Parker Brothers MonopolyAlmost any person around the world has at least heard of the game Monopoly.  Most have even played the game (or started one).  Monopoly is one of the best selling board games of all time, and according to the Hasbro website (owner of Parker Brothers Game Company who first widely produced the game), it is sold in over 103 countries and published in 41 different languages.  For any Monopoly player, one of the first decisions of the game is to choose which token is going to represent him while moving around the board. Over the years, these game tokens found inside a Monopoly box have included many different styles.

Charles Darrow, designer of Monopoly and who originally sold homemade games himself in 1933, decided to leave the choice of token entirely up to the player.  In the book, Timeless Toys by Tim Walsh, Walsh shares that the directions for Darrow’s game simply state, “See that each player is provided with some token.”  It seems any small object a player could find around the house would suffice.  This option may provide the basis for some of the selections Parker Brothers later featured. The common and small household item of the thimble would have made an ideal game piece and may have influenced the future game makers to include it in the game’s tokens.

first monopoly game tokensThe first Monopoly game tokens, produced by Parker Brothers in 1935, were the thimble, ship, shoe, hat, cannon, and iron.  These tiny game pieces were made of metal.  Curiously, a few of the earliest tokens have been discovered to consist of a small hole.  It has been suggested by game historians these game tokens were actually charms intended for bracelets.  Before Parker Brothers had employed their own molds for tokens, the company may have utilized charms.  Since early players needed to supply their own game tokens, they had used charms.  Parker Brothers may have just followed suit.

Monopoly parker brother early game tokensThe game of Monopoly quickly became increasingly popular.  By 1936, Parker Brothers could not keep metal tokens needed for the game in supply.   Because of this short fall, the company substituted the metal tokens for different colorful shaped wooden pieces or cylinders at the time.   During WWII, when demand for all metal was at a high, the wooden tokens re-appeared and became standard for the period.  Bakelite tokens were also utilized during these times.  It seems an elephant, train, and other crude shapes were introduced with this new type of token material.

bakelite monopoly game pieces elephant, pig, trainThroughout Monopoly’s production, other metal tokens turned up in the games.  Collectors are always on the lookout for the rare rocking horse, lantern, and purse which were included in certain early editions.  The adorable and well known Scottie dog emerged after the war, along with the horse and rider, wheelbarrow, car, and airplane.

Later, in the late 1990’s, a moneybag token was introduced to game boxes.  The most recent change to Monopoly Tokens, however, came in February 2013.  Hasbro announced it was replacing one of the time treasured tokens for a ‘new other’!  Players were allowed to vote and choose which classic token was going to ‘jail for life’ (wheelbarrow, shoe, racecar, top hat, thimble, Scottie dog, battleship, or iron) and which new token (robot, guitar, helicopter, diamond ring, or cat) was going to replace it and be the new Monopoly Token for standard games.  On February 6th, 2013, it was announced the Cat was taking over the Iron. 

The number of tokens provided in a game box has varied too. For example, the first Parker Brother’s game comprised of only six tokens. But, some Monopoly games were recommended for 3 to 7 players, and in these games, seven tokens were provided.  Today, the directions suggest the game to be played with 2 to 8 players and so at least 8 tokens are now included.  Deluxe editions may contain up to 12 tokens, though.

parker brothers monopoly game piecesNo matter which token is chosen, a player is sure to take quite a few strolls around the board with it.  Monopoly is known for the long length of time it takes to finish a game, and so maybe this is one of the reasons why Monopoly players are so choosy about their tokens.  A player and his token are a team for a good amount of time and he will want to be sure he picks a companion he likes.  It could also be the reason why the tokens are so collectible and memorable.  A player is sure to remember the token he moved relentlessly around the spaces; especially if he eventually won!

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Sources:
Monopoly History, Hasbro, reviewed February 6th, 2012
Walsh, Tim, Timeless Toys, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004
Orbanes, Phil, The Game Makers, Harvard Business School Publishing, 2004

 

In the comments below, please feel free to share, ‘What is your favorite Monopoly token?’.  Mine is the wheelbarrow.

Jenny Kile

Jenny Kile has written 242 posts. She can be followed on +Jenny.

  24 Responses to “The History of Monopoly Game Tokens”

  1. Did monopoly ever use round wooden pegs as tokens? I found a ww2 era. Game with these pegs in different colors

    • Me too, but no luck finding games (eBay) with colored short (maybe a 1/4″ high) pieces. No date other than when the instructions were printed. Anyone???

  2. I recently bought (according to the seller’s description) a 1935 #8 Popular Edition Monopoly (Green) and I was wondering if a factory mishap could have an affect on the price? When I opened the board I noticed the board was mounted crooked. You know the part that gets glued on to the actual board; it is slanted. I’ll try to send you a picture. I appreciate your help.

    • Hi Mallory,

      My thoughts are as game collecting becomes more popular, some collections may include ‘error games’; Similar to how ‘error coins’ are sought after. As of now, though, I am not aware of a high demand for such. It’s unique and something which is worth watching the market for.

  3. Ran into a Vintage Monopoly Set which includes many Bakelite pieces. The Elephant, Horse, dog, and more. At first glance they looked like wooden pieces, but after doing a lot of research, I found its WWII era and it’s actually Bakelite token material. Could you tell me if there are specific pieces that are worth more or more rare? I have not been able to find much info on them besides they didn’t make much, but made many “crude shapes”.

    • Hi Tiffany, I have a sent a couple of emails to other collectors to try and find a precise answer for you. Will let you know if they have any different information.

  4. [...] gained the most popularity and has become one of the best well-known board games of the world.  Monopoly’s tokens are even well known and collectible.  Nonetheless, Easy Money plays just as well as Monopoly and [...]

  5. Do you know if Parker brother made a set of rhinestone dice for any of there games or were they just made and put in a set on ebay.

    Please reply.

    Peggy sue

  6. I like the man on the horse because I just seem to do better with it in the game and it just looks cool.

  7. Hi,ime hoping you can advise me, i have 6 of the war produced tokens on cardboard slotted into wood=ship,iron,car,boot,hat,rocking horse. Are these wanted by collectors and of value? Thank You.

    • As mentioned in the above article, the rocking horse is very collectible and rare. Price varies. If they are a set, then together they would be worth more and are sought after. Following EBay auctions with similar game pieces might help determine a today value for them.

  8. I have several metal pieces which are: DOG, IRON, WHEELBARROW, MAN ON HORSE, SHOE, RACE CAR, THIMBLE and 2 TOP HATS. From what era are they and do they have any value?

  9. I have an old monopoly game and it has a boat is that a collectible pice?

  10. I have the game with the wooden pieces but I believe I am missing some. Does anyone know where I can get the remaing ones I am missing also what years these were used?

  11. My Monopoly set which I played with as a child in the 1970′s has metal tokens – sailing ship, battleship, the Mallard steam train, man driving tractor, man on motorbike, car and a tank. What edition would these be please? Thanks, Juliet.

  12. Wheelbarrow! Which is on the list for deletion. :( I do not see why they have to delete anything from our happy childhood memories to come up with a new token. Merely offer the option to buy the new tokens as an add-on. Not do away with the old ones!

    • I agree…..save the wheelbarrow! I also have great memories of playing monopoly for hours. I have the following pieces & I treasure them all.
      Wheelbarrow, scottie dog, hat, horseman, cannon, pot of gold, iron, boat, old shoe, thimble & racecar. Have them displayed in a small cabinet.

    • The Wheelbarrow was saved! Poor old Iron :(

  13. [...] have to be completely played out in order to have fun. Moving around the board, with the famous Monopoly game tokens, provides players the opportunities to invest in real estate and build massive land assets. The [...]

  14. [...] a thimble, which in turn influenced the thimble to eventually be officially included as a Monopoly game piece by Parker [...]

  15. I have old monopoly pieces, but mine are;Top hat, thimble, iron, race car, dog, shoe, wheel barrow, and man on horse. It seems that they don’t match what I see in lists.
    Do you know how old they areaaaaaaa/

    • The dog and wheelbarrow were not introduced until the early 50′s. So if your set contains them, it would seem they could be as early as that, but not before.

      thanks for visiting..

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