Tag Archives: Darrow Black Box

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.

The eBay Beat: Shanghai Real Estate, Darrow Black Box, Australian Stock Exchange

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There have been three recent eBay auctions of note, including one where it is not possible to know how much the item sold for. However, it was surely a lot of money, and the rarity of these items makes them interesting regardless.

Australian Stock Exchange

We have written before about the Stock Exchange Add-On to Monopoly sets, first sold in 1936 by the Capitol Novelty Company but soon purchased by Parker Brothers. This rare Australian version, made by the John Sands company, sold for $29.22 USD via a UK auction.

John Sands, in turn, licensed Monopoly from Waddington’s, the English firm that had obtained the rights from Parker Brothers in 1936. The first Aussie sets appeared in 1937.

In general, the Australian Monopoly sets were not as well made as their American counterparts. This Stock Exchange is similar to the US version, except that it is denominated in pound sterling instead of dollars (although Australia has their won dollar today), and the instructions are on a separate sheet instead of being printed on the inside of the box top.

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1935 Darrow Black Box

This recent auction for an incomplete Darrow Black Box Monopoly set, although not in the greatest condition, is still noteworthy, since it must be one of the 1600 sets actually sold by Charles Darrow, and not one of the 5900 that were taken on by Parker Brothers. Parker applied a label to the outside of the game board, not present here, and substituted their own rules. Neither version included tokens, which the buyers were expected to provide themselves.

While not worth anything like the $9,900 asking price, this is still a valuable item with an estimated worth of perhaps $2,000. However, the auction was ended by the seller, possibly indicating a private deal of some sort was reach at undisclosed terms. We may never know the exact amount.

This set includes its apparently original price tag from Snellenburg’s, a Philadelphia department store. Despite their reputation for selling modestly priced items, demand for Monopoly was apparently high enough in early 1935 that they sold this set for $3.00 instead of the usual $2.00. The more elaborate Darrow White Box sets had sold for $3.00 before this.

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Shanghai Real Estate

Our final item is especially rare– a 1930s Chinese Monopoly knock-off. Monopoly became a US phenomenon in 1935, and a world-wide one in 1936. This nicely made set is especially rare since Shanghai was captured by the Japanese in 1937.

This item has been listed several times, with the most recent auction being here. At present, the asking price is $5,113.15. Its actual value, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. One reason it has not sold as of this writing is that $5,113.15 is a lot of money, especially when there are practically no previous sales that collectors can refer to.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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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: $14.99
 with free shipping within the United States.

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Chance and Community Chest Cards, Set
Price: $14.99
 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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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: $99.99
 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: 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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