A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What did the stars on the cover of Playboy used to mean?

Dear Straight Dope:

What was the meaning/significance of the (varying) number of stars that appeared near (or in) the P in PLAYBOY magazine's covers in the 60's and 70's? Thanks.

The rumor was that this indicated the sexual satisfaction quotient of the woman on the cover--how good they were in the sack--as critiqued by Hugh Hefner. That's the way I heard it, anyway.

What it really pertains to is regional advertising and distribution. According to Rumor! by Hal Morgan and Kerry Tucker, Playboy had six editions, five for different regions of the country and one for the military. Each edition had a certain number of ads intended for the regional audience only. The stars enabled the distribution people to identify the editions and send them to the right place.

The stars disappeared around 1979. Had Hefner become an early candidate for Viagra? Nah. Playboy had merely adopted a new distribution system that enabled it to dispense with the stars.

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