NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 9, 2013

Monopoly token change stirs memories

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Thousands upon thousands of Monopoly game tokens were manufactured in Salem while the Parker Brothers’ Bridge Street factory hummed with activity.

This week, it was announced that one of those tokens, the iron, will be retired and replaced with a cat.

The change was decided in a fan contest on facebook.com. The results were announced Wednesday after the shoe, wheelbarrow and iron were neck and neck for elimination in the final hours of voting. The cat won favor over a robot, diamond ring, helicopter and guitar tokens.

“It’s always bittersweet to see an element of tradition disappear,” said Phil Orbanes, the former senior vice president of research and development and in-house Monopoly expert at Parker Brothers. “It also sends a signal that Monopoly is as vibrant today as it was in 1935 when it became a nationwide hit.”

Monopoly has close ties to the North Shore. Generations worked for Parker Brothers at its factory in Salem and later at its corporate headquarters in Beverly. The Salem factory closed and was torn down in 1994. Monopoly is now owned and manufactured by Rhode Island-based Hasbro Inc.

“Monopoly and Salem and Beverly are synonymous,” said Orbanes, a judge at the annual Monopoly world championships. “... Many people still tell me, after all these years, the greatest job they ever had was at Parker Brothers.”

This winter’s contest to choose a new token marks the first time fans have had a say on which of the eight tokens to add and which one to toss. The pieces, which identify the players, have undergone some changes since Parker Brothers bought the game from its original designer in 1935.

The Scottie Dog was the most popular of the classic tokens, and received 29 percent of the vote, Hasbro said. The iron got the fewest votes and was kicked to the curb.

Orbanes said his guess — based on research and polling he’s done — was that the wheelbarrow would get the heave-ho. But a wheelbarrow manufacturer launched an online “save the wheelbarrow” campaign, and the iron lost out.

“(The iron) is probably the most dated token,” he said.

Ironically, the current world Monopoly champion, a 19 year-old from Norway, plays with the iron token, Orbanes said.

The tokens originated when the niece of game creator Charles Darrow suggested using bracelet charms. The game is based on the streets of Atlantic City, N.J., and has sold more than 275 million units worldwide.

The other Monopoly tokens currently in use are a race car, shoe, thimble, top hat, wheelbarrow and battleship. Most of the pieces were introduced with the first Parker Brothers game in 1935, and the Scottie dog and wheelbarrow were added in the early 1950s.

The original version also included a lantern, purse, cannon and rocking horse. A horse and rider token was used in the 1950s. During World War II, metal tokens were replaced by wooden ones, because metal was needed for the war effort.

Versions of Monopoly with the new token will come out later this year.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.