Since the 1930s, the popular board game Monopoly has had its iconic metal playing pieces—the top hat, the car, the iron—that have stood the test of time. However, the first ever Monopoly game did not have those game pieces. Actually, it did not come with any.
The evolution of the playing tokens used in Monopoly over the years is an interesting story.
The first Parker Brothers Monopoly game was sold in 1935. In the original game, there were no player tokens. Players were told to use common household items, such as buttons, as markers. Before long, wooden tokens shaped like chess pawns were included in the game.
There was a 1936 edition of Monopoly that was selling on eBay in recent years that had rubber tokens—including a battleship, bear, car, dog, iron, shoe, and train. It is not clear if those tokens were officially produced or that was a home-engineered project.
In 1937, the wooden chess pieces were replaced by metal tokens: the car, iron, lantern, purse, rocking horse, shoe, thimble, and top hat. Later that same year, the dog and battleship were added.
Parker Brothers temporarily returned to wooden playing pieces in 1942 due to war shortages of metal.
In the early 1950s, the lantern, purse, and rocking horse were removed from the game. They were replaced by the dog, horse and rider, and wheelbarrow. There were 10 tokens that included the battleship, boot, cannon, horse and rider, iron, racecar, dog, thimble, top hat, and wheelbarrow. These tokens would remain the same until the late 1990s.
The Rise of Special Editions
In 1991, the game company Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers and Monopoly. Until then, Parker Brothers only issued two versions at a time, a regular and deluxe.
Under Hasbro, a tidal wave of licensed Monopoly versions inundated the board game world. There are hundreds of special editions. With that came an explosion of new playing pieces such as the captain's chair on the Starship Enterprise in the "Star Trek" version, a Pikachu in the "Pokemon" version, or a horse's head in "The Godfather" version. Variations on the game include online versions as well as a card game.
Pieces Added and Removed
In 1998, the public was asked in a poll what their favorite playing pieces were. The most popular were the car at 18 percent and the dog at 16 percent. The least favorites were the wheelbarrow at 3 percent, followed by the thimble and the iron, both at 7 percent.
At the same time, Hasbro asked the public to vote on a new playing piece that would be added to the standard edition. The candidates were a "bag of money", a plane, and a piggy bank. The bag of money ended up winning with 51 percent of the vote. This brought the total number of pieces up to 11.
The cannon and horse and rider were both retired in 2000 with no new tokens taking their place. Another retirement came in 2007 with the bag of money that brought the total token count down to eight again.
From 2013 to 2017, there were more promotional campaigns and game piece decisions. The iron was replaced by a cat in 2013. In 2017, three more pieces were retired: the thimble, wheelbarrow, and shoe. They were replaced by a penguin, a Tyrannosaurus rex, and a rubber duck.