Tag Archives: 1930s play money

The Fortunes of “Fortune”

The short-lived 1935 Parker Brothers game Fortune is a rare and historically important early Monopoly variant, as it was briefly an essential piece in a chess game over control of property trading games, which were quickly becoming a national craze.

Why did Parker introduce a new Monopoly clone, just a few months after they took over Monopoly from Charles Darrow? Fortune was introduced after the Monopoly patent was filed on August 31, 1935. The earliest version of Fortune says, “Patent Pending.”

Shortly after filing this patent (eventually issued as #2026082 on December 31, 1935), Parker was informed by the US Patent Office that this would be considered as an improvement of the second Landlord’s Game patent #1509312, issued to Elizabeth Magie Phillips in 1924. So, to “monopolize” Monopoly, they would need to obtain the rights to her patent.

Negotiations were undertaken with Mrs. Phillips, who had also been contacted by both Milton Bradley (makers of Easy Money) and Knapp Electric (Finance). She eventually sold her patent to Parker Brothers in November 1935, after meeting with George S. Parker, the “King of Games.”

Mrs. Phillips could certainly have demanded a royalty on each Monopoly game sold– a royalty that Parker was already paying to Charles Darrow, who had falsely claimed to be the “inventor.” She did not do so, as this would have violated her Georgist beliefs. She filed her patents in order to receive proper credit for her inventions, not money.

For what is a patent, if not a legalized monopoly? And Henry George was opposed to monopolies.

The sole purpose of Fortune, then, was to put a property trading game on the market that owed nothing to Charles Darrow and his supposed improvements to Monopoly. If Parker had to suddenly cut Darrow out of the picture, they would have a game they could sell to take its place. Comparing the two games, we can see just what it is that Parker thought was Darrow’s intellectual property.

First there is the name. While he did not create the game Monopoly, Darrow was certainly the first to try marketing it on a wide scale. As an alternative, Fortune is an excellent, strong choice.

Second, there was Darrow’s board design and the iconic cartoonlike illustrations he created. Parker Brothers appreciated their importance to Monopoly’s success, and therefore, Fortune had different cartoons of its own.

Third, were the Hotels. Fortune does not have any, using 40 Houses instead. But Hotels were not a Darrow innovation– they were introduced to Monopoly some years earlier by the Thuns in their version. (See our earlier post Thun Monopoly, May 10, 2017.)

As things played out, Parker Brothers bought the second Landlord’s patent, which set other things into motion. Milton Bradley had to negotiate changes to their lookalike Easy Money game so Parker Brothers would grant them a license. (In 1937, perhaps in response to this, Milton Bradley issued the game Carnival, which was based on the earlier, expired first Landlord’s Game patent.)

Knapp Electric sold Finance to Parker Brothers in January 1936. During 1936, Parker Brothers offered a revised version of Finance through a dummy, the Finance Game Corporation, based out of their New York office. While it is not clear why they did it this way, they may have wanted to distance themselves from the Knapp transaction for various reasons.

Knapp’s Finance had been on the market since 1932, more or less at the same time, or even before, Charles Darrow had claimed he invented Monopoly. A connection with Parker Brothers would undermine that story, and therefore, undermine the Monopoly patent.

Fortune has both Chance and Community Chest cards as these were also present in the 1932 version of Finance. Darrow could not credibly claim to have added Community Chest cards to the game. (Chance cards were introduced as early as the 1906 version of The Landlord’s Game.)

In addition, in Spring 1936, Parker placed trade ads, advertising how they were now licensing their two patents to Easy Money (through Milton Bradley) and Finance (through the Finance Game Company). Fortune was discontinued.

Parker eventually sued Rudy Copeland over his Inflation game, charging that it was infringing, but this soon backfired on them. Copeland found many early Monopoly players who would testify on his behalf, and Parker was forced to settle out of court, paying for Copeland’s legal fees and granting him a license to the two patents.

Charles Darrow was forced to accept a lower royalty rate, but in turn, licensed Parker Brothers for international sales, which was a “win-win” in the long run for both parties.

Parker’s main concern in 1935 was establishing as much right to Monopoly as possible, to keep their competitors from flooding the market with knock-offs, which had happened a decade earlier during the Mah Jongg craze.

1936, the peak Monopoly year, was the focus of their activities. They fully expected the Monopoly craze to fade after that, as had happened with so many other games– but we know that history took a different turn. It did fade, but not to the point where Parker ever stopped producing and selling Monopoly. Eventually, sales picked up again.

Soon, Parker began selling Finance under their own name, and added the name Fortune, resulting in Finance and Fortune.  Perhaps eventually realizing they were wasting a good name, they used Fortune again in the 1950s for an unrelated marbles game.

I assembled this now-complete Fortune set from two different auctions, with an overall value of $1450. That might seem like a lot of money (it is), but as they say, try to find another one.

-David Sadowski

Interestingly, Parker put the Fortune board logo on a diagonal, many years before this was done with Monopoly.

Interestingly, Parker put the Fortune board logo on a diagonal, many years before this was done with Monopoly.

This 1935 Fortune board and utensils box have been reunited at last, making this a complete set.

This 1935 Fortune board and utensils box have been reunited at last, making this a complete set.

Darrow Type 2 play money was used. The total amount was $9,000-- the same as the Darrow and early Parker Brothers sets.

Darrow Type 2 play money was used. The total amount was $9,000– the same as the Darrow and early Parker Brothers sets.

Fortune's rules were nearly identical to Monopoly but were somewhat rewritten by the Parker staff, at around the same time that revisions were being made to help clarify the Monopoly rules.

Fortune’s rules were nearly identical to Monopoly but were somewhat rewritten by the Parker staff, at around the same time that revisions were being made to help clarify the Monopoly rules.

Parker Brothers saved money on colored ink, and simplified the printing process for these Title Cards, which use symbols instead of colors to denote the various property groups. Parker also began using symbols on their Monopoly rules sheets in 1936, to identify to their employees which set went with which version.

Parker Brothers saved money on colored ink, and simplified the printing process for these Title Cards, which use symbols instead of colors to denote the various property groups. Parker also began using symbols on their Monopoly rules sheets in 1936, to identify to their employees which set went with which version.

There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards.

There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards.

Standard turned wood tokens were used. These are also found in other contemporary Parker Brothers sets.

Standard turned wood tokens were used. These are also found in other contemporary Parker Brothers sets.

Fortune's utensils box is smaller than a contemporary Parker Brothers Monopoly box, but larger than a Darrow Black Box.

Fortune’s utensils box is smaller than a contemporary Parker Brothers Monopoly box, but larger than a Darrow Black Box.

The Fortune board compared to a Darrow Black Box board.

The Fortune board compared to a Darrow Black Box board.

Late 1933 Darrow Large White Box Set

An extremely rare early Monopoly set, found in a Pennsylvania attic, recently sold for $6,256 on eBay. This is a Darrow White Box set, but with a green-backed 23″ board instead of the 20″ board found in the usual version. The box, although not in very good shape, is somewhat different from the later version, and does not have the “rules insert” but instead has the rules glued to the upper part of the box.

The other items (Property Cards, Chance and Community Chest cards, Houses and Hotels) are very similar to those found in the 1934 Darrow White Box. The board has the 1933 Darrow copyright notice in the Jail square. If Charles Darrow‘s version of the White Box with “Rules for 1934” was his first version for that year, that would date this set to late 1933.

In conversation with the late William Darrow (Charles Darrow’s son) in 2005, I asked him to estimate how many such early sets were made. While a small child, he did help his father assemble them. He speculated there were approximately 100 sets made of various types before the White Box, and that 1000 White Boxes were made. In 1935, Darrow had 7500 Black Box versions made, most of which (5900) were sold to Parker Brothers.

The game you see pictured here was purchased by noted collector Daniel Fernandez.

Here is the progression of Charles Darrow’s Monopoly sets:

Darrow Round Board (1 made) – board 33.5″ in diameter
Darrow Oilcloth sets (hand-drawn, various sizes)
Darrow Oilcloth sets (printed, 23″ board)
Darrow White Box (large, with 23″ board)
Darrow White Box with 20″ board
Darrow Black Box with 19″ board

-David Sadowski

PS- I have transcribed this version of the rules, which is a bit different than Darrow’s “Rules for 1934.” You can read them here.

Complete Darrow Round Board 1933 Style Reproduction Monopoly Game Set

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Celebrating the 83rd anniversary of the Darrow Round Board Monopoly set, first one made by Charles Darrow, we are now offering reproduction game sets made by The Folkopoly Press.

Charles Darrow’s first home-made game board was round, simply because his kitchen table was round. From that point forward, however, his boards were square.

As actual early Monopoly items become older and older, more scarce and valuable, they take on the status of “holy relics” that you probably should treat with kid gloves. Naturally, some of the experience of using them to actually play Monopoly is thereby lost.

Also lost, over the years, is what I call the “shock of the new.” Long gone is the experience of opening up one of these classic game sets and using it for the first time.

That’s part of what I hope to bring back with these reproduction sets. I want anyone who gets one of these to have the same sort of elation that buyers had in 1933, when this was all a brand new thing.

Since the original Darrow sets only came with $9000 in play money, barely enough for a game with six players, this reproduction set comes with a bit more to make actually playing Monopoly with it a bit more practical.

Both the board and game box are completely made by hand. If anything, they are higher quality than the originals.

This set comes with:

1 Darrow Round Game Board (33.5″ x 33.5″)

1 Wood utensils box

1 Darrow 1933 rules sheet (the rules as taught to Darrow by Charles Todd)

2 small dice

6 colored wood tokens (similar to some Darrow used in some of his sets)

28 Darrow Round Board style property cards

16 Chance cards and 20 Community Chest cards (with authentic wording taken from original early 1930s sets)

10 Hotels and 42 Houses (the number Darrow used in some of his oilcloth sets, made from baseboard molding)

1 Certificate of Authenticity

1930s Dime Store Style Scrip money as follows:

$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, even with six players.

Now you can experience the “shock of the new” again, just as Monopoly players did in 1933. We are not going to be making very many of these sets, since they are made by hand, and a lot of work is involved.

Complete Darrow Round Board 1933 Style Reproduction Monopoly Game Set
Price: $99.99

Shipping within the 48 continental United States costs just $10.00.

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

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

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

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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: $19.99
 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.