No doubt you’ve heard that the Internet elected a new token to the Monopoly lineup—and it’s a cat. Shocker. I’m sure somewhere Maru is celebrating by jumping into a box that’s smaller than his head and Grumpy Cat is disgruntled. Though it’s been a big news item that—gasp!—the iron is no longer an option for passing Go and landing in jail, this is hardly the first time the Monopoly game has undergone a minor facelift.
When Charles Darrow first started selling the game, he suggested using household items, like buttons, as tokens. It was only after Parker Brothers purchased the game from Darrow in 1935 that they decided to offer actual tokens. Darrow’s nieces, it turns out, were fond of making Monopoly tokens from their charm bracelet baubles or from prizes out of Cracker Jacks boxes. In some versions of the story, Darrow noticed that neighborhood kids were using the charms. Whatever the inspiration was, the Parker Brothers folks liked the idea because it was different than what any other board game was using at the time, and because they were already on friendly terms with a company who produced such trinkets. Dowst Manufacturing already had 15 perfectly-sized charms on their production line, so Parker Brothers appropriated four of them, including the thimble.
The tokens changed again because of metal conservation efforts during WWII—crude tokens vaguely shaped like cars, irons and elephants were made from a composite material, and in some editions, colored wooden pegs replaced the shaped tokens entirely. After WWII, Parker Brothers went back to metal playing pieces and added a fighter plane for a brief period of time.
In the early 50s, tokens you probably didn’t even know existed—the lantern, the purse, and the rocking horse—were replaced by our modern mainstays: the dog, the wheelbarrow, and the horse and rider.
Of course, many of us probably remember a public vote in 1998, when Monopoly enthusiasts decided a bag of money would be the newest Monopoly piece. It was phased out in 2007. I suspect the cat is similarly destined for a relatively quick retirement.
By the way, am I the only one who grew up thinking the cannon was actually a spinning wheel?