Monopoly’s Birthday—Passing Go for the Eighty-First Time

Today we’re celebrating an iconic American Real Estate Mogul, a man who has touched many lives and built a steady stream of successes, all featuring his internationally known name.

Of course, we’re talking about Mr. Monopoly.

And we thought it might be interesting on the official birthday of the game, March 19th, to look back at its incredible history and the impact that the game has had on cultures worldwide, in its 81 years. What we love is that the story of Monopoly is a classic toy biz story of a little guy with a big dream who didn’t take no for an answer and ultimately made his dream come true.

During the Great Depression, there was no fantasy more compelling than the dream of living on “Easy Street.” While the reality was out of reach for millions of people who were barely getting by, they could dream of cornering the real estate market in Atlantic City. So, when Monopoly was introduced by Charles B. Darrow in 1935, the public—eager for an hour or two of wheeling, dealing and escape from the everyday—made it an instant hit.

Monopoly Game, 1935
Monopoly Game, 1935

But it was a hit that almost didn’t happen. Darrow developed the game in 1933 and presented it to Parker Brothers in 1934, but due to its 52 “design flaws” (to this day largely still unknown), complexity and length of play, it was rejected. Out of work like many Americans at that time, Darrow and a printer friend created 5,000 copies and convinced a Philadelphia department store to sell the game, where it was a swift sell out.

With a clear success on his hands and unable to keep up with demand, Darrow went back to Parker Brothers who this time, somehow, managed to overlook all the design errors. The game became an instant hit—and has never been out of production since.

Monopoly Empire, 2016

Monopoly became so much a part of the U.S. culture that it was even used as a tool of espionage in World War II. Seemingly innocent copies of the game were sent to American prisoners in German POW camps, with maps and other information hidden in the game board and real money inserted into the packs of play money. Though not quite a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, it was a huge help as prisoners escaped. Today, Monopoly is published in 47 languages and sold in 114 countries. There are a wide variety of special interest versions and different games based on the original. There are national and international championships, more than 160 lines of Monopoly branded products, and the game has even made its way into movies and novels. In fact, four generations of people have never lived in a world without Monopoly. The game has changed and evolved over the years. Colors have been swapped out, as have tokens, but as long as people dream of striking it rich and making it big, they’ll keep playing Monopoly. And that, we easily predict, will be a very long time.

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