For One Monopoly Token, the Days Are Numbered

From the NYTimes

By VIJAI SINGH

The original version of Monopoly has eight game pieces. The game's manufacturer plans to replace one of them.Courtesy of Hasbro The original version of Monopoly has eight game pieces. The game’s manufacturer plans to replace one of them.

Despite the onslaught of high-tech games played on smartphones, tablets and giant flat-screen televisions, some old-fashioned board games played at a more methodical pace endure. Of those, perhaps the most popular is Monopoly, which was born 78 years ago.

And even though there are any number of variations — a NASA edition, a New York Yankees edition, a Star Wars edition — the Monopoly of Park Place, Boardwalk and the Community Chest has remained largely unchanged.

Until now.

Hasbro, the company that manufactures Monopoly, has decided that the journey around the board for one of the eight classic tokens will end soon. And, in a modern twist, it has taken to social media to seek input from the public. So after Tuesday, when voting closes, the thimble, car, boot, Scottie dog, battleship, hat, iron or wheelbarrow will go to jail, forever, and a new token will take its place.

Of course, the company is not leaving it entirely up to the public to decide such an important part of a classic game. Hasbro came up with a list of potential replacements, conducted an internal vote and narrowed the field to five finalists: a robot, diamond ring, cat, helicopter and guitar. The classic token with the fewest number of votes will be replaced by the new token with the highest number. The winner is to be announced on Wednesday.

As of Monday afternoon, the boot and the iron had the fewest votes and were most in danger of being replaced. Hasbro would not say which of the new pieces had the most votes.

“The token is key to the game and key for all of our fans,’’ said Jonathan Berkowitz, the vice president for marketing at Hasbro Gaming, in a telephone interview from the company’s headquarters in Pawtucket, R.I. “You ask anyone what their favorite Monopoly token is and most people have an answer. There’s always a reason.”

The creation of Monopoly is widely attributed to Charles Darrow, an unemployed heating contractor from Philadelphia, though there were earlier versions of a similar game. Darrow’s 1933 version named the properties after places in Atlantic City, which experienced a boom in the 1920s, before the Depression.

“Because it was a game and because games are entertaining and they’re fun, Atlantic City seemed to be the perfect partner to use for the property names,” said Philip E. Orbanes, the president of Winning Moves Games Inc., a game manufacturer. Mr. Orbanes has also written four books about Monopoly and has been a chief judge at the United States and world Monopoly championships.

In 1935, Parker Brothers negotiated and signed a contract in the Flatiron Building in Manhattan to acquire Monopoly from Darrow, Mr. Orbanes said. (Parker Brothers is now owned by Hasbro.)

“J.P. Morgan, the legendary financier, was the inspiration in 1936 for the styling of the little Monopoly man who today we call Mr. Monopoly,” he added.

Monopoly rose in popularity during the Depression. “Twenty-five percent of the work force was unemployed,” Mr. Orbanes said, “so playing Monopoly was an opportunity to vicariously feel rich.”

The game has remained essentially unchanged, which some say is part of its continued success. “When I played Monopoly as a kid,” Mr. Berkowitz, the Habro executive, said, “it’s exactly the same as when I play it now with my kids, and the same is true of my parents and that’s very, very rare, and I think that’s one of the great things about the brand.”

Mr. Orbanes said, “The main appeal of the game is not necessarily the charming equipment, but rather it’s the dynamic that takes place when you and I and our friends sit around the table and we start negotiating, deal-making, bantering, making decisions, seeing the results of the decisions we make.’’

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