The Beginning of the Board Game Monopoly

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Monopoly, the best-selling board game in the world, began as a simple idea of one man during America's Great Depression.

Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Penn., had the idea for the game, which he thought would be especially appealing to so many people in America at that time who were out of work and might find enjoyment in the promise of quick wealth. Darrow designed his game in basically the form that we have it today and took it to Parker Brothers, which by then was making games successfully. They rejected the idea, saying that it had a great many "design flaws."

Darrow would have none of that and decided to try to make it by himself. He didn't have a job at the time, and so he had a good deal of time on his hands. He had a friend who was a printer, and the two of them eventually made 5,000 games themselves, selling them all to a Philadelphia department store that promptly sold out of them.

Darrow was very happy to have found success, but he now had thousands more orders on his hands. He went back to Parker Brothers, this time with a report stating that he had sold 5,000 of his games. And this time, Parker Brothers agreed with him that they needed to distribute this game. The year was 1935.

Since that time, millions and millions of Monopoly games have been sold. An informal count from the current manufacturer estimates that the number of little green houses made since 1935 tops 5 billion. The game now appears in many variations, with popular destinations like Boardwalk and Park Place being replaced by subject-specific place names. A current best-seller is a Lord of the Rings variant. A Braille variant has also been made, so blind people can play, too.

The original game included play pieces that were wood. Two years later, in 1937, metal tokens replaced the wooden ones. During World War II, tokens went back to wood.

Other fun trivia, according to

  • The number of dollars of Monopoly money printed each year exceeds $50 billion
  • Each Monopoly set comes with the same amount of "play" money: $15,140
  • The game is sold in 80 countries in 26 languages.
  • Escape maps, compasses, and files were included in Monopoly sets and smuggled into Prisoner of War camps inside Germany during World II. Real money was inserted in between stacks of "play" money.

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David White