Tag Archives: early Monopoly players

Thun Monopoly

Notice the bits of Berks on this Monopoly board, owned by the Thun family, which dates to the 1920s: In one corner, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading the Reading Eagle, and Reading Railroad makes tracks through the middle of the upper row of properties on this hand-drawn, home-fashioned plywood board.

Notice the bits of Berks on this Monopoly board, owned by the Thun family, which dates to the 1920s: In one corner, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading the Reading Eagle, and Reading Railroad makes tracks through the middle of the upper row of properties on this hand-drawn, home-fashioned plywood board.

“Statement of General Theory – Monopoly is designed to show the evil resulting from the institution of private property. At the start of the game every player is provided with the same amount of capital and presumably has exactly the same chance of success as every other player. The game ends with one person in possession of all the money. What accounts for the failure of the rest, and what one factor can be singled out to explain the obviously ill- adjusted distributions of the community’s wealth which this situation represents? Those who win will answer ‘skill.’ Those who lose will answer ‘luck.’ But maybe there will be some, and these, while admitting the elements of skill and luck, will answer with Scott Nearing ‘private property’.” – Preface to the rules of Monopoly (Thun version, 1931)

Brothers Louis R. Thun (1907-1999) and Ferdinand K. Thun (1907-2001) were early Monopoly players who tried to market a commercial version of the game in 1931. However, their version was too expensive to have much commercial success, and it is estimated that perhaps only 50 copies were made.

They were the first to introduce Hotels to the game, although they called them Apartments. One Hotel takes the place of five Houses in the game.



Daniel W. Layman, Jr.
(1907-1989) learned Monopoly from the Thuns at Williams College. He made his own commercial version of Monopoly in 1932 and sold it under the name Finance. This version was first marketed by Electronic Laboratories, and then Knapp Electric. 10,000 copies were sold by the time Parker Brothers purchased the rights in January 1936.

Here is a very interesting article about the Thuns and their role in Monopoly history, from the Reading Eagle, August 11, 1990:

The Thuns play Monopoly on their 1920s game board. Notice the poker chips.

The Thuns play Monopoly on their 1920s game board. Notice the poker chips.

No Monopoly on Origin

By Maryalice Yakutchik

Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not assume Parker Brothers has a monopoly on the story behind the origins of its most famous board game.

In Berks County, home of the reading Railroad, early Monopoly enthusiasts sing a different tune than that of the mega-corporation which has raked in multi-millions marketing the game.

Whether or not Monopoly, as legend has it, was invented one evening in 1930 by the late Charles Brace Darrow on a piece of oilcloth on his kitchen table in Philadelphia, or whether it evolved– with several crucial stages of development having taken place right here, in Reading– is still open to discussion.

The creation vs. evolution debate is no game, and humankind has no monopoly on it.

Certainly, for Berks Countians interested in tracking down the origins of the contemporary Monopoly board, the Reading RR provides an important clue that favors the evolution theory. The property is prominent today as it was on several home fashioned pre-Darrow boards made in the 1920s by Berks natives.

One of the earliest Reading boards, made by Charles Muhlenberg and copied in 1916 by Paul Sherk of Wyomissing, had on it the New York Central, Jersey Central, Canadian Pacific, and Southern Pacific railroads, but the Reading Railroad is conspicuously missing.

That version found its way into a number of Reading homes, not the least of which was that of Muhlenberg’s bride, the former Wilma Thun who taught the game to her brothers, Louis and Ferdinand.

The game as fashioned by the Thuns was probably the first to include the Reading Railroad as well as several other properties and written rules about how to play. Prior to the Thuns, instructions had been passed verbally.

Only one of these early plywood Reading boards, probably made by Thomas and Brooke Lerch of Wyomissing, who were monopoly-playing contemporaries of the Thuns, still is in the possession of the Thun family.

On that board, the likes of which Louis and Ferdinand had their own versions in the late 1920s, the Reading Railroad sits between Goldberg Square and Maguire Street.

“We probably were responsible for putting four or five places on the boards,” Ferdinand recalled.

“Reading Railroad was one of them. But we weren’t the only ones; everybody who played put a little of their own stuff in.”

“It’s an evolutionary thing,” agreed Louis. “On different boards, there are different properties and different railroads. Whoever was playing would have changed the railroads and properties to suit their particular geographic surroundings.

“I remember Wall Street and Grand Boulevard were the two most expensive properties, but that changed a couple times in the process of evolution. Everyone who made a board put in different corners.”

The Lerch board is decidedly Reading: In one of the corners, illustrated with a fountain pen or fine paintbrush, a man sits on a bench in City Park reading nothing other than the Reading Eagle.

According to the Thuns, the game of Monopoly originally came to Reading via Thomas Wilson, a local student who was attending the University of Pennsylvania. There, he encountered a radical economics professor named Scott Nearing who used an early version of the game, called The Landlord’s Game, to teach his classes at Penn about the evils that result from the institution of private property.

“Nearing was a professor at Penn around 1918,” Ferdinand recalled. “He came under attack for his very liberal views and was eventually relieved of his professorship.”

Coincidentally, about a decade later, Nearing spoke at Williams College in Massachusetts where Ferdinand and Louis were majoring in economics and German, but spending most of their time playing the game Monopoly, which they had brought from home and taught their fraternity brothers.

“We had always heard that (Nearing) had something to do with inventing Monopoly,” Ferdinand said. “so after we heard him speak at Williams, we asked him what he remembered about it and he said he had nothing to do with inventing it, but that someone from this group of “Single-taxers” from the Jersey Shore had invented it. The single tax was a very big idea around 1900.

“well, one thing led to another and then this guy in Philadelphia caught up with it,” said Ferdinand, referring to Darrow. “And he signed a statement saying he invented it.

“And them Parker Brothers started this story about him in his mother’s kitchen based on pure imagination.”

“That’s all fabrication,” Louis added. “I have a strong stomach, but I couldn’t believe that.”

All that happened after Louis’ and Ferdinand’s own futile attempts in 1931 to market the game.

“By the time we graduated, the Depression had hit full force,” said Louis. “And we thought we were going to do something with this game.

“So we had this wooden box designed at the Textile Machine Works (where he is retired as chairman of the board) to hold the playing pieces and the property cards we had printed.

“I took my board up to Saks (Fifth Avenue in New York) and asked to see the game buyer. She said to show her a short version of how it worked. After about five minutes, she said she thought she had the idea.”

Ferdinand went through a similar routine with a buyer for Macy’s, who told him it was too complicated and would never sell.

“So then we explored this thing with a lawyer,” Louis added. “But we were asked, ‘Were we the inventor?’ and we said ‘no.’ Then we were told patents were for inventors.

“Darrow had the right idea. He simply signed to say he invented it.”

Perhaps, had the Thuns done that, they would have been $22 million ahead. Instead, all they got was a free Monopoly set.

“Later, the president of Parker Brothers (Robert B. M. Barton) showed up in Reading to make sure we weren’t going to make any trouble. He had dinner at our house, and later on he said he enjoyed the dinner and that he would be sending us a sample of his best (Monopoly) set. He was searching out any available monopoly boards from the 1915-1925 era.”

According to an article written by Charles J. Adams III in the Historical Review of Berks County, during Barton’s visit in Wyomissing, Paul Sherk also was approached and for $50 sold his original 1916 Monopoly board to Parker Brothers– ostensibly for their “small museum of old and original games.”

Do the 82-year-old twins feel bitter about it all? Is that why they claim they haven’t indulged in their former pastime for better than half a century?

“Nobody,” Louis said diplomatically, “should keep a grudge for longer than two hours.”

Twin chuckles emanate from the brothers who to this day are business partners.

“It’s a good game and really habit forming,” Ferdinand says. “I just haven’t gotten around to playing it.”

“The thing is,” Louis continued, “everybody has this terrific inquisitive instinct given the chance to make a million. That’s what makes it a great game.”

Both brothers lament that the game as it’s played today isn’t as complex– and therefore as interesting– as their version which incorporated the concept of auctioning properties.

Louis cited a recent newspaper article which discussed what’s happening now in the game business. Two are leading the pack; Monopoly is one of them.

Monopoly continues to evolve. It recently entered the electronic age as a television game show.

Asked if he’s watched it, Louis answered a curt “No way.”

“It’s fun to play,”Ferdinand explained, “but it’s not a spectator sport.”

Another fuzzy picture of the Thun board.

Another fuzzy picture of the Thun board.

The Landlord’s Game in 1902

I recently discovered a document from 1902, where Elizabeth Magie describes The Landlord’s Game as it existed at that time.  This narrative predates her patent application and is thus the earliest such description of the game, in her own hand, that has been found to date.

While the game soon acquired a second set of rules, there is nothing to indicate she had come up with them as of 1902.  Magie is particularly defensive about the effect her game would have on children.

She believed their innate goodness would prevent them from turning into “little monopolists” after having enjoyed playing her game.  It is not difficult to imagine she soon came up with a better way of answering such potential criticism- a second set of “Georgist” rules.

Although fellow researcher Thomas Forsyth believes Magie’s game always had two sets of rules, I am inclined to believe it started out with just the “monopolist” rules, and the Georgist ones were added later.

-David Sadowski

THE LANDLORD’S GAME.

AN INTERESTING INVENTION OF A YOUNG LADY IN WASHINGTON BY WHICH CHILDREN AT THEIR PLAY MAY BE TAUGHT THE TRUE LAW OF ECONOMICS.

Miss Lizzie J. Magie, a single taxer of Washington, D. C., has invented an ingenious game, played with checkers and dice as is parcheesi, and thus describes it for the REVIEW:

“It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” says Miss Magie.  “It might be called the ‘Game of Life,’ as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem to have, i. e., the accumulation of wealth.  Representative money, deeds, mortgages, notes and charters are used in the game; lots are bought and sold; rents are collected; money is borrowed (either from the bank or from individuals), and interest and taxes are paid.  The railroad is also represented, and those who make use of it are obliged to pay their fare, unless they are fortunate enough to possess a pass, which, in the game, means throwing a double.  There are two franchises; the water and the lighting; and the first player whose throw brings him upon one of these receives a charter giving him the privilege of taxing all others who must use his light and water.

“There are two tracts of land on the board that are held out of use—are neither for rent or for sale—and on each of these appear the forbidding sign; ‘No Trespassing.  Go to Jail.’  One of these tracts of land (the largest on the board) is owned by Lord Blueblood, of London, England, and represents foreign ownership of American soil.  A jail is provided for any one who trespasses upon this land, and there the unfortunate individual must linger until he serves out his time or pays the required fine.  ‘Serving out his time’ means waiting until he throws a double.

“Before the game begins, each player is provided with a certain amount of cash, sufficient to pay all necessary expenses until he is well enough along in life to earn his living.  Should any one be so unlucky, or so reckless and extravagant, as to become ‘broke,’ there is a nice little poor house off in one corner where he may tarry until he makes a lucky throw or until some friend takes pity on him and lends him enough to set him on his feet again.  And here is where he generally gets ‘soaked,’ for the other players, taking advantage of the unfortunate one’s necessities, demand an enormous rate of interest which the impecunious individual must pay before he can complete his round and get his wages.

“The rallying and chaffing of the others when one player finds himself an inmate of the jail, and the expressions of mock sympathy and condolences when one is obliged to betake himself to the poor house, make a large part of the fun and merriment of the game.

“Each time around the board represents so much labor performed, for which so much wages are paid.  When a player has been the rounds ten times he retires from his labors, although he still remains in the game, which is not finished until the last player has made his tenth round.  It takes forty moves to make a round and there is in each round one little black-bordered spot marked ‘Legacy,’ and whenever a player stops on this he receives a cash legacy.  In each round there are three spots marked ‘Luxury,’ and these the player may indulge in or not, according to his inclinations or finances, but each luxury purchased counts the player so much more at the end of the game.

“General directions for playing the game accompany this description, but it is difficult to make a set of rules that will cover all contingencies since no two games are alike.  The combination of circumstances are so many that almost every time the game is played new situations are brought out.  Thus it is a game that is always interesting—never monotonous.  It was the original intention of the author simply to work out a demonstration of how the landlord gets his money and keeps it, but while doing this there gradually developed a game which has proven one of amusement as well as of instruction and one which has attractions for both old and young.

“Children of nine or ten years and who possess average intelligence can easily understand the game and they get a good deal of hearty enjoyment out of it. They like to handle the make-believe money, deeds, etc., and the little landlords take a general delight in demanding the payment of their rent.  They learn that the quickest way to accumulate wealth and gain power is to get all the land they can in the best localities and hold on to it.  There are those who argue that it may be a dangerous thing to teach children how they may thus get the advantage of their fellows, but let me tell you there are no fairer-minded beings in the world than our own little American children.  Watch them in their play and see how quick they are, should any one of their number attempt to cheat or take undue advantage of another, to cry, ‘No fair!’  And who has not heard almost every little girl say, ‘I won’t play if you don’t play fair.’  Let the children once see clearly the gross injustice of our present land system and when they grow up, if they are allowed to develop naturally, the evil will soon be remedied.”

From Land and Freedom: An International Record of Single Tax Progress, Volume 2, Number 2, page 56 (a bound volume of The Single Tax Review), by Single Tax Publishing Company, 15 October 1902

Edited by Joseph Dana Miller

Reproduction 1936 Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE Add-On

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A reproduction 1936 Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE Add-On set for Monopoly, Finance, and Easy Money games, is now available from The Folkopoly Press.

Once MONOPOLY became a national craze in 1935, C. B. Hewison was inspired to create this add-on enhancement for the game. To play, you place the STOCK EXCHANGE patch over the FREE PARKING square, which otherwise has no function.

Three “Advance to Stock Exchange” cards are added to the Chance and Community Chest piles, and when players land on Stock Exchange, they can purchase stock (either one or two shares at a time, to be determined before the game starts), or, if others already own stock, pay them dividends.

As with other properties owned in MONOPOLY, the amount of money collected increases with the number of shares owned of the same type. Shares can be bought and sold among the players, and mortgaged to the bank.

Original Capitol Novelty STOCK EXCHANGE sets are extremely rare, and generally sell for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. This set, an excellent reproduction inspired by the 1936 original, is available at a fraction of that price and should be of interest to the early Monopoly collector.

This set includes:

1 Implements box (7″ x 8″ x 1″)
30 Shares (5 each of 6 different companies)
6 Advance to Stock Exchange cards (3 for Chance, 3 for Community Chest)
1 STOCK EXCHANGE patch
1 Rules sheet
1 Certificate of Authenticity

As with our other reproduction games, this set is completely hand-made and involves a considerable amount of labor to create. Therefore, they will always be made in very small quantities for the discerning collector.

This set is available now for just $29.95. Shipping within the United States costs just $5.00.


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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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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: $99.95

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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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 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.

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: Boondoggling (1936)

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FYI, a rare 1936 Boondoggling game just sold for $500 on eBay (photos enclosed).

Boondoggling is an early Monopoly knock-off and was also a timely political game in the 1936 presidential election season, which ran from about Labor Day until early November. It was created by a couple of college professors who were anti-New Deal. The game plays like Monopoly in reverse, where the various players try to be the first to spend all their money on wasteful government programs, or “boondoggles.”

The dictionary definition of boondoggle is:

1 : a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament. 2 : a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.

According to the Wikipedia:

The term arose from a 1935 New York Times report that more than $3 million had been spent on recreational activities for the jobless as part of the New Deal. Among these activities were crafts classes, where the production of “boon doggles,” described in the article as various utilitarian “gadgets” made with cloth or leather, were taught. The term’s earlier definition is thought to have its origin in scouting, particularly in reference to a woggle.

The word quickly caught on, and was often used by opponents of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR embraced the term and said, in effect, if it will help us get out of the Depression, by all means, let’s have boondoggles.

FDR’s opponent in the 1936 election was Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who would have governed more in the Hoover mold. He lost in a landslide.

The Boondoggling game appeared briefly during the campaign and appears to have been published by the Washington Star, a Republican newspaper. GOP activist Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter and a staunch FDR opponent, mentioned it in her syndicated column.

Since it was apparently not marketed to department stores, the usual outlet for Monopoly-type games, Boondoggling’s overall construction was cheap and insubstantial, with a paper board and flimsy box. Few were sold and even fewer have survived.

I have owned a few examples of this game. I once owned the board in the collection of the Strong Museum of American Play, and sold another example to the family of one of the creators.

For a time, this was an under-appreciated game, but prices have greatly increased in the last few years.

As an anti-New Deal game, it is a contemporary of Rudy Copeland’s Inflation, also from 1936. That was a much higher quality product.

Ironically, in spite of the anti-New Deal theme of Inflation, Rudy Copeland campaigned for FDR in 1936.

While Boondoggling was not around long enough to draw legal action from Parker Brothers as a Monopoly knock-off, they did try suing Rudy Copeland over Inflation, which was sold in department stores. Once Copeland was able to find more than two dozen people who swore they had played Monopoly prior to its supposed invention by Charles Darrow, Parker and Copeland settled out of court. He received a financial settlement from Parker Brothers, along with a license to use the two Monopoly patents that Parker owned.

However, by 1937, the bloom was temporarily off the Monopoly rose, and Inflation quickly faded from view, as Boondoggling did before it.

In 1951 there was a game called Boondoggle, tied in to the 1952 presidential election, but there was no connection with the earlier Boondoggling game. I believe there was a 1980 version as well.

The various tokens used in Boondoggling had the names of various FDR advisers, popularly known as the “Brain Trust.” These included Rexford Tugwell (1891-1979), who was also an early Monopoly player.

-Clarence B. Darwin

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