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Terminally Exclusive Club

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This is when a club, social group, dynasty, etc. has a set of requirements that are (or will become) impossible for new members to fulfill. Eventually, the old members will pass away, no new members will be added, and the organization will fade into oblivion.

Sometimes, this is deliberate and the club members are perfectly fine with the club's eventual demise. Other times, the disappearance of the club is undesirable, and it is not unheard of for rules and requirements to be changed to ensure the organization's survival.

This can have very serious consequences if this is a Terminally Exclusive Heir Club for Men—in other words, the organization is a noble or royal dynasty. Male-line-only successions (which do exist) can become a major problem if you have several generations where only one son has been born—and then you have a monarch with no male heirs. This can and has resulted in a messy Succession Crisis.

See also Last of His Kind. Contrast with Lowered Recruiting Standards.

Note: Because Tropes Are Flexible, specific honours and ranks are also included here, although they're not exactly "clubs" as we know them.


  • The Club Is Based Around A Bygone Era: The club is made of people who lived a lifestyle impossible in the modern world, or were part of a now-faded fandom.

  • The Club Is Based Around An Experience: These could be comrades from a former war (such as veterans of WWI, which ended more than 100 years ago), a major disaster (such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic), a team that pulled off something (such as the first NFL team to go undefeated) that can never be duplicated.

  • The Club Is A Bunch Of Old Friends: The members have known each other for years, and simply do not accept newcomers who couldn't possibly understand what they've gone through. Really, most clubs that have ever existed are of this type, consisting solely of children in the same neighborhood around the same age, and disbanded after a couple of years.

  • The Club Just Doesn't Accept Newcomers: For whatever reason, this group simply doesn't accept anyone new. The membership is closed, done, and dusted.

The members sometimes form a tontine to commemorate being part of the group. When only one member of the group is left, they get something of value that belonged to the group.


  • The Club Takes Suffers Newbies Poorly To Its Logical Extreme: The club requires new members to have experience before joining, but nobody can get experience without joining. The demise of the club is generally not the intention, but just as inevitable unless the requirements are relaxed.

  • The Requirements Become Impossible To Meet: The club has a certain set of prerequisites, but those prerequisites for one reason or another become impossible to fulfill.

  • The Club Caters to an Extremely Narrow Niche: There's nothing inherently wrong with the club itself or its recruiting standards, but its focus is so obscure, so unusual, or so trivial that there just aren't that many people out there who are interested or passionate enough to care about joining.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Spy X Family: The extremely posh and exclusive Eden Academy was this at some point before the story's beginning. It's stated that despite their currently ridiculously high requirements the school was forced to relax some of their rules or risk going out of business.

  • Discworld:
    • Night Watch has the Glorious People's Republic of Treacle Mine Road, the survivors of a short-lived rebellion that sprung up during the anarchy between the assassination of one Patrician and the ascension of the next. They memorialize the event every May 25th by wearing a lilac, and tend to be surly about explaining its meaning to others. Only those who were "there" are encouraged to join in, most of whom happen to have become members of the night watch since.
    • The Order of the Post in Going Postal; they can't get new members because the Post Office is shut down, so they've mostly become a club of old postmen who exist primarily to reminisce and look out for a member's family when he's "Returned to Sender."
  • The Wheel of Time: When Rand needs some privacy from his overzealous Aiel Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards, he declares a random empty building to be the Roof of a new warrior Society, whose membership is limited to those who have drunk from the spring near his home a continent away. The Aiel honor code is very serious about the customs of Societies, so they let it slide with only a few jokes at his expense.
  • Worth the Candle: The party eventually settles on calling itself the Council of Arches, and after helping their allies found a fledgling island nation, this is the formal organization they settle on — an advisory body to their upstart country with a total of seven seats, each of which can be filled once, but never re-filled if vacated by death, resignation, or so on.
  • In Zuleika Dobson, the Junta dining club has been reduced to one member, the Duke of Dorset. He has rejected all subsequent candidates (even the ones he himself proposed) as not coming up to the club's standards. In his last year at Oxford he did admit a couple, just to stop the club dying out entirely, but he's not really sure about them, either.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: In "Join a Club Thing!", Fenwick attempts to join the Genius Club. Eugene, the club's president and sole member, keeps setting him ridiculous tests because he is a Jerkass, and because there is only one Genius Club shirt and he wants to keep it.
  • Played for Laughs in The Goodies "Saturday Night Grease", in which Bill, hoping to cash in on the disco craze, founds an exclusive disco... so exclusive, in fact, that no-one's allowed in.
  • The Witchfinder Army in Good Omens is left with only Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell by the modern day, likely because of the Narrow Niche version of this trope.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "Old Soldiers" had Colonel Potter return from Tokyo in a foul mood. Over the course of the episode, it's revealed that he was part of a small group of soldiers who became life-long friends after they spent the night taking cover in a French chateau during WWI. They raided the chateau's cache of brandy and drank it all, leaving one bottle that they all swore would only be opened by the last survivor to toast the fallen. Potter had been in Tokyo to visit the only other living member before he died, leaving the colonel as the sole survivor of the group.

  • Some bands, such as Rammstein have said that if anyone quits or dies, the band will break up.
  • Jazz ensembles often demand players have years of experience, shutting out younger players who don't have that experience. This leaves that ensemble with an aging and dwindling membership. Meanwhile, those who would have joined give up, sell their instruments and leave their dreams of musicianship behind—meaning they aren't available anymore if/when the jazz ensembles open their doors to the less-experienced.

    Play-By-Email Roleplaying 
  • In the roleplaying club Star Trek: Shadow Operations, Reepchip Charatetet is part of an informal club known as the Madcap Engineers, a group of seven cadets at Starfleet Academy. They originally started out with bizarre experiments with antiquated equipment, but then an officer in Starfleet Intelligence took control of the club to give the members something meaningful to do, on the requirement that they maintain a code of silence and admit no new members. This academy club effectively ended when the cadets all graduated. The true "secret password" of this group is that the members personally know each other.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The Big Show may be The WWE's last Grand Slam Champion under the original qualifiers, as some of the prerequisite belts have been retired. There are four others who may join him, but they too are aging.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas reveals that the West Coast Brotherhood of Steel fell victim to this. The Codex they follow demands that they only recruit from their own children. This was possible when they were the most powerful faction in the wasteland. However, other factions have managed to close the technology gap in the 100 years since the first game. The casualty rate rose higher than they can replenish their ranks and they are on the verge of collapse when the Courier finds them. Even the otherwise Reasonable Authority Figure in charge is unable to change things due to his rigid adherence to the Codex. The Mid-West and East Coast chapters decided to ignore that particular rule for practical reasons and have thrived. Their only chance for a decent ending is if the Courier manages to negotiate peace between them and the NCR.

    Web Original 
  • There is a Facebook club for members of the now-defunct Redwall Online Community.
  • GameFAQs has a forum called "Life, Universe and Everything" that has been permanently closed for new users for years.

    Western Animation 
  • On Daria, the Fashion Club has very strict rules about members' appearances, on Sandi's insistence. Then, when she's forced to resign for gaining weight, she guilt-trips Quinn into resigning too. Naturally, the club begins to unravel with only Stacy and Tiffany left, though it reforms once Sandi loses the extra weight (and, in the first act of her renewed presidency, loosens the rules a bit).
  • In King of the Hill Cotton Hill's chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars almost suffers this because of Cotton's dislike of Vietnam War veterans. With the local World War II and Korean War veterans dying off, the chapter cannot collect enough membership dues to maintain its meeting hall and might have to disband. There are plenty of Vietnam War veterans around but Cotton is disrespectful to them and for years has discouraged them from joining the VFW. He finally has a change of heart, invites them to join and the new members rescue the Arlen VFW.
  • In Mission Hill, Andy and his friends are denied entry into a trendy nightclub, and decide to get back at them by opening their own nightclub. They create "The Meter Room", which is actually a literal electrical meter room, with the intention of not actually letting anyone into the club but themselves. It works, and they get a huge lineup of people outside, including the snooty club owner that denied them entry. They then decide to set off a smoke bomb inside, making everyone think the club burned down. All of the people in the line who never got in treat this as a tragic loss, completely unaware that they never had a chance of getting entry in the first place.

    Real Life 
  • Any batch who graduated of that school of that particular academic year.
  • According to the book Hollywood's Posse by Diana Serra Cary (AKA Baby Peggy), the cowboys who made up the original western stuntmen in Hollywood had a club that was restricted to those who'd followed the chuckwagons before 1910, which was when the great cattle empires collapsed. As this was over 110 years ago, all members and potential members are long dead.
  • Any group of people who witnessed or survived a specific disaster or incident.
  • The Galunggung Gliding Club comprises the passengers and Crew of British Airways Flight 9, which unwittingly flew through the ash cloud of the erupting Mount Galunggung. The ash caused all four engines to flame out, though the pilots were able to restart three of them and get back to safety.
  • Isaac Asimov recalled the case of the fan organization called First Fandom, which in his time was restricted to those who had been published in a science fiction magazine before January 1, 1938. Once he had made a name for himself, they invited him to join, but since his first story was published after that date, he turned them down, only for them to dredge up a fan letter he wrote in 1935, meaning he was technically published in an SF magazine before 1938. Some time later, he remarked that the members were all getting older and would eventually die out, and suggested that they change the membership requirements, only to be told, "It's 1938 or nothing!" Despite this, they did eventually change their rules, and the group still exists to this day, despite very few, if any, SF fans from before 1938 still being alive.
  • Doctors' Commons, a society of lawyers specialising in church and admiralty law, ceased admitting new members when those areas of law began to be opened to normal barristers. The society was wound up in 1865 and its last surviving member died in 1912. One reason that they stopped admitting new members was a rule that if the society was wound up, the proceeds would be divided among the members. It was therefore in the existing members' interest not to admit anyone else, so their share would be bigger.


  • Often veterans will form groups based on who fought in a specific war (such as The American Civil War, World War I or World War II) or battle (e.g. the attack on Pearl Harbor, El Alamein, etc.), or served in/on a specific division/ship.
  • Some orders and awards have been closed to new members.
  • Joseph Medicine Crow (1913-2016) is likely to be the last Crow War Chief, a rank he achieved during World War II. To do this, one had to strike an enemy without killing him, lead a successful war expedition, take an enemy's weapon, and steal an enemy's horse. Horses just aren't used that much anymore.
  • There was once as “Order of the Silver\ Wings” consisting of enlisted naval aviators in the US Navy and Marine Corps. Specifically, enlisted sailors or marines who had actually flown the aircraft; not just ridden in them as crewmen. Because it was extremely rare for an enlisted man to be designated a naval aviator in the first place, this order had a very small membership. After World War II, only commissioned officers were allowed to become naval aviators, thereby ensuring that this order became a terminal one.

Royal Houses

  • Luxembourg almost found itself in that very position, but was able to call up the former monarch's 17th cousin to succeed—the most distant succession recorded.
  • The Silla Kingdom in Ancient Korea had such strict requirements for their royal heirs that eventually women started inheriting the throne, as there were no suitable males left.
    • Silla also had a caste system which included "sacred bone" (the royal family) and "true bone" (the aristocracy). Eventually all holders of the sacred bone rank died, forcing a true bone noble to take the throne; the new monarch did not make himself sacred bone, meaning the rank went extinct.
  • Several dynasties have gone extinct due to the lack of heirs and exist only through cadet branches:
    • House of Kyburg (failed in 1264)
    • House of Capet (failed in 1328)
    • House of Valois (failed in 1589)
    • Rurikids (Russia, failed 1612)
    • House of Habsburg (failed in 1780) — the royal family of Austria still used the name until the monarchy was dissolved in 1919, but the later rulers descended from a female line.
      • The Spanish branch failed in 1700.
    • The Most Serene House of Condé (failed in 1830)
  • The Imperial House of Japan since World War II. Not only they still practice agnatic succession (only males can ascend as emperor), but they specifically disinherit princesses who marry outside the family, meaning their children are not in the line of succession.note  As of 2022, there is a grand total of three possible heirs should the current Emperor Naruhito die or abdicate, one of whom is over eighty years old.

Religious Movements

  • The Catholic Apostolic Church was a nineteenth-century British Protestant denomination that was heavily based on assuming the imminent end of the world and Second Coming. As a result, there was no mechanism set up to replace the church's highest-ranking leaders, the twelve "Apostles". Since only Apostles were allowed to ordain ministers, after the last of them died in 1901, no more ministers could be ordained. The last minister died in the mid-twentieth century and the members were advised to join other Anglican churches or the Roman Catholics. The organisation still exists as a charity and owns a single mothballed church in Surrey, which is still maintained in case Christ comes back.
  • Due to their practice of total abstention from sexual activity, even within marriage, and the closing of the movement to new converts in 1957 by Eldress Bertha of the Canterbury Shaker village (who died in the 1990s), the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing—better known as The Shakers—only have two living members and one remaining village (the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community) as of 2019. The younger of these is in his late 50s. That being said, these two disregard Eldress Bertha's closing of the membership rolls and hope for new sincere converts, and there's nobody else to say otherwise.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) faction led by a Presiding High Priest no longer emphasize missionary work, the death of three prophets (Joseph and Hyram Smith, Strang) having caused God to have closed his dispensation to the "gentiles" of the West.

Sports Teams

  • Virtually all members of an organized athletic team develop a bond that lasts a lifetime and can never quite be duplicated, the more so when that season's team achieves something memorable. However, the Urban Legend that has arisen around the 1972 Miami Dolphins is probably unique. The NFL team went undefeated through the regular season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl — a feat unequalled since. Now the story circulates regularly that every year since, when the last undefeated team in the league finally loses, the surviving members of the team and their legendary coach, Don Shula, gather for a champagne celebration. The truth is that apparently some members of the team did it once, without Shula present and more or less as a joke, and the legend took off from there. With Shula's passing in 2020 (preceded in death by several members of the team), perhaps the legend will start to pass as well. Probably not, though.
Other Honors
  • Any award given for a specific campaign or action will necessarily be this, for they are awarded once only.
    • Some officers in New York City have a black ribbon with "WTC" embroidered in gold on it. These officers are amongst the First Responders to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.
  • After WWII, Israel began declaring those people who weren't Jewish but repeatedly helped Jews escape the Holocaust to be "Righteous Among the Nations". With the war and the Holocaust receding from memory and those involved either dead or old enough that they soon will be, this honor will shortly have no living recipients.