This is part of Trump Slump, a series of stories checking in on how things are going now for the people and products that were riding high during the last administration.
The Trump years were flush times for Yaniv Graif: In the lead-up to the 2016 election, the now 37-year-old, who lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, started manufacturing what he believed to be the world’s first—and still, according to him, bestselling—toilet paper printed with Donald Trump’s face on it. The product had a good run for the next four years, but it being 2021, Graif agreed to speak to Slate to address the obvious: Now that the Trump administration is over, are sales in the crapper? According to him, no, but he’s always innovating—and on that note, he asked me to mention the Trump toilet paper NFT he recently created. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Heather Schwedel: I was looking at your company’s website, and it looks like Trump toilet paper was your first product?
Yaniv Graif: My brand, Gagster, it started on Trump toilet paper. And it was a gamble because we started doing this when Trump was considered a joke nominee in the primaries for the Republican nomination. Nobody thought he was going to win. But then I noticed that when you type “Trump” on Amazon, the auto-complete is “Trump toilet paper.” And there is no such product. So we started with this one product, and a bit after that, he won the Republican nomination, and it really boomed.
Where were you in your life that you were in a position to start manufacturing Trump toilet paper?
I was kind of starting out as an entrepreneur. I used to be a copywriter for a bit, after graduation from college. Then I just started playing with e-commerce with eBay and Etsy, and then Amazon started really booming. So I created a camping gear brand. I was pretty new at this, and then my second idea for a brand was this. Back then, I was creating a product that was, let’s say, a camping spoon. And I would order a thousand units, and it would take me a few months to sell it. And when I started the Trump toilet paper, I bought a thousand. It sold out within a few days. And then you realize, OK, this is a different business. This is the real deal.
After you saw that initial success with the first 1,000 rolls in 2016, did you figure, “OK, I have a few months of this, and then probably he won’t win?”
That’s exactly what I thought, and then he won. Things were crazy when he won. When he was initially elected, and then every December, every Christmas, was crazy. I mean, probably over 80 percent of sales are in November and December.
You’re in Israel. Why were you the one to make Trump toilet paper? Do people in Israel normally pay a lot of attention to American elections?
First of all, yes, people in Israel know what goes on in the U.S. elections. I mean, maybe they don’t know everything about the U.S. politics, but they know about the [presidential] election. And Trump was actually very popular in Israel, because he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, which is something that right-wing Israelis really want. He is like Bibi Netanyahu’s BFF.
But the majority of your sales, are they coming from Americans?
100 percent almost. A bit from Canada, maybe a bit Mexico.
Are you able to share those numbers?
In 2016, I had a few thousand, but if I look at the year 2018, we’re looking at about 20,000 rolls.
The good thing we had in March 2020 was the toilet paper coronavirus trend. Everybody was buying toilet paper. I even sold, in that month, maybe 300 Bernie Sanders toilet paper rolls, which is a product that doesn’t sell. Nobody buys it.
I saw you’ve moved into Biden toilet paper. How’s that doing?
Biden is doing good. Bernie, I think, won’t last long, because we don’t sell it at all, very few. The idea was, in the primaries, the three major candidates were Biden, Bernie, and Elizabeth Warren. So I launched all three of them. And they were all not selling so much, but Bernie sold a bit better. But then, when Bernie lost to Biden, and that’s it. Nobody’s interested. Nobody’s buying Bernie. And also, nobody was buying Biden until he’d won.
How did the Warren one do?
The worst of them all. Compared only to Bitcoin toilet paper. Bitcoin, when it went up to $20,000, it was maybe two years ago, then I thought, “OK, Bitcoin is going to be interesting, let’s make Bitcoin toilet paper.” But no, that wasn’t a good product.
So Biden toilet paper started seeing a sales bump lately?
November, even January, because Biden just won—January was strong. Probably the first month that Trump and Biden were tied was January. Trump was still stronger for Christmas. And then Biden won the election and in January, they were about tied. And now, in February and March, Biden is winning by a little bit. Which is not good for me. I’m not expecting Biden to sell like Trump. But the big question for my brand is: What’s going to happen with Trump this Christmas? Is it still going to be a very popular gift? I think it also depends on Trump. Is he going to get back on Twitter? I need him to go back to Twitter.
That would be good for you, but I don’t know if it’d be good for the world.
I mean, you have to be fair. Four years ago, when I launched these, people started talking to me about Trump, and they say, “Oh, it’s going to be a disaster.” Eh, four years passed, and nothing much happened. He was president for four years, and everything was relatively OK.
I don’t know if everyone would say—
Just as an outsider looking at it, did he destroy America? No, their economy—he did mess up corona.
He did. Personally, are you more liberal or conservative?
In Israel, I would be considered very liberal. But Israel is a bit different—it’s a more conservative country by nature, I guess. If I had to choose as a president between Trump and anyone, I would probably not choose Trump. But it’s not because I’m superliberal. I mean, he’s said so many stupid things that got me sales.
In the toilet paper’s product description on your website, you say this could be a gift for Democrats or Republicans. Do Republicans actually buy this?
I can’t tell. Especially because I sell it mostly on Amazon. It’s fair to suspect that it’s not a lot of Republicans buying it. But you never know. We also make Obama toilet paper. This is not about politics.
Have you had any pushback to the product?
That’s something I really appreciate about the United States. I think in Israel, if I would do a Bibi Netanyahu toilet paper, I would probably get sued. But it seems that in the United States, the president is fair game. Not to give him ideas, but I guess Trump could sue me, if he wanted to.
You almost wouldn’t put it past him to make his own Trump toilet paper.
I mean, if I can do a shoutout to Trump, we can be business partners.
The toilet paper itself, have you used it? Is it nice?
Every year, I’m trying to improve it. The first one was like—you know, in Israel, we have to do three years in the army, so it was kind of an army toilet paper.
But I managed to improve it a little bit. Honestly, it’s still not as good as regular toilet paper, but it’s not really a complaint we get, because it’s a conversation starter. I mean, if you use the Trump toilet paper we sell, you’re not going to suffer. It’s OK paper.
I see you sell a black-and-white and color version. What’s the idea there?
The first one we made in black and white was just a normal picture. And then we made the newer version with the color that was a better picture. Now every time we do a new politician on toilet paper, we’re looking for some kind of kissing image with the lips, because it makes people laugh.
Back to your sales figures: The Biden toilet paper, I’m guessing it’s never sold like the Trump toilet paper when it was at its biggest?
Exactly. I think, probably, it could never peak better than what Trump did. You might want to call me again in December to see what happens. If Trump toilet paper can still beat Biden toilet paper next Christmas when Biden is president, then Trump might be president again.
You think your toilet paper sales can predict that kind of thing? What kind of signs did you see in 2020?
It was interesting, because Trump was doing better than Biden, but it was obvious that Biden was doing better than what Hillary toilet paper did four years ago.
Overall, do you think your sales going forward will be strong enough for you to sustain the business?
I’m not worried so far. First of all, I do more things. I sell more stuff: Out of about 20 products, only 10 of those are funny toilet papers. We have emergency underpants that we sell, a shock pen, fart sprays.
But also, if you look at the numbers now, I’m seeing Trump toilet selling maybe 25 to 50 percent less than last year. So it’s not like a 90 percent decline. And that’s with him off Twitter. In exchange, you get some Biden sales. So Trump keeps selling, even though he’s not president.
Maybe you can sell it forever.
Let’s say that now, we are seeing the first signs of the decline in the last few months. It can go either way now. I can’t really predict it. A lot of it depends on Trump himself.
So for you and your business, would it be ideal if he ran again in 2024?
That’s my dream. That would be my dream come true.