Disney knew "Star Wars" would be a merchandising machine for the company when it bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.

Little did it know that while action figures and apparel were big sellers, the most popular item for "Star Wars" fans is the lightsaber.

Disney now sells 10 million replicas of the energy weapons from the franchise a year, according to Disney Consumer Products. They come in various forms, from key chains to sound-enhance toys, even high-end collectibles that are displayed in cases.

That number could grow even higher after the launch of new animated series "Star Wars: Rebels" this fall on Disney XD, and next year's "Star Wars: Episode VII," in theaters Dec. 18, 2015.

"We will see plenty of lightsabers out there," at retailers when the series and films are released, said Josh Silverman, executive VP of global licensing for Disney Consumer Products, who is promoting "Star Wars" at the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas this week. "The lightsaber is just so iconic," added the executive who has one on display in his office. "They're all over the place."

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Disney Consumer Products is in the midst of growing its "Star Wars" licensing business.

"Star Wars" merchandise generated around $3 billion in 2011, but Disney believes that can become a much larger figure by launching new products and expanding to foreign markets. Lucasfilm had previously focused primarily on North America.

"The Lucas licensing team has done a fantastic time all these years," Silverman said. "I have nothing but love and respect for them."

But by integrating the "Star Wars" team inside DCP, "there's much more we can do," Silverman says, especially with toys. "International is extremely fertile," he added.

Much of the growth will come from the release of new TV shows and movies.

Already, Hasbro and Lego plan to produce new playthings around "Star Wars: Rebels" and "Episode VII," with the first products for the series to appear on store shelves in August and throughout September.

"We haven't had a new show in many years," Silverman said. "We're just scratching the surface of what we can do with 'Star Wars.' It's an exciting time to be or become a 'Star Wars' fan.'"

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