History of Monopoly through 50 unique editions

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January 13, 2021
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History of Monopoly through 50 unique editions

The Monopoly game has long been attributed to an unemployed man named Charles Darrow, who was said to have thought up the game in the early 1930s, sold it to the Parker Brothers in 1935, and made millions from his enormously successful creation.

But wait—there's more to this story. Mary Pilon, a former Wall Street Journal and New York Times reporter, discovered that it was a woman who was behind one of America's most enduring pastimes. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie got a patent for what was called The Landlord's Game in 1904, and it sounds very much like Monopoly.

Players move around a square board, buying property as they go, sometimes landing on a corner that reads "Go to Jail," and earning $100 for each trip around, according to Pilon's book, "The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game."

What might come as a surprise to many of today's players is the story behind that first game. Magie was a fan of Henry George, a 19th-century progressive economist, who argued that a single land tax would prevent the very wealthy from creating monopolies. Magie's board game was meant to be educational and a protest against men such as John D. Rockefeller—not a glorification of their business methods—and to demonstrate the soundness of George's ideas.

By the early 1930s, The Landlord's Game had evolved and various versions became popular on the East Coast. During the Great Depression, Darrow learned a version of Magie's game from a friend who was a member of the Quaker community in Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to Pilon.

It was common for players to make their own copies of the game boards on oilcloth and name the properties after areas familiar to them. Darrow's friend had named the game's properties after Atlantic City streets. In fact, when copying the game for Darrow, he misspelled the name of Marven Gardens, a housing development outside Atlantic City, as "Marvin Gardens"—a spelling error that stuck when Darrow sold a patent he had for his version of the game to Parker Brothers in 1935.

Throughout the years, the game's political origins seem to have been mostly forgotten in favor of the monopolist drive that Magie opposed. Today there are a plethora of versions, in different languages and with different themes. Many are tied to television shows or movies, and to characters from books or games. Stacker compiled a list of 50 Monopoly editions by researching company websites, fans' collections, and historical articles.

Here's a look at the iconic American board game, its long-lived popularity, and its spin-offs over the years.

1904: The Landlord’s Game

According to Mary Pilon, the author of “The Monopolists,” Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie of Virginia received a patent for what she called The Landlord’s Game, a board game that sounds very much like today’s Monopoly. Magie, a follower of the progressive 19th-century economist Henry George, created the game to show the difference between rich landowners and poor tenants as players move forward through the roll of dice, buying property as they advance around a square board, paying taxes and utilities, and sometimes landing on a corner that reads, “Go to Jail.”

1935: Monopoly

The story long promoted about the origins of Monopoly was that a man named Charles Darrow of Pennsylvania created it and sold it to the Parker Brothers board game manufacturer in 1935. After playing a version of The Landlord’s Game at a Quaker friend’s home, Darrow, who was unemployed during the Great Depression, decided to remake the game board, keeping the names of the Atlantic City, New Jersey, streets, as a model for his Monopoly. He made millions of dollars from his “invention.”

1939: The Landlord’s Game

This version of The Landlord’s Game features a photo of Elizabeth Magie on the box. She created two sets of rules for the game. Under one set, everyone benefited when wealth was created. The other encouraged the creation of monopolies and ruthless behavior toward opponents.

1941: World War II Special Edition

During World War II, the British secret service M19 managed to get maps and tools to prisoners being held by the Germans by hiding them in Monopoly sets. The U.K. manufacturer, John Waddington, Ltd., secreted a compass, small metal files, and a silk map into compartments in the Monopoly board. The Germans allowed the Monopoly sets to be given to the prisoners as a humanitarian gesture.

1975: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

This anniversary edition, published by Parker Brothers, comes in a wood case with wooden buildings and is the standard Atlantic City version of the game that had its beginnings among the members of an Atlantic City Quaker community. As its popularity grew at the beginning of the 1900s, they added the names of their streets to the game board. It was Charles Todd, a Quaker, who taught his friend Charles Darrow to play the game in the early 1930s. After fine-tuning a version of the game as his own, Darrow sold his patent for it to Parker Brothers in 1935.

1985: Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition

This 50th edition of Monopoly from Parker Brothers features an anniversary token—the special Monopoly train—one of 10 tokens produced in a gold finish for the occasion. The houses and hotels are in wood as in the original version. A new organizing tray for deeds and cash was also included.

1995: 60th Anniversary Edition

The 60th anniversary edition was issued for the diamond celebration of the game and it includes tokens with an antique bronze finish, a 1930s version of Rich Uncle Pennybags, and a commemorative dice cup that resembles his top hat. Rich Uncle Pennybags or Mr. Monopoly, the mascot of the game, was reportedly based on J.P. Morgan. He was added to the Monopoly board in 1936, according to “The Monopoly Companion: The Players’ Guide” by Philip Orbanes.

1996: Centennial Olympic Games Edition

This version of Monopoly commemorates the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Its board features a seal of the Olympic torch, and properties that include Atlanta 1996 and Athens 1896. Numbered, commemorative editions of Monopoly have celebrated everything from NASCAR to “I Love Lucy” throughout the years, and a version of the game has appeared in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Sopranos” and “Gossip Girl.”

1997: Batman and Robin Collector’s Edition

Holy Monopoly! Here’s the Batman and Robin version, published to coincide with the 1997 movie about The Caped Crusader. There’s no mistaking the red and black Batman symbol at the center of the board, and Batman and Robin themed tokens. Superheroes are a favorite choice for the themed Monopoly games.

1997: NASCAR Official Collector's Edition

Calling all race car fans, this version of Monopoly is for you. It taps into the country's love of NASCAR, with a game board that features its teams, a black flag, Speedway, and Caterpillar. The tokens continue the racing theme with such tokens as a steering wheel, a race car, a mechanic, and a trophy.

1998: Alaska Edition

America’s wilderness gets its own edition in this version of the board game that highlights national parks and wildlife refuges, mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, and forests in the 49th state. Players can buy and sell real estate in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

1999: Pokémon Edition

This edition of Monopoly draws on the wildly popular Pokémon video game series. The tokens are Pokémon characters and the familiar Pokémon slogan, “Gotta catch ’em all!” joins Mr. Monopoly on the cover. A rule was changed consistent with the theme: Instead of rolling again if you get doubles, you receive Pokémon Powers.

2000: Millennium Edition

This edition rang in the new millennium with Monopoly’s enduring appeal. Released in 1999, the Millennium Edition includes eight metal tokens. Throughout the years, different editions have featured different tokens, some of which have been added or replaced by popular votes. For example, in 1998, a sack of money joined the standard collection, only to be booted in 2007.

2001: Astronomy Edition

This version features space, and players buy comets, planets, star clusters, and galaxies. Planets decorate the money while the utilities are two large telescope manufacturers. The railway stations are space stations or observation domes, the Chance cards are moons, while the Community Chest cards are suns. Tokens include a lawn chair, binoculars, and telescopes.

2001: I Love Lucy Collector’s Edition

Follow Lucy’s madcap adventures with her husband, Ricky, and their best friends, Ethel and Fred, around the board of this show’s 50th anniversary edition of Monopoly. Players try to buy the funniest episodes of the television series and control the show. The game board includes original “I Love Lucy” photos.

2002: Avignon Edition

Indulge in some wanderlust with this French-language version, part of a French city series of Monopoly. The cover shows the Pont d’Avignon, its famous medieval bridge. Besides the adventures in France, Monopoly travels across Europe, from Gibraltar to Romania, from Italy to Russia.

2002: Corvette Edition

A tribute to a classic car, this version gives you the chance to own one, even if as part of a Monopoly game. The Corvette was introduced at the General Motors Motorama in 1953 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The game features 50 years of Corvette models, from shark coupes to stingray convertibles as players collect the best of American-made sports cars.

2003: Elvis 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Travel the board of this edition from Elvis Presley’s childhood home in Tupelo, Mississippi, to his Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee, with stops at “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Blue Hawaii.” The pewter tokens—a guitar, a convertible, a teddy bear, a record player, his sunglasses, and a leather jacket—evoke the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

2003: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition

Players can choose two options of play and traverse the board across the territories of Middle-earth, building fortresses; acquiring wizards’ staffs and other relics; and employing the power of the One Ring. The pewter tokens represent key characters in the story.

2004: Ford Mustang 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

This version celebrates the Mustang, from the 1962 Roadster Concept Car to the 1965 Mustang GT to the Cobra SVT. Pewter tokens keep to the theme, among them the Mustang Pony. The center of the board holds the iconic logo of a mustang, a descendent of one of the Iberian horses brought to the Americans in the 1500s by Spanish explorers.

2006: Here and Now Edition

This is an updated version of the classic Monopoly board game. Players start with $15 million rather than $1,500, and income tax totals $2 million rather than $200. New touches include interest on credit card debt of $750,000. Utility providers are now service providers, and the railroads are replaced by airports such as Chicago O’Hare and New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

2006: Pirates of the Caribbean Collector’s Edition

This version is based on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, in particular “Curse of the Black Pearl” and “Dead Man’s Chest.” Pirate’s Dice and Aztec Gold replace Chance and Community Chest cards. Ships stand in for the railway stations and the tokens have a nautical theme, including such items as a pirate hat, Davy Jones’ chest, the Black Pearl cannon, and a pirate skull.

2006: Electronic Banking Edition

Here is the classic Monopoly game with a modern twist. As with any version of Monopoly there are tokens, houses, hotels, and Chance and Community Chest cards, but this new edition has debit cards instead of cash. Players wheel and deal their way around the board with electronic transfers in Monopoly’s banking card system. Other updates: a Segway and a tin of Altoids among the tokens, airports instead of railroads, and such properties as Times Square and Texas Stadium.

2006: 007 Collector’s Edition

This version of Monopoly is based on James Bond Agent 007. It features cars, villains, the Bond women, and M16. Players compete to own the Bond movies, from “The Spy Who Loved Me” to “Goldfinger” to “Casino Royale.” The pewter tokens represent memorable moments from the films, including Oddjob’s Bowler Hat, the Aston Martin DBS, the 007 logo, and the Lotus submarine car. Play the game in 60-minutes with the speed option.

2007: Horse Lover’s Edition

The name of this game says it all. It features pictures of the most prized breeds that horse lovers can buy and sell as they make deals in the world of equestrians. The tokens are horse themed too—a saddle, oats, a horse trailer, a horse shoe, riding boots, a bale of hay, and a horse.

2008: Retro Game Edition

This version replicates the 1935 edition and contains the original colors, artwork, and wooden houses and hotels. The tokens include the cannon, the thimble, the iron, the top hat, the shoe, and the battleship, some of which have been retired. Occasionally, the tokens have been replaced through polls among players. In 2015, for example, a cat was added.

2008: My National Parks Monopoly

This unique My Monopoly version of the game allows players to custom design their game, choosing from among 100 of the country’s national parks, selecting the Great Smoky Mountains to put down on Boardwalk, for example. Add in wildlife as well, including the grizzly bear and the bald eagle. The pewter tokens represent the parks, among them a canoe, the Statue of Liberty, a bison, a ranger hat, a cannon, and a bicycle.

2009: Seinfeld Edition

The popular sitcom “Seinfeld” is played on the Monopoly board with the show’s unforgettable characters, Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer. Players draw yadda yadda yadda cards and land on Jerry’s Apartment, Monk’s Restaurant, The Chinese Restaurant, and the Non-fat Yogurt Shop. The New York City Subway and Kramer’s Central Park Carriage replace railroads. The bills include “Seinfeld” quotes, including “No soup for you.”

2010: Hello Kitty Collector’s Edition

This edition of Monopoly features the popular Hello Kitty and her friends, her home in London, and the places that make up her world—the school library, playground, bakery, and music theater. Hello Kitty, the enduring cartoon character, is a Japanese bobtail with a red bow and a twin sister named Mimi. She first appeared in 1975. The tokens are from Kitty’s world: her bow, a lunchbox, three apples, a milk bottle, a fish bowl, and Teddy.

2010: John Wayne Edition

The larger-than-life movie star has his own version of Monopoly, which celebrates a career best known for his portrayal of cowboys. The tokens draw on the symbols of his life on the screen: a cowboy hat, a cowboy boot, a belt buckle, Duke the dog, a stagecoach, and a director’s chair. The locations range from California’s Catalina Island to the Mexican Riviera.

2010: Dinosaur Edition

The excitement over the dinosaurs starts with the tokens: a T. rex skull, a dinosaur egg, a triceratops skull and claw, a footprint, and a skeleton. Buy and sell the spinosaurus, velociraptor, or stegosaurus as players explore the world of these long-gone behemoths through illustrations of dinosaur species.

2011: Green Bay Packers Collector’s Edition

This version of Monopoly looks like a football field, with a yellow Green Bay Packers’ helmet in the center. It features some of the team’s classic moments, such as Super Bowl XXXI and the game played against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 5,1989; its players such as Brett Favre, Bart Starr, Earl “Curly” Lambeau, and Gilbert Brown; and legendary coach Vince Lombardi.

2013: The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition

The “Wizard of Oz” version includes a pop-up 3D center board, the first in a Monopoly game. Like the movie, the game’s board begins in sepia and turns into color. Red dice match Dorothy’s red slippers and the six tokens represent the movie’s characters: the Scarecrow diploma, Toto, the Cowardly Lion medal, the Tin Man’s heart, the witch’s hat, and finally the ruby slippers.

2015: 80th Anniversary Edition

The game is still going strong 80 years after the first edition of Monopoly was released. At the time, CNN reported that Monopoly had sold more than 275 million copies. A few other fun facts: It has been translated into 47 languages and is played in 114 countries. The 80th anniversary edition commemorates the anniversary with tokens from the 1930s through the 2000s.

2015: Marvel Avengers

In this version, you play as one of The Avengers. Iron Man, the Wasp, the Hulk, Thor, the Ant-Man, and Captain America collect power when they pass go, which can be used to save properties. The goal is to save each property from the villains. Community Chest and Chance cards are replaced with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Villain cards in this Marvel version of the classic game.

2016: Ultimate Banking Edition

This is Monopoly in the modern world of real estate, where property values rise and fall, transactions are cashless and instant, and bank cards track each player’s wealth. Rents can rise and fall as well, properties can be auctioned, and make sure the market doesn’t crash.

2016: Star Wars

This special themed edition of Monopoly allows players to build a galactic empire, moving around the board in ships to buy locations from the “Star Wars” films—Hoth, Tatooine, and Kashyyyk, for example. An added bonus: Players can use the Force to swap and collect extra money.

2017: Super Mario Bros Collector’s Edition

Based on the Nintendo game about the invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom and Mario’s quest to save the princess and the kingdom, this edition provides six custom-designed tokens of Mario, his brother Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Super Mushroom, and 1-up Mushroom. The board features the world of the Mario Bros.

2018: Disney Princess Edition

This version of Monopoly transports Disney princesses to the game board, with four Disney princess tokens and magic kingdoms to build. Each player takes on the role of a Disney princess as they travel the board buying such properties as Mulan’s Shan-Yu School and Jasmine’s Magic Carpet Ride.

2019: Friends Edition

The “Friends” television series inspired the places and characters of this version of the game. Players move around the board as Monica, Phoebe, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, and Joey as they experience Monica and Chandler’s wedding and other iconic moments. Houses have become coffee mugs, while hotels are sofas. The Chance and Community Chest cards are named after the well-known apartments of the series—Apartment 19 and Apartment 20. Tokens include a handbag, sweater vest, pizza, chef’s hat, guitar, and dinosaur.

2019: Frozen II Edition

This edition draws on the Disney Frozen II movie, with property taken from scenes in the movie. Players travel through Arendelle with one of the six character tokens, Elsa, Anna, Hans, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven; use Elsa’s powers to create ice and snow; and draw double rent when they land on a snowflake.

2019: Ms. Monopoly Edition

The first to celebrate women entrepreneurs, this edition of Monopoly offered a new character on the cover—Ms. Monopoly. Unlike her counterpart Mr. Monopoly, who is a real-estate mogul, Ms. Monopoly invests in female entrepreneurs. Her addition is appropriate given that many believe the game’s creator was Elizabeth Magie. Her game was actually meant as a protest against monopolists such as John D. Rockefeller.

2019: Lambskin Leather Edition

A luxury British version from Aspinal of London, this edition of Monopoly has been nicknamed the “Park Lane” of Monopoly sets, a reference to the road that borders Hyde Park and one of its properties. Handmade in England, the board is red and black lambskin, the box of black hide leather. The houses, hotels, and tokens are all made from pewter.

2019: Game of Thrones Edition

Based on the television series, this edition features “Game of Thrones” locations from the seven kingdoms as players move around the board. Instead of houses and hotels, there are holdfasts and castles, and tokens taken from the sigils of the houses in Westeros. A musical stand plays the “Game of Thrones” theme song.

2019: Black Panther Edition

The “Black Panther” edition of Monopoly features characters and locations from the movie—from the Warrior Falls Challenge Pool to the Tribal Council Room in the Golden City. Players explore Wakanda with T’Challa as they move around the board making alliances. Players are given tasks by Kimono Beads cards and Heart-shaped Herb cards.

2019: Toy Story

The “Toy Story” version of Monopoly is based on all four of the movies, and features tokens of their characters, Andy’s Toy Chest Cards, and Birthday cards. The six Toy Story character tokens include Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie.

2019: Longest Game Ever

This Monopoly game is designed to be long, from the long game board with 66 properties and only one die. The game does not end until someone owns every property. With tortoise and hare tokens, the game also does not allow auctions, but does award cash for landing on free parking.

2020: For Sore Losers Edition

This version turns things upside down, with players earning money by going bankrupt or landing in jail. Sore Loser coins are awarded when players pay taxes or rent. A large Mr. Monopoly token gives players a leg up and lets them travel around the board collecting money. The slogan on the box cover says it all: Don’t get sad. Get even!

2020: Swarovski Edition

The 85th anniversary edition of Monopoly is studded with more than 2,000 of the iconic Swarovski crystals. A limited edition of 500 games, the Swarovski marries two enduring symbols of wealth. It is played on a tempered glass game board with gold and silver foil and colored stones on each property. The gold colored tokens include a special 85th edition ring token.

2020: Shinola Detroit Edition

Featuring such Detroit icons as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Opera House, and Woodward Avenue to The Lodge, this version of Monopoly celebrates a city with a long industrious heritage that is proudly on the rebound. The luxury version of the game features a mahogany board, oak houses, and hotels and plated zinc tokens.

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