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The Fascinating History of Monopoly: A Look at the Evolution of the Iconic Board Game

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Monopoly is a board game that has captured the hearts and minds of players around the globe for over a century. With its iconic "Jail," "Go," and colorful property spaces, Monopoly has become a cultural icon and one of the best-selling board games of all time, with over 750 million copies sold in more than 111 countries. However, the path to Monopoly's global success was not without its twists and turns. Charles Darrow, often credited as the inventor of Monopoly, was able to patent and sell his 'original' board game to Parker Brothers, making him the first millionaire game designer in history. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rich and sometimes tumultuous history of this beloved game.


In this blog article, we'll take a deep dive into the fascinating history of Monopoly, exploring its evolution from its early popularity to its current status as a worldwide phenomenon. We'll also delve into some of the most valuable versions of the game, as well as its impressive sales statistics and cultural impact. Whether you're a seasoned player or a newcomer to the game, there's always more to learn about the rich history and appeal of Monopoly.


A photo of a Monopoly board and playing pieces

The History Of Monopoly


The Landlord's Game


The history of Monopoly goes back much further than the game's acquisition by Parker Brothers and Hasbro. In fact, the origins of Monopoly can be traced back to 1903, when a woman named Elizabeth Magie created a game called The Landlord's Game.


Unlike Monopoly as we know it today, Magie's game was actually created as a protest against big-name monopolists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Magie created two different sets of rules for The Landlord's Game: one set of anti-monopolist rules and another set of monopolist rules. The idea behind this was to show that the anti-monopolist strategy was morally superior.


Despite Magie's efforts to highlight the moral dilemma of forming monopolies, the monopolist rules of The Landlord's Game proved to be wildly popular. It is ironic that Monopoly, as we know it today, turned out to be almost the opposite of Magie's original intention. While cooperative board games have gained popularity in recent years, it is possible that Magie's game might have taken on a different form if she had lived in modern times. Who knows, perhaps a modern version of The Landlord's Game would be called Anti-Monopoly instead!


The First Monopoly Board Game

While the origins of Monopoly can be traced back to Elizabeth Magie's creation of The Landlord's Game in 1903, it was Charles Darrow who would bring the game to the mainstream. In 1932, Darrow and his wife were invited to the home of their friends, Charles and Olive Todd, where they were introduced to The Landlord's Game. Darrow became fascinated with the game and asked Todd to write up a set of rules. Since there were no written rules for the game and Darrow had never heard of it before, he began distributing it himself and renaming it The Monopoly Game.


Darrow initially sold about 5,000 homemade versions of the game under his own name before selling the rights to Parker Brothers in 1935. This deal made Darrow a millionaire due to the generous royalties he received. The version of Monopoly that Parker Brothers released was based on the streets of Atlantic City and featured artwork by F.O. Alexander. After Parker Brothers took over the marketing of the game, it became extremely popular in the US and abroad. Different versions of the game were also created for specific purposes, and in 1936, Parker Brothers brought the game to other countries. The first Parker Brothers version of Monopoly includes many elements that are still present in the game today, such as the Battleship and Top Hat tokens.


Events Surrounding The Beloved Board Game.

From 1940 to 1970, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) utilized the manufacturing capabilities of John Waddington Ltd., the licensed manufacturer of Monopoly in the United Kingdom, for a secret operation during World War II. The SIS created fake charities as a cover for distributing a special version of Monopoly specifically designed for prisoners of war held by the Nazis. This version of the board game contained tools to aid in escape, such as maps, compasses, and real currency, hidden within its contents.


During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the German government sought to eliminate American or British influence in board games. In response, a special version of Monopoly was created featuring Dutch locations on the board and distributed throughout the Netherlands. This version of the game has survived to the present day and can still be found in the Netherlands, as it did not contain any pro-Nazi materials.


Anti-Monopoly

In the 1970s and 1980s, Ralph Anspach, an economics professor, created a board game called Anti-Monopoly. However, Parker Brothers, the company behind the popular game Monopoly, sued Anspach for trademark infringement. After several court cases, Anspach ultimately won the lawsuit on appeal, although Parker Brothers attempted to take the case to the Supreme Court. During the legal process, the history of Monopoly, including its precursor, The Landlord's Game, was revealed. Eventually, Anspach reached a settlement with Parker Brothers.


The 1990s to Present Day

In 1991, Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers and became the owner of the Monopoly board game. Previously, Parker Brothers only published two versions of the game - regular and deluxe - but under Hasbro's ownership, they began creating many different versions of Monopoly. Hasbro has also incorporated public input to create new features for the game, such as new editions, speed rules, optional rules, and game pieces. Today, you can find Monopoly editions based on various fandoms and themes.


Various Versions of Monopoly


Since its inception in the 1930s, Monopoly has undergone many changes and has been released in numerous different versions, each with its own unique theme or twist on the classic game.


One popular version of Monopoly is the Monopoly: The House of Hamond edition, which was produced in the 1930s and is now highly sought after by collectors due to its rarity. Another valuable edition is the Monopoly: The Anniversary Edition, which was released in 1985 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the game and features a wooden board and gold-plated game pieces.


For music fans, the Monopoly: The Beatles Edition, released in 2007, is a must-have. It features locations and game pieces based on the iconic band and has become a popular choice among both Monopoly enthusiasts and Beatles fans. Another unique edition is the Monopoly: The Millennium Edition, which was released in 1999 and features a futuristic theme, with game pieces such as a hoverboard and a laptop computer.



In recent years, Monopoly has also released many themed versions of the game, such as Monopoly: The Marvel Edition, Monopoly: The Harry Potter Edition, and Monopoly: The Pokémon Edition. These editions are popular with fans of the respective franchises and provide a fun twist on the classic game.


No matter which version of Monopoly you choose, it is sure to provide hours of entertainment for players of all ages. Whether you are a collector or just looking for a fun board game to play with friends and family, there is a Monopoly edition that is sure to suit your interests and preferences.


Sales

It is difficult to estimate the exact number of Monopoly board games that have been sold over the years, as the game has been in continuous production since 1935 and has been sold in numerous countries around the world. However, it is safe to say that Monopoly has sold hundreds of millions of copies and remains one of the best-selling board games of all time.


In the United States alone, Monopoly has sold over 275 million copies since it was first released, making it the best-selling board game in the country. The game is also popular in other countries, and has been translated into 47 languages and sold in 114 countries worldwide.



Monopoly's popularity has also led to numerous spin-off products, including video games, clothing, and other merchandise. The game has also inspired numerous variations, including themed versions based on popular franchises such as Star Wars and Harry Potter.


Conclusion

The history of Monopoly is surprisingly rich and complex. From its origins as a protest against monopolies to its role in helping to save prisoners of war during World War II, the history of this beloved family board game is full of unexpected twists and turns.


For many people, learning about the history of Monopoly only serves to deepen their appreciation for the game and solidify its place in their homes and families for generations to come.


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The Games Hut is based in the United Kingdom, and we have sold over 4,000 board game parts worldwide, helping our customers replace lost and vital missing game pieces and parts – so they can enjoy their board game again.

If you have missing Monopoly game piece, get in touch and we can help you replace it.

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