Hasbro, the current maker of Monopoly, decided to retire one of the game's iconic tokens, and they invited fans to choose which piece will ultimately "go to jail" - permanently.
The Save You Token campaign ran through February 5th, and gave fans of the game the power to decide whether the car, thimble, boot, Scottie dog, battleship, hat, iron, or wheelbarrow would be replaced by a toy robot, diamond ring, cat, helicopter or guitar.
This is not the first time that Monopoly's lineup of tokens has changed. Since the acquisition of the game in 1935 by Parker Bros., there have been dozens of variations in the number and kinds of movers. In fact, a money bag, used from 1999 to 2007, bested a piggy bank and a biplane in a previous contest held in 1998. (For a chart listing all the standard tokens, see this page.)
Though Charles Darrow is commonly credited with creating Monopoly, it is actually based upon The Landlord's Game, patented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904. Magie, a Quaker, had devised the game to illustrate an idea circulating at that time that landlords held an unfair advantage over tenants and should be subject to a special federal tax.
The game, though not a commercial success, spread from community to community as people made their own versions, renaming properties after places in their own towns and cities. Eventually, the game - by that time usually referred to as Monopoly by its players - reached Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it acquired its now-familiar place names. From there, it made its way to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where it was introduced to Darrow in 1933.
Darrow, immediately taken with the game, began to make his own version that he sold to friends. Demand soon increased to the point that Darrow had to enlist a professional printer to help manufacture two white-box editions in 1934 and a black-box version in 1935. By that time, Parker Brothers, to whom Darrow had previously attempted to sell the game, became interested and purchased the rights.
Darrow had thought about utilizing metal movers after observing some young neighbors using charms from bracelets as playing pieces. Though he himself had not included tokens in his privately-made sets, his idea was included in his sale to Parker Brothers who added six pieces - top hat, iron, cannon, thimble, ship, shoe - to the first version they produced.
Parker Brothers immediately set about acquiring the rights to all the other merchandised versions of Monopoly including Magie's Landlord Game and a game called Finance. With little competition left, Monopoly eventually became a world-wide phenomenon. It was so popular that, during World War II, British Intelligence utilized sets to smuggle maps, currency, and other documents to prisoners-of-war in Europe. Today, tournaments are held worldwide to determine an official World Champion Monopoly player.
There had been a number of editions of Monopoly over the years, but since the acquisition of Parker Brothers by Hasbro in 1991, the number has exploded. In addition to all the standard, deluxe, and commemorative/anniversary sets, special editions featuring their own distinctively themed tokens have been issued for everything from Batman to Star Trek and Star Wars. Even Hello Kitty has its own version.
Collectors, of course, are always on the lookout for the very earliest, and thus rarest, sets. Darrow's privately-issued versions have appeared at online auctions where they can command up to $1200 depending on the condition of the box and the completeness (most aren't!) of the set.
Some even fairly recent out-of-print editions can ignite collector interest, especially if still-sealed in mint condition. The Batman game issued in 2005 regularly fetches $50 to $150+ as do the Star Wars Classic Trilogy Edition from 1997 and the Star Trek Original Series Edition from 2000. And the Franklin Mint Collector's Edition issued for approximately ten years beginning in 1991 seems to have piqued a bit of interest today. Considered the most expensive officially mass-produced version - it had silver and gold-plated playing pieces and originally sold for $495 in 1991 - it can now sell for $600 to $700+ in the secondary markets.
Have you found a beat-up, incomplete version at a yard or estate sale? Even parts of games can have some value. Collectors are always seeking boards, tokens, rules booklets, Monopoly money, etc. to complete sets in their possession. And some tokens, especially, can be in demand as cross-collectibles.
Interested in learning more about this fun collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
Books and DVDs
Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game - And How It Got That Way by Philip E. Orbanes.
Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (2011) Zachary Levi (Narrator), Kevin Tostado (Director), Documentary DVD.
The Anspach Archives Collection - The Landlord's Game
- "Documenting the True History of Monopoly as Affirmed by Court Fact Findings," by Ralph Anspach.
Hasbro Gaming - Monopoly
- Official site.
Hasbro to Lock up Classic Monopoly Icon Forever - Official press release.
Monopoly, Monopoly - Fascinating history of the controversies surrounding the creation of the board game.
Vote or the dog gets it: Monopoly maker sparks war of pieces - The British take on the Save-Your-Token poll.
World of Monopoly - Most informative site on the subject includes history, charts, photos, descriptions, more.