Fidel Castro Hates Monopoly & 12 More Reasons to Love It
The Daily Beast presents some little-known facts about America’s favorite game.
If the iron is your lucky token in Monopoly, you might want to sit out from now on. After an online vote that brought in fans from 120 countries, Hasbro announced on Wednesday that it would be retiring the appliance in favor of (what else) a cat.
Where did those tokens come from, anyway? The Daily Beast presents their origins, plus some other fun facts about the most famous of board games.
1. The inspiration for the tokens isn’t some capitalist dream: game creator Charles Darrow used pieces of his daughter’s charm bracelet.
2. The iron had a pretty good run. It was one of the original pieces introduced in the game’s 1935 edition, along with the thimble, top hat, cannon, ship, and shoe. The Deluxe No. 9 edition of the same year (it cost $3 rather than $2) added a rocking horse, lantern, car, and purse. Scottie the dog, a perennial favorite, and the racecar were added in the 1950s.
3. Charles Darrow is largely credited as Monopoly’s inventor, but a Quaker and political activist known as Elizabeth Magie created a similar pastime called The Landlord’s Game in 1903. Magie patented the game in 1904, but it was rejected by Parker Brothers—and later became popular among professors and at Princeton and Harvard. During the Great Depression, the unemployed Darrow sold the game at a Philadelphia department store, where he gained the attention of new Parker Brothers executive Robert Barton. The rest is history.
4. This probably goes over the heads of most young enthusiasts, but Monopoly is not played in some fictional town—it takes place in 1930s-era Atlantic City. In the 1920s (the city’s golden era, now popularized in Boardwalk Empire), the New Jersey town was a particularly popular tourism destination on the east coast. It’s believed that Darrow learned to play a version of Magie’s game in Atlantic City, and that’s why he sold it with those locations.
5. But that doesn’t mean you can go on a Monopoly tour of Atlantic City. The yellow property Marvin Gardens is actually a misspelling of the Marven Gardens. And two of those pricey railroads were never accurate: B&O never serviced Atlantic City, and there is no Short Line. (It’s most likely a rendition of the streetcar service in Atlantic City in the 1930s, the Seashore Lines.
6. Meanwhile, in the years since Atlantic City’s heyday, two of the attractions on the board have changed names. Illinois Ave. (price tag: $240) was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the 1980s, and St. Charles Place (cost: $140) was razed for the Showboat Hotel, which opened in 1986.
7. Rich Uncle Pennybags, the original name for the man at the center of the Monopoly game, also does not exist. Also, owing to political correctness, he was renamed Mr. Monopoly in 2000. He was rumored to be based on American financier J.P. Morgan, who at the height of his career was considered to be somewhat like a real-life winner of Monopoly.
8. That man inside the board’s jail cell has a name: Jailbird Jake. And so does the man who sends him to jail. No it’s not Officer Krupke; it’s Officer Malloy. Try to remember that name as you curse him out on your way to the clink.
9. During World War II, the British came up with their own version of the game for prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Germans allowed games to be included in the humanitarian aid packages. Little did they know that the Brits had included escape maps, compasses, and real money.
10. Known for its longevity, the longest game of Monopoly lasted for 70 straight days, according to Parker Brothers. Hopefully they didn’t get too wrapped up in the game of Monopoly to quit.
11. A small fortune: the standard edition of Monopoly includes $15,120 of fake money. That probably wouldn’t last you too long in today’s Atlantic City.
12. In 2000, FAO Schwartz made a custom version called One-of-a-Kind Monopoly, complete with a attaché case made of Napolino leather. Selling for $100,000, the edition also included 18-carat gold tokens, houses and hotels, Rosewood board, street names written in gold leaf, emeralds around the Chance iron, sapphires around the community chest, and rubies in the brake light for the free parking space—and the money is real.
13. There is one person who is most definitely not a fan of Monopoly: Fidel Castro. Upon taking power in 1959, Castro banned all sets of the popular game. He allegedly wanted to ban all capitalist influences, but any sore loser of a Monopoly game can sympathize.