1936 Monopoly Origins Document

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I recently stumbled upon a very interesting document on an obscure blog, where Brian Sutton-Smith explains:

Today, the “real story” behind the invention of Monopoly, America’s most iconic board game, is well-known. But, as the game’s popularity began to intensify, executives at Parker Brothers wanted to keep the origin of Monopoly a secret. LeRoy Howard, a game designer and developer at Parker Brothers, advised George S. Parker about purchasing Monopoly from Charles Darrow in 1935. During the acquisition, Parker Brothers learned that Darrow’s commercially-produced version of the board game was based on Elizabeth M. Phillips’s previously-patented creation, The Landlord’s Game. In the end, Parker Brothers purchased the original patent from Phillips for $500. The document, titled “The Origin of the Game of Monopoly,” includes a handwritten annotation that reads “Not for Publication, L.H.” and was originally marked “Confidential.”

I can shed some additional light on this. Although this 1936 document was not published, it must have been prepared by Parker Brothers as press release material that could have appeared in magazines or newspapers. Similar accounts, although not as lengthy, did in fact appear in the press around this time.

In light of the Anti-Monopoly case and various events that took place after 1948, it may surprise some to learn that this was, in fact, the official Parker Brother position on the origins of Monopoly. From early 1936 until Mrs. Elizabeth Magie Phillips died in 1948, Parker Brothers credited her and Charles Darrow as the co-creators of Monopoly.

By this time, Parker Brothers had obtained a virtual monopoly on the rights to Monopoly, so far as they were able to do so at the time. As we know today, the basic game of Monopoly derives from The Landlord’s Game, which Elizabeth Magie patented in 1904. By the time this article was written, however, her original patent had expired, and therefore it is not mentioned here.

Competitors such as Milton Bradley were certainly aware of it, however, as they issued the game Carnival in 1937, based on just that expired Landlord’s Game patent. But Parker Brothers did not want to mention it here, as it would have tended to undermine their legal claims to Monopoly, serving to have the Monopoly patent invalidated.

No mention, of course, is made of the various early Monopoly players such as the Thuns, Daniel Layman, Ruth Hoskins, Eugene Raiford, et al who made various contributions to the game before Charles Darrow learned it from Charles Todd. Therefore, Parker ascribes any and all such improvements to Darrow.

Charles Darrow, while certainly not the inventor of Monopoly, was certainly instrumental in developing the game to the point where it became successful. He brought it over the finish line, so to speak.

In order to consider what were the aspects of Monopoly that Parker Brothers considered to be Darrow’s intellectual property, one has only to compare the 1935 patent application with the similar game Fortune they issued the same year. This can be considered as Parker’s backup plan, a game that they could quickly popularize if it turned out that Charles Darrow was not the true inventor of Monopoly.

If Parker was forced to terminate their contract with Darrow and cease paying him a royalty, they would have gotten behind Fortune instead. Fortune is almost identical to Monopoly, but with a different name.

There are also different property names and, of course, this game did not use Darrow’s iconic illustrations or the distinctive metal tokens made by Dowst.

Interestingly, the 1935 Fortune has only houses, not hotels, and they apparently credited this innovation to Darrow.* But it does have both Chance and Community Chest cards. By the time this game came out, Parker Brothers apparently knew that these were not introduced by Darrow.

The 1936 Parker Brothers document summarizes, in a fairly factual way, the true origins of the game Monopoly, but leaves out anything that would have tended to undermine their legal position regarding the game. It is very complimentary to Mrs. Elizabeth Magie Phillips, who surely could have insisted on collecting a royalty on Monopoly but who, instead, sold her second Landlord’s patent to Parker for $500.

The “conventional wisdom” today is that she was cheated out of a fortune, but the real situation is more nuanced and certainly more interesting. As a dedicated follower of economist Henry George, Mrs. Phillips took out patents on her inventions in order to receive proper credit and recognition, but Georgists would have considered it unseemly for her to have profited financially from such a legalized government monopoly.

By 1935, she was already well off through her marriage to Albert Phillips, who was a successful publisher. Although she kept abreast of game patents through her connections at the patent office, Mrs. Phillips never made any attempt to benefit financially from any of her various patents. She made no attempt to stop earlier commercialized games based on her invention such as the 1932-35 Finance, which was about 90% the same as Monopoly.

In 1935, she was being courted by three different game makers regarding her 1924 patent– Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, and Knapp Electric. But there was never any doubt in her mind that she would make a deal with Parker Brothers, although she insisted on dealing directly with company founder George S. Parker, who she considered the “King of Games.”

History belongs to the living, and therefore it should be no surprise that Parker Brothers stuck to the narrative as outlined in the above document at least until Mrs. Phillips died in 1948. The very deferential tone towards her stands in contrast to the stance Parker took before buying her patent. A brief mention of Monopoly in a 1935 issue of Fortune magazine includes a denial that the game was invented by Henry George.

This kind of slight, and Parker’s subsequent building up of Darrow as a game inventor, rankled her to the point where she gave some press interviews in early 1936 that mentioned her 1904 patent. As a result, Parker Brothers took additional steps to mollify her. They agreed to publish two more of her games (Bargain Day and King’s Men) and crafted this very carefully worded narrative.

The problem is, they forgot the parts about Elizabeth Magie Phillips from their press pronouncements after she died. It was not until the early 1970s that she once again received her due as the true inventor of Monopoly, and this is in large part through the efforts of Dr. Ralph Anspach and the Anti-Monopoly case, without which much of the game’s origins would have been lost in the mists of time.

-Clarence B. Darwin

*Pictures of the game on the Board Game Geek web site show hotels, but these must have been imported later from some Monopoly set. The copyrighted rules only mention houses.

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Style Cards

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FYI, our latest retro game pieces are cards in the style of the 1933 Darrow Round Board Monopoly set. This includes 3″ x 5″ property cards with a colored strip across the bottom, and 2 1/2″ x 3″ Chance and Community Chest Cards.

There are 28 property cards in a set, and 16 Chance and 20 Community Chest cards in that set. Both are available for immediate shipment from Folkopoly Press.

The originals were made with a typewriter. Standard unlined 3″ x 5″ index cards were used for the property cards, and these were simply cut in half for the Chance and Community Chest cards.

The originals were all white, but we have made the Community Chest cards on colored card stock in order to better differentiate them from the Chance cards.

We now offer reproductions of several different styles of cards for these early games, including different versions for “Toddopoly” (the Charles Todd set that Charles Darrow learned Monopoly from), the Darrow Round Board, Tie Box (oilcloth), White Box and Black Box sets.

In addition, we also offer our own interpretation of a 1931-style Monopoly game, under the name The Game of the Monopolist. This is based on the 1932-35 game Finance, and the Thun Monopoly game that preceded it.

-Clarence B. Darwin

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Property Cards, Set
Price: $14.95
with free shipping within the United States.

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Chance and Community Chest Cards, Set
Price: $14.95
with free shipping within the United States.

PS- For shipping outside the US, drop us a line at:
folkopolypress@gmail.com

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Reproduction 1930s-Style Play Money

New 1930s-style play money from The Folkopoly Press.

New 1930s-style play money from The Folkopoly Press.

Early Monopoly players in the 1920s and 1930s had to make their own sets, and often used play money that was available from dime stores of the era. Certain types of these bills are rarely found today, and present a challenge for the serious Monopoly collector who wants the same kind of experience the early players had.

Now, Folkopoly Press meets that need with a new set of 1930s-style play money, inspired by various early designs. To create this set was a real challenge, and involved a considerable amount of work.

First of all, we had to find examples of some of these rare original bills. I found $1 and $1000 denominations of one type and scanned these bills. Unfortunately, these were not necessarily printed all that well themselves and the images have various flaws, especially after more than 80 years’ time. Not much is known about the Dominion Printing Company of New York.

One problem is these designs were hand-drawn and did not really involve the use of particular fonts. Thus, there is not a great deal of consistency in the style and shape of particular numbers and letters. Therefore, we decided to use the background image from the original bills, with modern fonts that would give a similar appearance to the originals.

We cleaned up the scanned images in Photoshop, a very time-consuming process which took around 12 hours. Essentially, this involved magnifying the scanned image to practically the pixel level and filling in all the imperfections, while eliminating other things that should not be there.

The result is a background image for these bills which is both historically accurate, and of a better than new quality. The font we chose, we feel, captures the look and spirit of the original bills quite well.

Finally, while the background image is black on all bills, we gave each denomination its own color, as far as the numbers were concerned. The results are very attractive and speak for themselves.

These bills can be used with some of our reproduction Oilcloth and Tie Box sets. It is similar to the types of bills used with the original Darrow Round Board, the very first one made by Charles Darrow. This predates the various types of Darrow scrip, including Types 0, 1 and 2.

We are offering complete sets of these bills, which measure approximately 2 5/8″ by 5 3/4″ which is close to the same size as the originals.

A complete set consists of:

$1 x 48
$5 x 42
$10 x 36
$20 x 30
$50 x 24
$100 x 18
$500 x 6
$1000 x 6

A total of $13,218 (210 bills in all) which is plenty enough to play Monopoly as well as other similar games.

-Clarence B. Darwin

Reproduction 1930s-Style Play Money Set
Price: $19.95
with free shipping within the United States.

PS- For shipping outside the US, drop us a line at:
folkopolypress@gmail.com

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Original 1930s play money.

Original 1930s play money.

Our new bills are based on this cleaned-up image of original 1930s play money.

Our new bills are based on this cleaned-up image of original 1930s play money.

This was our starting point in the restoration of part of the image.

This was our starting point in the restoration of part of the image.

Before.

Before.

After.

After.

In this screen shot, the middle portion has been restored and the sides have not. Quite a difference.

In this screen shot, the middle portion has been restored and the sides have not. Quite a difference.

The only information I can find about these bills online comes from Show Me the Money! The Standard Catalog of Motion Picture, Television, Stage and Advertising Prop Money by Fred L. Reed.

The only information I can find about these bills online comes from Show Me the Money! The Standard Catalog of Motion Picture, Television, Stage and Advertising Prop Money by Fred L. Reed.

Complete Replica Darrow Tie Box Monopoly Set

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We recently received a commission from one of our customers for a replica Darrow Tie Box Monopoly set. This predated the more famous White Box and Black Box sets Charles Darrow made in 1934 and 1935, respectively.

The Tie Box name comes from the long and narrow box shape. Some say that the originals were actual tie boxes Darrow purchased, although this has not been confirmed. Even if this is so, the boxes were modified to fit the board and pieces.

Only two such original Tie Box sets are presently known to exist. After making this one, I see why.

One reason I enjoy making replicas of these early games is to gain additional insights into their history. A long, narrow box such as this undergoes a great deal of stress, and over the course of 80 years, practically all the originals have long since fallen apart. Of course, they were never designed to last 80 years in the first place.

Our replica boxes are made more durable, and should last for a long time.

For this set we made some original wood houses and hotels, which were then stained a natural wood color. The very early Darrow sets came with 10 hotels and 42 houses. My speculation is that Darrow changed this to the more familiar 12 and 32 because it was the functional equivalent, but reduced the number of pieces he had to make.

As with the early Darrow originals, the hotels are twice as long as the houses.

Our set comes with a faithful reproduction of the Darrow Tie Box rules, which were themselves a minor modification of the ones that Charles Todd had typed up for Darrow in 1933.

According to Dan Fernandez, the Oilcloth sets came with 15 Chance and 15 Community Chest cards. One of each was added for the 1934 White Box set, and a substitution was made for one Community Chest card in the 1935 Black Box set. We have included all these in our Tie Box to give players the maximum flexibility in using them.

The Chance, Community Chest, and Property cards here are the same size as the ones made for the Darrow White Box. These cards were downsized somewhat for the Darrow Black Box, which had a much smaller box.

Each game comes with:

1 23″ Holographic Game Board on Blackout Cloth, 1 Cardboard Tube, 1 Implements box, 1 set of Rules, 42 Houses, 10 Hotels, 16 Chance cards, 17 Community Chest cards, 5 game pieces, 2 Dice, 28 Deeds, plus Scrip Money in the following amounts:

60x $1

50x $5

60x $10

30x $20

30x $50

30x $100

10x $500

A total of $11,010.

The prototype set has half Darrow Type 1 bills with the widely spaced fonts, and half Darrow Type 0 typewritten play money. For production sets we are going to stick with the Type 1 bills.

In addition, the set comes with a “holographic” (hand-drawn) folding game board on blackout cloth, the modern equivalent of oilcloth. The prototype is on green cloth but the production boards will be on white cloth.

-Clarence B. Darwin

Reproduction Darrow Tie Box Game Set
Price: $99.95
plus $10.00 shipping within the United States.

PS- For shipping outside the US, drop us a line at:
folkopolypress@gmail.com

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Cat not included, sorry.

Cat not included, sorry.

The eBay Beat: Metal Monopoly Money, Boondoggling Board, Stock Exchange

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Metal Monopoly Money

A nearly complete set of metal Monopoly money recently sold on eBay for $811.00.

These are very rare, as evidenced in the price. Metal money was used for a few years in the late 1930s in some of Parker Brothers’ most expensive sets, perhaps inspired by the poker chips sometimes used by early Monopoly players. You could also purchase a set separately from those games.

Parker did use similar metal money in other games in this era. However, these coins in particular have been criticized for their design since they apparently do not stack well.

Here is the seller’s description:

You are bidding on a box of metal Monopoly money (coins) – box is approx. 4 3/4″ x 2″. The last ones on Ebay sold in 2012 for 1439.00 you can’t find them on eBay or anywhere else on an internet research. The coins are a Parker Brothers after market item sold as replacement pieces or to upgrade other sets. Denominations are $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 and $500. I don’t know how many coins there should be, there are spacers in the box to hold them in place and box looks full maybe a few missing. The box has some wear, a little bit of scuffing and a tear. Coins are all in good condition.

 

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Boondoggling Board

Although in general Boondoggling sets have sold for a lot of money in the last few years, this recent auction for the board only was an exception. It seems to have gone unnoticed by some collectors and sold for just $16.66.

We recently reported on a complete Boondoggling set that sold for $500. Looks like someone got a real bargain here.

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Stock Exchange Add-On

A Parker Brothers Stock Exchange Add-On recently sold on eBay for $275.00.

As the BoardGameGeek web site notes:

STOCK EXCHANGE was orignally marketed by Capitol Novelty Co. as a supplement for Monopoly, Easy Money, and Finance real estate trading games. It allows players to buy and trade stocks in addition to real estate. Players attempt to build a portfolio of stock which will pay them dividends and give them more monetary clout during the game.

Parker Brothers purchased the game from Capitol Novelty in 1936 and marketed it for a short time as a supplement for only Monopoly and Finance games (both Parker Brothers games), dropping Milton Bradley’s Easy Money game. The 1937 version dropped the Finance reference and only listed Monopoly on the game box.

Contains: Stock exchange board space (fits over “Free Parking.”), eleven new Community Chest cards, ten new Chance cards, thirty stock shares (five each of six different companies).

 

Stock Exchange was available in the US during the late 1930s, and there are a few variations of these sets. There were also international versions (for Canada and Australia at least), and those are collectible as well.

The add-on was briefly reissued in a new version made by Chessex in 1992 that is considered less collectible.

Stock Exchange is also thought to have helped inspire the Parker game Bulls and Bears (1936), which was heavily promoted as a supposed follow-up to Monopoly. Parker used Charles B. Darrow as a sort of celebrity endorser to this game, claiming he was the inventor. But he actually had even less to do with this game than with Monopoly. Bulls and Bears was developed by Parker’s own staff.

Perhaps Parker Brothers hoped to burnish Darrow’s credentials as a supposed inventor of Monopoly in the public mind by associating him with another game.

The name also harkens back to the Parker card game Pit, which eventually acquired Bull and Bear cards.

Bulls and Bears sold well for a brief period of time, but it was not a very interesting game compared to Monopoly, in part because it did not have Monopoly’s 30 year gestation period.

The square patch that came with Stock Exchange sometimes got glued onto Monopoly boards, and is generally considered to reduce their value as a result. Often, partial Stock Exchange sets are found mixed in with Monopoly sets, and these generally are missing the box, which is key to value.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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Complete “Toddopoly” Set

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Here is a complete reproduction “Toddopoly” game set, inspired by the handmade Monopoly game owned by the late Charles Todd, who taught Charles Brace Darrow how to play the game. Darrow copied Todd’s game, and even had Todd type out rules for him.

The rest, as we know, is history. Darrow was not the first to try and market such a game, but he was the first one to do so successfully, and as a result, untold millions of Monopoly games have been sold.

Todd, already in his 80s, did testify in Dr. Ralph Anspach‘s Anti-Monopoly case, but his homemade Monopoly set itself was important evidence.

Because Todd’s set was of such great importance, I made six reproduction sets in 2008. Now, I have completed four more sets, with completely different components.

These new sets feature a very attractive wooden utensils box, with the word “Monopoly” engraved thereon. The game board itself is hand-drawn and colored on blackout cloth, which is closer to the original oilcloth Todd and others used than what passes for oilcloth today.

The game cards and play money are inspired both by what Todd used, and also what Darrow used in some of his earliest sets. In 2005, I classified the different types of Darrow play money as Type 1 and Type 2, and these terms have gone into wide use among Monopoly collectors ever since.

But it turns out there was an even earlier type of Darrow money, where the bills were individually made on a typewriter. That’s what I have tried to emulate here, and therefore, this is Darrow “Type Zero” scrip.

The idea behind this reproduction set is to be the sort of set that these early Monopoly players would have put into a dresser drawer and taken out once in a while for Monopoly parties.

Comparing Todd’s game and the early Darrow versions is instructive. Todd, essentially, put in the minimum amount of effort. His game board is square and has simple 2″ by 2″ squares on it, with very little in the way of ornamentation. His game cards were very simple and had minimal information on them.

Even on his first game board, on the other hand, Darrow tried to improve the game. The Darrow Round Board already has some of Darrow’s iconic cartoon illustrations on it, and the board itself would have been relatively difficult to create.

As his son William told me in 2005, Charles Darrow had some drafting experience and added the illustrations himself. Later on, he hired an artist to do additional work.

It would have been tempting to put 12 red hotels and 32 green houses into this set, but not historically accurate. The actual number of houses and hotels used in Monopoly was up to the individual, when all sets were handmade. It took some time before Darrow settled on these quantities. In one of his earliest oilcloth sets, he used 10 hotels and 44 houses. My assumption is that he changed this to the familiar amount since that was a nearly 20% reduction in the number of pieces he had to provide, while being functionally the same.

While it’s entirely possible that red and green had been used as house and hotel colors before Darrow (the 1932 Finance game had both red and green houses, although the rules did not explain the difference between them) the early game makers do not seem to have used these colors. So, for this game, we have 15 hotels and 30 houses, which are tan.

These four new Toddopoly sets are #7 through 10 in a limited series. The limited series now being complete, I won’t be making others that are exactly like this, but I may make a few more similar sets on special order.

It was difficult dying the blackout cloth blue without making an absolute mess, so any further boards I might make will be on white fabric.

I would say that these new Toddopoly sets are of overall higher quality construction than the originals were.

If you are interested in obtaining a set such as this, please contact me at:

folkopolypress@gmail.com

Thanks.

-Clarence B. Darwin

This set includes:

1- Wooden utensils box, with the word “Monopoly” engraved on it
1- 22″ by 22″ hand drawn and colored game board on blackout cloth, dyed blue
10- Game tokens, including six colored wooden pieces, metal thimble, ring, bobbin, foreign coin
2- dice
20- Community Chest cards, including four with special wording as used in the original Charles Todd set
16- Chance cards
28- Property cards
1- rules sheet (Charles Todd rules, as typed up by his secretary and given to Charles Darrow)
1- Certificate of Authenticity
15- Wooden Hotels
30- Wooden Houses
Darrow Type 0 scrip money as follows:
$1 x 60
$5 x 50
$10 x 60
$20 x 30
$50 x 30
$100 x 30
$500 x 10
A total of $11,010

Charles Todd’s original 1932 set sold for $26,250 at a Sotheby’s auction on December 17, 2010. Its whereabouts are unknown.

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The eBay Beat: Trade Mark #9 Monopoly Set (1935)

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FYI, a 1935 Trade Mark version of a #9 Monopoly set recently sold on eBay for $330.99.

This was the very first “white box” version of Monopoly sold by Parker Brothers. It was modeled after the 1934 Darrow White Box sets that were sold by Charles Darrow. However, there were significant differences between the two.

From 1934-35, Darrow offered two types of sets, but not at the same time. First, there was the White Box version, which retailed for $3.00 and had a 20″ game board. The game cards and utensils were all at one end of the box, making it somewhat unbalanced. The rules were printed right onto a cardboard insert that fit into the box bottom. It was not glued into place.

To the best of our knowledge, Darrow had 1,000 of these sets made, in two batches of 500 each. There are some minor differences between the sets, notably in the property cards. Darrow put some of the pieces in later sets into wax sandwich bags.

You will find lots of detailed pictures of these variations on Dan Fernandez‘s excellent Sundown Farm and Ranch web site.

The Darrow White Box itself was 21″ long and took up a lot of space on the department store shelves in Philadelphia and New York where they were sold. The store’s buyers advised Darrow to make a smaller set,

In this period, Monopoly had competition from Knapp Electric‘s game Finance, which had 90% of the elements we generally associate with Monopoly. Finance was sold in a small black box with separate game board, an arrangement Darrow adopted for his 1935 Black Box sets. Both Finance and the Darrow Black Box retailed for $2.00, a figure that is probably not coincidental.

Along with the box, Darrow downsized the game board for this version to about 19″ square. This size was then adopted by Parker Brothers when they started making the sets.

7,500 of these were made in early 1935, but Darrow had only sold 1,600 of these by the time he made his deal with Parker Brothers in March of that year. Reluctantly, Parker took on his remaining inventory.

100 sets were given to Parker employees so that they could learn the game. As far as is know, the rest of the sets were sold by Parker Brothers in the next few months. They substituted their own version of the game rules for Darrow’s, and put a Parker label on the front of the board.

Neither type of Darrow set came with tokens. You were supposed to supply your own. However, in Darrow’s own circle, players had already began using metal dime store tokens as playing pieces. Darrow, however, could not find a supplier for these, but recommended them to Parker Brothers, who already had a business relationship with the Dowst company who made them.

The first Parker Brothers Monopoly sets came out in June 1935 as their #7 version. This was a slightly modified Darrow Black Box. Thinking Darrow’s box too small, Parker substituted a somewhat larger one with more colorful graphics.

Approximately 25,000 of the #7 sets were sold in the first few months. The legal description on these has led Monopoly collectors to call them “Trade Mark” sets.

Soon after the #7 went on the market, Parker introduced the #9 White Box version, which at first retailed for $3 as had Darrow’s. This used a standard 19″ board, and therefore the boxes are a bit smaller than Darrow’s.

The implements were put into the center of the box, which made it more balanced. Parker improved on Darrow’s set by including 10 metal tokens and a double supply of play money.

This is the type of set shown pictured in this recent eBay auction. While the Darrow White Box had graphics only on the top of the box, via a decal, Parker’s version continued the printing onto the two sides.

This is the rarest type of #9 set. Some people think that the following version, which had the 1,509,312 patent number overprinted onto the box top, is more rare, but my experience had been that the opposite is true.

Another difference is that the #9 has painted houses and hotels, while the #7’s are simply dyed.

During 1936, Parker Brothers made some important changes to the #9. After continuing with the standard black board for some time, the White Box was given its own green board with Monopoly lettered on it in script. At the same time, it got the fancier “Grand Hotels” that were first used in the #10 Fine Edition starting in November 1935. I assume that the amount of play money was increased as well.

With these improvements, Parker Brothers increased the price of the #9 to $3.50. This version continued with few changes for several years. Those sets are common, while the 1935 Trade Mark #9 is not.

While not in the greatest condition, $330.00 seems like a more than fair price for this set. For some reason, the tokens do not have the black patina usually found in early sets, and the rules that were included were not the ones originally used for this game. The correct rules would be the same Trade Mark version found in contemporary #7 sets.

Although this set was designed for use by as many as 10 players and had double the amount of play money, this was not mentioned in the rules. Starting with the copyright 1936 rules, however, Parker Brothers did make such a distinction in their rules.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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