You’d have to have been born and raised under a rock to not know the existence and the general gameplay of the game of Monopoly. For those few that may have recently emerged from the Underdark, Monopoly is a game of real estate, of buying and selling properties, collecting rents and looking to grab the brass ring to become a millionaire tycoon. At its heart, Monopoly is a game of avarice…for the family, of course.
Monopoly is an old board game. Not as old as Go, a game that the ancient Chinese once played, but old enough. Hasbro (the gaming giant who owns the Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley game brands, among others) maintains the myth that Charles Darrow invented Monopoly in the early 1930s, and copyrighted the game in 1933. Darrow submitted it to Parker Brothers in 1934, which promptly rejected it as being too complicated. Darrow was selling the game privately, and sales reached an impressive enough level that Parker Brothers contacted him in 1935, bought out his inventory and the rest is history.
Of course, that was only a small part of the real story behind the game of Monopoly. Long before Charles Darrow “invented” Monopoly, Elizabeth Magie created The Landlord’s Game, which was used to educate others on the nature of renting and real estate. (She applied for the patent on the game in 1903.) The game was successful enough to merit variations over the years, including Auction Monopoly, and Ms. Magie was issued another patent for her game in 1924. It is important to remember that Ms. Magie attempted to sell the game to Parker Brothers in 1910 and 1924, but was rebuffed both times. Yet she continued to sell her game, regardless.
It was during the late 1920s that Ruth Hoskins was shown Elizabeth Magie’s game, and liked it so much that she returned to Atlantic City and made herself a clone, changing the property names to places found in her home city. It was this game that Charles Darrow was exposed to, and being the enterprising soul that he was, he didn’t bother cloning or copying the game: he simply claimed it for himself. It was this game that Darrow took to Parker Brothers as its “inventor.” All this goes to show that anyone can invent something, but it takes a really gifted individual to steal the idea and call it his own. Which, by the way, Charles Darrow had to own up to later in1935, when Parker Brothers realized that he pulled a fast one on them. Ms. Magie (now Mrs. Phillips) was contacted with an offer to purchase her game for $500 – and a promise to publish it. She accepted, and the primary legal bullet was dodged.
It’s fascinating that Parker Brothers stuck to the “Charles Darrow was the inventor of Monopoly” line for decades. It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that this historical myth was challenged, and enough research was accomplished to debunk it, with the true history behind the game. Yet even now, Hasbro still avoids any mention of Elizabeth Magie or the pre-Darrow years in their game literature or on their website. But I digress.
There have been several editions of Monopoly over the years. Most of us have seen the standard Monopoly game with metal player tokens, as well as plastic houses and hotels. A more obscure Monopoly fact is that from 1958 to 1961 Parker Brothers produced two variations of the game. An example would be the 1961 edition of Monopoly. Although the Chance, Opportunity and Title Deed cards were the same, one version of the game was distributed with the standard metal tokens, plastic houses and hotels, and a game board bordered in green, while the other version’s player tokens, houses and hotels were made of wood and a game board bordered in black. I don’t know why this was done, but if I was to hazard a guess, I would suggest that Parker Brothers had an inventory of game parts for a similar game that was no longer in production, and someone had the brilliant idea of using them up rather than letting them sit and collecting dust. Of course, this is just pure speculation on my part.
Incidentally, if you’re looking for a web resource on all things Monopoly, including more details on its history and changes over the years, try the Monopoly History website.
Today’s Monopoly games continue the practice of multiple versions, and with the “opoly” licensing agreements, come in many variants and themes. There are Monopoly games based on cats, on scuba diving, on hotel chains (Fairmont Hotels, no less), on corporations (like Nintendo!), even on cities and towns. There are Deluxe versions, country-specific versions (Canadian Monopoly, anyone?), era-specific versions – even Monopoly games based on TV shows and movies (like Star Wars!). If you can’t find a Monopoly game that matches your interests, you’re simply not looking hard enough!