action Comics in which Superman made his first appearance.
Loot Crate isn't alone in the nerd market. Denver-based Geek Fuel offers monthly and yearly subscription plans of up to $19 per month and boxes with merchandise licensed from some of the same content creators as Loot Crate, including DC Comics, HBO and Star Trek. Canadian company Nerd Block offers several subscriptions geared to gamers, comic fans and horror aficionados, including those tailored to younger girls and boys.
Even legendary Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee offers a $49.99-a-month subscription, according to his website, "with everything Stan Lee loves, delivered to your door."
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Hollywood comic book companies and other content creators, of course, welcome the expansion of the nerd market, which brings new customers for the action-hero films, TV shows and other 'fancentric' products they churn out with increasing frequency.
"It's a great business model. It allows us to super-serve our superfans and bring them the magic of our brand," says Josh Silverman, executive vice president for global licensing for Disney's consumer products unit.
Disney licenses its Marvel, Star Wars and Disney Princess characters to Loot Crate and other subscription companies and sells its own subscriptions for its Tsum Tsum plush toys and other products.