The Fascinating Origins of the Monopoly Board Game

Monopoly is considered by many to be one of, if not the most popular board games in the world, as it has sold more than 275 million copies worldwide and has been printed in over 35 languages. Monopoly has a fairly simple gameplay, as all the players have to do is buy properties shown on the board, which can then be rented by other players if their tokens land on the tiles that represent the properties. The goal of each player is to drive opponents into bankruptcy by simply paying rent on properties they don’t own.

Besides buying properties and paying rent, Monopoly also has other mechanics like getting or losing money from “Chance” or “Community Chest” cards and going to jail, where they won’t be able to move their tokens until certain conditions are met. While Monopoly is popular around the world, only a few people know about its inventor and how the game eventually became a best-seller. To know more about this popular board game, here are the fascinating origins of Monopoly.

The Landlord’s Game

old Monopoly board game

The Landlord’s Game is a board game that served as the predecessor to Monopoly. This specific board game was created by Lizzie Magie, an American anti-monopolist who wanted to explain the negative effects of monopolies when it comes to properties or lands. 

Magie created two versions of The Landlord’s Game. The first version has anti-monopolist rules where all players will be rewarded when money is generated through buying and renting properties, while the second version has a monopolist set where players can aim to buy as many properties as possible so that opponents would be forced to pay rent on all the properties they don’t own, which can then lead to them getting bankrupt. The second version became more popular than the first, and this version would eventually develop into Monopoly. [1]

The earliest version of Monopoly was developed by Charles Darrow, a man in Philadelphia who was introduced to The Landlord’s Game by his friend Charles Todd in 1932. It was Darrow who would be responsible for distributing The Landlord’s Game as “Monopoly” in the mid-1930s. Parker Brothers, a company known for publishing popular board games, eventually bought Monopoly’s copyrights from Darrow. Parker Brothers would later find out that it was Lizzie Magie who was the inventor of Monopoly, so the company would also buy the rights to Magie’s patent for $500.

Parker Brothers officially released their version of Monopoly on November 5, 1935. The design and the art for the board game was created by cartoonist F.O. Alexander.

Monopoly in World War II

Monopoly horse and rider token

During World War II, the licensed manufacturer of Monopoly in the United Kingdom, John Waddington Ltd., was tasked by the British Secret Intelligence Service to create a special edition of Monopoly that was used to help prisoners of war held by Nazis to escape. This special edition includes compasses, maps, and other items that can aid prisoners in escaping their prisons. Units of this special edition Monopoly game were given to war prisoners through fake charity organizations secretly created by the British Secret Intelligence Service. [2]


In 1973, an Economics professor named Ralph Anspach published Anti-Monopoly, which was inspired by the first version of The Landlord’s Game. Because it was deemed as a copy of the original Monopoly Game, Anspach was sued for trademark infringement by Parker Brothers in 1974. 

In 1979, Anspach won the case on appeals, and the court determined that the trademark name “Monopoly” was considered generic. However, the decision was overturned in 1984, thus allowing Parker Brothers to get valid trademarks for the name “Monopoly” and its gameplay mechanics. Fortunately for Anspach, Anti-Monopoly was exempted from the law, but to avoid further issues with Parker Brothers, he decided to reach a settlement for the company, and this included a deal where Parker Brothers could market Anspach’s Anti-Monopoly. [3]

Hasbro’s Acquisition of Parker Brothers

Monopoly steam locomotive token

In 1991, Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers and its line of products, including Monopoly. Under Hasbro’s control, Monopoly was able to expand to other versions besides the original and the “deluxe” versions published by Parker Brothers in the past. Hasbro has also given licenses for publishing Monopoly to other companies, most notably Winning Moves Games (started publishing Monopoly in 1995) and Winning Solutions, Inc. (started in 2000), who are responsible for creating other versions that are not available in Hasbro’s lineup. Winning Moves Games produces Monopoly: The 1980s Edition, which features design and artwork that are found in the 1980s version of the board game.

In the mid-2010s, Hasbro created a poll on Facebook in order for the company to know what the most popular “house rules” are for Monopoly. House rules are gameplay rules that are created by groups of players (which can be friends or family members) and are not included in the official rules of the game. The most popular house rules from the poll were used by Hasbro to create the House Rule Edition of Monopoly in 2014. Hasbro would later add the popular house rules as optional rules in the classic version of the game in 2015.

The Iconic Tokens of Monopoly

Monopoly tokens

The most iconic pieces of the Monopoly board game are the tokens, which are the representatives of the players on the board. These tokens are made of plastic or metal, although the earliest versions were made of wood. The first metal version of Monopoly tokens was created by the Dowst Miniature Toy Company, which was known in the 1940s for producing metal charms that are used to decorate charm bracelets. The battleship and cannon were the first two known metal tokens for Monopoly, and these tokens were originally reused pieces for Parker Brothers’s failed board game called “Conflict.”

By 1943, there were already ten tokens that are included in every box of Monopoly, and these tokens were the battleship, cannon, boot, iron, race car, thimble, wheelbarrow, top hat, horse and rider, and Scottie dog (Scottish Terrier). This exact set of ten tokens would remain until the 1990s, specifically after Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers.

As a way to revamp Monopoly, Hasbro created an advertising campaign in 1998 where people can vote on a new token that will be added to the set. The money bag token won the campaign after gaining 51% of the total votes. This token was then added to the ten existing tokens in 1999. Then, in 2000, the cannon and horse and rider tokens were retired, thus bringing down the total number of tokens to nine. In 2007, the money bag was retired, and the number of tokens was reduced to eight.

In 2013, a promotional campaign was launched to let people vote on what new token will be added to the set and which existing token will be removed and replaced with the new token that wins the poll. The three new tokens that people can choose from in the poll were a guitar, a helicopter, a robot, a diamond ring, and a cat. The cat token won the poll after getting 32% of the total votes, and it replaced the iron, which was determined as the least popular from the existing set of tokens.

In 2017, Hasbro retired three classic tokens, namely the thimble, wheelbarrow, and boot, and these tokens were replaced with a T-Rex, rubber duck, and penguin. In 2022, Hasbro created a new poll that would determine which classic tokens would be brought back to the existing set. The choices included the thimble, iron, boot, money bag, horse and rider, and wheelbarrow. The winner of the poll was the thimble, and it replaced the T-Rex in the 2023 version of Monopoly. [4]

Besides the classic and new tokens that were added to the set of tokens for the regular edition of Monopoly, Hasbro has also created special tokens that can only be found in deluxe and limited editions of the board game. One of the first special edition tokens to be produced was the steam locomotive, which was only available in the deluxe editions of Monopoly. Then, a special director’s chair token was included in the limited-edition copies of the 2011 documentary “Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story.”

In 2013, a Golden Token set was released in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the set included golden versions of the battleship, Scottie dog, thimble, top hat, wheelbarrow, boot, iron, and race car. The set also included new tokens that were revealed in the 2013 poll, which were the diamond ring, cat, guitar, robot, and helicopter.

Impact of Monopoly on Pop Culture

playing Monopoly

Monopoly arguably is one of the few board games that had a big impact on pop culture, as Monopoly has appeared and has been referenced in many TV shows, movies, video games, books, and other forms of entertainment. Because of the popularity of Monopoly, the game has been able to get collaborations from various brands, shows, and movies. Here are some of the most popular editions of Monopoly that feature iconic characters, brands, and franchises:

There were also phrases that were used in Monopoly that eventually became used in everyday conversations. One of the most used phrases that is connected to Monopoly is “Get Out of Jail Free card,” which is a phrase used whenever a person utilizes something to get out of a bad situation. For example, if a person is scolded for arriving late to the office, that person may use an effective excuse so that he or she won’t be scolded anymore, and the excuse turns into a “Get Out of Jail Free card.”

There was a TV show that is based on the board game that originally aired in 1990. This Monopoly TV game show was produced by Merv Griffin (known for creating the game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!) and hosted by a TV presenter named Mike Reilly. Unfortunately, the game show didn’t last long, as it only aired from June to September of 1990. There was also a Welsh version of the Monopoly TV game show that was aired in 1992.


These are all the things you need to know about the origins of Monopoly, its iconic tokens, and its impact on pop culture. If you haven’t played Monopoly yet, today may be the best time for you to do so, and you can enjoy playing this game with your friends or family members. If you like a certain TV show or movie, you may even get a tie-in version of Monopoly that will surely make the gameplay more fun and exciting.


[1] Pilon, M. (2015, February 13). Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go.’ The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from

[2] ABC News. (2009, September 18). Get Out of Jail Free: Monopoly’s Hidden Maps. ABC News. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from

[3] Pilon, M. (2009, October 20). How a Fight Over a Board Game Monopolized an Economist’s Life. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from

[4] Collier, K. (2022, June 12). A classic MONOPOLY token will be returning to the board game in 2023. Yahoo! Sport. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from