Tag Archives: Darrow White Box

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.

1920s Monopoly

An enhanced picture of the Muhlenberg board, so you can clearly see the property names. It was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) circa 1920. In the original Landlord's Game, when you paid your $75 after landing on the Luxury Tax square, you purchased a card with the name of some non-necessary item. These cards were kept and had value for the counting up at the end of the game. This practice was soon dispensed with, and you simply paid the tax.

An enhanced picture of the Muhlenberg board, so you can clearly see the property names. It was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) circa 1920. In the original Landlord’s Game, when you paid your $75 after landing on the Luxury Tax square, you purchased a card with the name of some non-necessary item. These cards were kept and had value for the counting up at the end of the game. This practice was soon dispensed with, and you simply paid the tax.

I was contacted recently by two people who own remarkable pieces of early game history. One had a board, but no pieces, and the other had pieces, but no board. Although these items are not from the same set, they are from roughly the same time and place in history, namely the Reading, PA area in the early 1920s.

While the owners wish to remain anonymous, here’s what I can tell you:

The wooden game board, approximately 19 or 20″ square, was made by Virginia Muhlenberg (1898-1999) around 1920. Her brother Charles Muhlenberg brought the game to Reading, PA around 1916, and introduced it to the Thun family (see our previous post Thun Monopoly). Charles Muhlenberg married Wilma Thun.

Like many other early such boards, most of the names of the properties are copied from the original Landlord’s Game. Some have Parisian names. As time went on, more and more early players customized their boards with local street names, culminating in the Atlantic City version which became hugely popular in the 1930s.

On the other hand, we do not know who made or owned the box of early game utensils, dating to about the same period. A few conclusions can be made by studying the various pieces. The owner apparently had two early game boards, since there are two sets of Chance cards, plus eight or so extra property cards. The later set of cards is color coded by property groups, an important development. Originally, the property groups in these games were only identified by a letter (A, B, C, etc.).

The first, and presumably earlier board would have had some customized names on it, and the second board, with a more complete set of cards, had additional changes made relative to Landlord’s. And, as the box indicates, this game was called Monopoly— one of the earliest to do so, at least among surviving sets.

The Chance and property cards were typed. Manual typewriters tended not to have a “1” key, and the capital I was used instead. Some were typed in black ink, others in red. Chances are, not all of these cards were made at the same time.

It was not until later in the 1920s that the game got a second set of cards called Community Chest. In the 1932 game Finance, the first commercialized version of Monopoly, you can gain or lose money with the Chance cards, but since Community Chest was a charity, on those, you always had to pay. Undoubtedly, this was not popular with the players, and in Darrow Monopoly, Community Chest and Chance are pretty much the same thing, and even have some of the same cards. Likewise, later in the 1920s, the Thuns made an innovation with the first Hotels (which I believe they called “apartments”), each one representing four (later five) Houses.

Instructions on the typed cards are minimal, as was common practice. Considering how long it would take to make a set using a typewriter, (try it sometime), this is not surprising.  Some cards were made on 3″x5″ index cards, and others were seemingly cut down to size.

Play money was apparently made by using some sort of rubber stamp. It sped up the time it took to make a set, and early game makers continued to make cards using rudimentary printing methods into the early 1930s.

There are no printed rules, and most people probably learned the game as part of an oral tradition.

The rate cards present were made by some photographic process, but one which yielded a reversed image, more like a negative.

The rate card was sufficiently complex to not be easily copied using a typewriter, or even in longhand. Chances are, someone made a “master” copy, and it was reproduced by some early photographic method so that it could be used by many people. Back then, you could have photos printed on postcard paper, which gave it some durability.

What’s missing here, besides the game boards?  Well, since the cards pretty much fill up the box they came in, the three denominations of paper money were most likely supplemented by poker chips for the smaller amounts.  And there is no sign of any wooden houses or paper “improvements.”  (The Landlord’s Game originally had what we would term paper houses, and eventually these changed into the more familiar, and durable wooden ones.  Small pieces of paper were probably not durable.)

We may never know who made these pieces, but since one of the property cards is “Wyomessing,” (sic) and there is a town called Wyomissing adjacent to Reading, PA, there is every possibility that the owners of both this board and these pieces may have actually known each other, as well as Louis and Ferdinand Thun. Reading was without a doubt the area with the most early Monopoly players, such that, when Parker Brothers started selling the game in 1935, a local wag opined that part of the fun was in making your own set.

One additional reason I think this set is from the early 1920s is a reference to “war profits” on a Chance card. This seems to suggest it was made after the end of the First World War in 1918. War profits were not as much of a concern before there was a war.

Finding early boards and pieces such as these is quite unusual, and taken together, these items are an important addition to our understanding of how the game Monopoly developed, a decade or more before it was commercialized and became a mass produced product.

-David Sadowski

PS- To provide some additional contrast, we have included a picture of the Heap board, made circa 1913, which also has some color coding on it.

Property Cards (from two different sets- only the RRs seem to overlap)

A. Coffee Alley – Yellow
A. Nicholas Street – Yellow

B. Temple – White or Light Tan
B. Shillington – White or Light Tan
B. Mohnton – White or Light Tan

C. Plum Street – Light Green
C. Canal Street – Light Green
C. Cotton Street – Light Green

D. Billald Alley – Salmon
D. Gordon Street – Salmon
D. Shiller Street – Salmon

E. Cedar Street – Light Green
E. Mulberry Street – Light Green
E. Seventh Street – Light Green

F. Madison Avenue – Blue
F. Master Street – Blue
F. Spring Garden Street – Blue

F. The Bowery – Salmon*

G. Pennside – Pink
G. Centre Avenue – Pink
G. Wyommessing (sic) – Pink

G. Fifth Avenue – Dark Green*
G. Broadway – Dark Green*
G. Madison Square – Dark Green*

H. Penn Square – Yellow
H. Hill Road – Yellow

H. Grande Boulevard – Light Tan*
H. Wall Street – Light Tan*

M. Con. Gas Co. – Pink
M. Met. Electric Co. – Pink

M. Slambang Trolley – Yellow*
M. Soakum Lighting System – Yellow*

N. Neversink Mtn. RR – Red
N. Mt. Penn RR – Red
N. Royal Rusher RR – Red*
N. Shooting Star RR – Red*

The wooden utensils box identifies this game as Monopoly.

The wooden utensils box identifies this game as Monopoly.

The set includes dice made of bone.

The set includes dice made of bone.

The two rate cards appear to be identical with the hand-written version with the Sherk game (first made in 1916). These are seemingly photo reproductions that are like a negative, printed on photo postcard paper of the type in use between 1904 and the 1920s. The effect is rather like a photostat.

The two rate cards appear to be identical with the hand-written version with the Sherk game (first made in 1916). These are seemingly photo reproductions that are like a negative, printed on photo postcard paper of the type in use between 1904 and the 1920s. The effect is rather like a photostat.

Rents are on the backs of the property cards.

Rents are on the backs of the property cards.

There are enough property cards for a complete game, plus some extras. My impression, from studying the cards, is that this owner had two boards. The first board had some customized property names, but many that were directly copied from the original Landlord's Game boards. The second, and more complete set has more customized street names, probably from the Wyomissing PA area (close to Reading), but still had some of the original names. Furthermore, the complete set has the property groups color coded, an important development in the history of the game. These are much like the cards Charles Darrow included with the earliest commercial versions of Monopoly he sold in 1933-34.

There are enough property cards for a complete game, plus some extras. My impression, from studying the cards, is that this owner had two boards. The first board had some customized property names, but many that were directly copied from the original Landlord’s Game boards. The second, and more complete set has more customized street names, probably from the Wyomissing PA area (close to Reading), but still had some of the original names. Furthermore, the complete set has the property groups color coded, an important development in the history of the game. These are much like the cards Charles Darrow included with the earliest commercial versions of Monopoly he sold in 1933-34.

There is a set of 16 Chance cards.

There is a set of 16 Chance cards.

Play money is found in just three denominations, made by using rubber stamps on card stock.

Play money is found in just three denominations, made by using rubber stamps on card stock.

There are 12 more cards, which appear to be a second set of Chance cards. This is even more evidence that these pieces are from two slightly different games.

There are 12 more cards, which appear to be a second set of Chance cards. This is even more evidence that these pieces are from two slightly different games.

The backs of the property cards have rent information and the rates for owning various amounts of the utilities.

The backs of the property cards have rent information and the rates for owning various amounts of the utilities.

The backs of the rate cards. One was printed on photo paper, which was popular at the time.

The backs of the rate cards. One was printed on photo paper, which was popular at the time.

The railroads. Two have the original names from the Landlord's board, and two have been changed.

The railroads. Two have the original names from the Landlord’s board, and two have been changed.

Property cards.

Property cards.

The backs of some of the property cards.

The backs of some of the property cards.

The Heap Monopoly board (circa 1913), now at the Strong Museum of American Play.

The Heap Monopoly board (circa 1913), now at the Strong Museum of American Play.

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: $14.95
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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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: 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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