You're not imagining it: The rich do keep getting richer. Even the fictionally rich.
The members of our 2011 list of wealthiest fictional characters have an average net worth of $9.86 billion, up 20% from last year. In aggregate, the Fictional 15 are worth $131.55 billion —more than the gross domestic product of New Zealand.
On top of the list is Scrooge McDuck, a billionaire bird known for storing a fortune in gold coins inside a massive Duckburg "money bin." With the price of gold up more than 30% year over year, the quacking Croesus' net worth soared to $44.1 billion. A self-made duck, "Uncle" Scrooge is well known for his penny-pinching ways: He once fought a bear over a $2 jar of honey, and still has the first dime he ever earned.
Three characters appear on in our ranking for the first time in 2011, including the ancient red-golden dragon Smaug. Known by hobbits and dwarves across Middle Earth as "Smaug the Tremendous" and "Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy," he sits atop an $8.6 billion-dollar hoard of gold, silver and gems. In contrast, Sabre Corp. CEO "Jo" Bennett sits atop a leading printer company and its newly acquired subsidiary, paper company Dunder Mifflin. Currently worth $1.2 billion, the feisty Floridian says you don't get to be a billionaire by slacking off: "You get there by working hard or marrying rich, and I did both."
Real estate magnate Mr. Monopoly returns to the list this year with a net worth of $2.6 billion, following his release from prison after misappropriating funds from a bank error in his favor. Implacable foes Mr. Shoe, Ms. Dog and Mr. Thimble claim Monopoly —a.k.a. Rich Uncle Pennybags— greased his release with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Monopoly insists it was just a lucky roll of the dice.
Also returning to the Fifteen: Legendary corporate raider Gordon Gekko, who famously boasted "greed is good" in 1987. One of the few investors to predict the bursting credit bubble, Gekko watched his net worth surge to $1.1 billion while Wall Street struggled. His hedge fund is now focused on shorting municipal bonds, and investing in companies that mine rare-earth elements.
Perennial list-member C. Montgomery Burns saw his fortune shrink slightly to $1.1 billion in the midst of a very tough year. Recently misdiagnosed with less than 2 months to live, Burns was stricken with amnesia following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Upon recovering, he learned his rage and bile are the only thing keeping him alive. "I want to die quietly on my own terms," he says, "crushing as many baby sea turtles as I possibly can."
Other fictional moguls had it worse. Six members of last year's list dropped off the rankings in 2011, including Thurston Howell III, maker of bicycle powered washing-machines, bamboo radios, and coconut-shell drinking glasses. Howell's fortune fell more than 90% after Chinese companies moved into the "island-green" industry. Railroad titan Sir Topham Hatt lost control of the business he ran for fifty years in a boardroom coup; board members lost confidence in Hatt after he repeatedly insisted his trains could talk and drive themselves.
To qualify for the Fictional 15, we require that candidates be an authored fictional creation, a rule which excludes mythological and folkloric characters. They must star in a specific narrative work or series of works. And they must be known, both within their fictional universe and by their audience, for being rich.
Net worth estimates are based on an analysis of the fictional character's source material, and where possible, valued against known real-world commodity and share price movements. In the case of privately held fictional concerns, we seek to identify comparable fictional public companies. All figures are as of market close, April 1, 2011.
Final valuations are calculated with a grain of salt, and a willingness to break our own rules.