How popular was M*A*S*H in 1981? Forget the Nielsen ratings. Look to T-shirt sales to confirm that the sitcom was beloved. Some $2 million worth of T-shirts with the words “M-A-S-H” and “4077TH” written on them (divided by a white line) were sold in just two weeks, all thanks to Larry Blum and his Sales Corporation of America . He approached 20th Century-Fox, the production company behind M*A*S*H, and convinced them to license the series to merchandisers, including his.
Before long there were between 20 and 30 licensees selling M*A*S*H items, including pants, shorts, jeans, scarves and hats. Clothing was just the beginning. Said Vernon Scott, writing for UPI Hollywood Reporter:
”M-A-S-H” wardrobe, almost exclusively fatigue garb, is at once comfortable and practical. It is also pleasingly sloppy and, happily, figure-revealing for the well-endowed as well as figure-concealing for the less fortunate.
But clothing is only the tip of the ”M-A-S-H” iceberg.
By the end of the year consumers will be able to buy rings, watches, ceramic trays, books, mugs, decals, heat-transfer patches, jigsaw puzzles, greeting cards, stationery, board games and, certainly, posters.
I could go for a nice M*A*S*H ring. Or maybe a few M*A*S*H mugs and a M*A*S*H ceramic tray to keep them on while I work on my M*A*S*H jigsaw puzzle with my M*A*S*H poster hanging on the wall, wearing my M*A*S*H sweatshirt with M*A*S*H heat-transfer patches.
1 Scott, Vernon. “Scott’s World: M-A-S-H T-Shirt Best-Seller.” UPI Hollywood Reporter. 23 Sep. 1981: BC Cycle.