"We had it for weeks, playing with it," says Edward Parker. "We liked it, but we felt the general public wouldn't, because it took too long to play." Eventually Parker Bros, rejected Monopoly, advising Darrow tartly that "your game has 52 fundamental errors."
This annoyed Darrow. He returned to Philadelphia and ordered 5,000 Monopoly sets made. Sales continued briskly, and Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia began ordering the game in gross lots. By Christmas 1934, Darrow was working 14 hours a day trying to keep up with his shipping orders. Word of this got back to Salem, where Parker Bros, was beginning to wonder if 52 errors were really too many after all. Early in 1935 the company offered Darrow an attractive royalty contract. Darrow accepted with considerable relief. At the same time Parker bought up the patent of a Virginia woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Phillips, who had invented a vaguely similar game.
Parker Bros, refined Monopoly, clarified the rules, and suggested a version that could be played in less time. The company then introduced it through a nationwide advertising campaign, and it was an immediate success. In 1937 Charles Darrow was able to retire for life. He was then 46, and is now a millionaire gentleman farmer living in Bucks County, Pa.
"When we first put out Monopoly, we saw it as a game for adults, as too tough for kids," says Edward Parker. "We thought it would sell for maybe three years. Our sales went up and up and up in the beginning, and then they began to go down. We assumed this was it. Then, suddenly, sales began to go up again, and they never have fallen off. What happened was that children learned the game from their parents and liked it, too."
In 1935, when Monopoly was introduced, a cup of coffee cost 5�, a fifth of Scotch cost $3, you could get an orchestra seat in a Broadway theater for $2.50, a new Buick was $800 and Atlantic Avenue sold for $260. Now coffee is 15�, Scotch is $7, an orchestra seat is $7.50 and Buicks start at about $S2,500. But the Atlantic Avenue property on the Monopoly board still sells for $260. (Like most of Atlantic City, the real Atlantic Avenue prices have not stood still. They removed the streetcar tracks and widened the avenue in 1956, and a hotel there now would be a considerably larger investment than Mr. Darrow had in mind.)
"We have not thought of changing the rent values or the amount of money in the game," says Parker. "When you get a winner, you don't change it when it is going good. If we got a lot of letters complaining that rents and property values were too low, we might do something. But we haven't. The game plays as well, no matter what the numbers are." In some ways it is even more pleasant, in fact. The maximum income-tax payment in Monopoly is a paltry $200.
Except for updating the cartoons on the Chance and Community Chest cards, Parker Bros, has hardly changed the looks of the game at all. About 10 years ago the company began to use plastic instead of wood for the green houses and the red hotels. A few persons wrote to object to this tampering, but not enough to outweigh the production advantages of plastic. And a few years ago Parker Bros, produced a Monopoly set that had metal coins for all denominations of money. The idea was that you could play Monopoly on a picnic or on the front porch without worrying about the wind blowing the money away. It did not catch on.
There are jokes about playing Monopoly with real money, and it may have happened recently. When Scotland Yard searched the farmhouse hideout of the robbers of the Royal Mail train last summer, investigators found a Monopoly set, but no Monopoly money. If you have �2.5 million in small bills on hand, why not?
As a producer of currency, Parker Bros. is way ahead of the Treasury Department. In making one million sets of Monopoly a year, the company turns cut more than $15 billion (in Monopoly money). During fiscal 1962, the Bureau of the Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had a combined total production of only $7.9 billion.
The average length of a game of Monopoly is three hours, but two years ago a University of Pittsburgh fraternity kept a game going night and day by drafting members to play in 4-to-6-hour shifts. After four days the bank was broke. The rules dogmatically state that the bank cannot go broke and suggest making your own money if this unlikely situation arises. Instead the fraternity wired Parker Bros, for help, and the company sent $1 million by air express to save the bank. The game ran 120 hours, and this was offered as the alltime international Monopoly-playing record. A few weeks later a West Virginia University fraternity played for 132 hours, a record that apparently remains unbroken.