Tag Archives: Darrow Round Board

The Toys That Built America

In the series, George S. Parker adds the metal tokens to the Monopoly game... using, possibly, one of my handmade Round Game board recreations(!), and with illustrations of metal tokens taken from the later Monopoly patent. In real life the tokens were introduced to the game by a group of children, and Darrow liked them so much that he suggested that Parker Brothers use them in the game, once they took over. He had wanted to use them, but could not find a supplier, according to his son, William Darrow.

In the series, George S. Parker adds the metal tokens to the Monopoly game… using, possibly, one of my handmade Round Game board recreations(!), and with illustrations of metal tokens taken from the later Monopoly patent. In real life the tokens were introduced to the game by a group of children, and Darrow liked them so much that he suggested that Parker Brothers use them in the game, once they took over. He had wanted to use them, but could not find a supplier, according to his son, William Darrow.

I recently watched The Toys That Built America, a four-part miniseries on the History Channel. The history was very superficial, and where do I begin on all the things they got wrong?

I can appreciate how shows like this can educate the public, and potentially expand interest in the history of Monopoly and other games. However, parts of what was shown were historically inaccurate. I would think that the producers of such shows have a responsibility to get it right. Showing Charles Darrow and saying “he calls it Monopoly,” implies that he was the first one who called it that, which he was not. Stating later that almost everything he claimed was not true does not undo the damage.

Honestly, how would it even be possible that a truthful account could undermine the validity of the Monopoly trademark at this late date?

Everything about the history of Monopoly between Elizabeth Magie and Darrow was completely left out of the story, and this is a crucial part of the story! The Quaker originators of Atlantic City Monopoly only get mentioned in passing, with nothing to indicate that they even called their game Monopoly. The series appears to have been made in close association with Hasbro and Mattel, which are huge corporate interests, almost as if they were large-scale infomercials.

They show Charles Darrow coloring his Round Board game with chalk. In real life, I am sure he used paint.

In the TV version, Darrow learns the Atlantic City version of the game, but there is absolutely no mention that anyone called the game Monopoly before he did. In actuality, the game was widely known as Monopoly for years before Darrow ever caught wind of it. Why was all this left out?

They show Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers evaluating Darrow’s Monopoly in 1934 by studying a Round Board. Darrow only made one round board, and it stayed in his family. In 1934, he likely would have sent them Darrow White Boxes.

They say that Parker Brothers added the iconic tokens to Monopoly. While this is true, Darrow suggested the use of these metal tokens, which he had wanted to use in his sets, but had been unable to find a supplier. Years ago, I spoke to a woman, 85 years old at the time, who had been in Darrow’s circle as a child. She told me the real story of how metal dime store tokens were added to the game.

Darrow worked odd jobs as a handyman during the Depression. While he was working at someone’s house in his neighborhood, he brought along a Monopoly set for the kids to play with. They couldn’t finish a game in one sitting, and had trouble remembering whose colored token was whose the next day.

So six kids each picked out their favorite dime store token, and Darrow liked the idea so much that these became the first six tokens used in Parker Brothers sets. The same metal tokens became part of the Monopoly patent, which means Parker credited the idea to Darrow. Parker Brothers did not include any of their own improvements in the Darrow patent.

They referred to the Monopoly patent as a “design patent.” It is not. A design patent was something that Milton Bradley took out for one of their early versions of Easy Money, because they were shut out in getting a conventional patent.

Monopoly was already a hit game when Parker Brothers approached Elizabeth Magie Phillips about purchasing her second Landlord’s Game patent. So it is disingenuous when the narrator in the documentary says that Parker did not know that there were millions of dollars at stake. By November 1935, over 100,000 Monopoly sets had been sold, and Parker Brothers was just getting warmed up with it.

Elizabeth Magie Phillips was a Georgist (a follower of Henry George) and they were opposed to monopolies. What is a patent, if not a legalized monopoly on an invention? EMP took out patents so she would get credit for her inventions, but to use them as a way to make money would have been contrary to her Georgist beliefs.

This is why she did not accept a royalty from Parker Brothers on the sale of Monopoly games. If necessary, they obviously would have paid her a royalty, and most likely would have cut Darrow’s, or eliminated it entirely. (See our recent post The Fortunes of Fortune, November 29, 2021>(

We can forgive how the actor portraying Charles Darrow looked very little like the balding man he was in real life, or how the actor playing the elderly George S. Parker was obviously a young man. I don’t really think Parker Brothers held a press conference when they took over Monopoly from Charles Darrow; hardly anyone knew what it was yet, and at that point, it certainly wasn’t newsworthy.

We can chalk these things off to artist license, but there is no way Darrow colored his Round Board with chalk!

I like to steer a middle ground between the “Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle” and the Parker Brothers/Hasbro corporate sides of this history. Unfortunately we usually only get one side, or the other. Mary Pilon‘s book was in the former category, while last night’s TV show was definitely in the latter. I think the truth is somewhere in between the two.

-David Sadowski

According to this series, Darrow sells out to Parker in 1934. It was actually 1935.

According to this series, Darrow sells out to Parker in 1934. It was actually 1935.

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

P1060402

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

Screen Shot 05-19-16 at 01.14 AM.PNG

P1060835

P1060410

P1060403

P1060776

P1060800

P1060759

P1060771

P1060763

P1060762

P1060758

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

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

P1060606

Reproduction Darrow Round Board Style Cards

P1060762

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

P1060763

P1060764

P1060765

P1060766

P1060767

P1060768

P1060769

P1060770

P1060771

P1060772

P1060773

P1060774

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

P1060758

P1060746

P1060747

P1060748

P1060749

P1060750

P1060751

P1060752

P1060753

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.