This week in history: Monopoly invented

Monopoly is one of the world’s best-selling board games. It’s available in 43 different languages in 111 countries, and more than 275 million copies have been sold worldwide (according to manufacturer Hasbro) since 1935. That’s when Charles Darrow, a salesman from Philadelphia, sold the rights to the game to Parker Brothers in return for royalties.

Parker Brothers had at first rejected the game for being too long, only changing their mind after Darrow successfully sold it himself to local stores.

Yet, despite Darrow’s claim to have invented it, most historians now agree that Monopoly borrows heavily from The Landlord’s Game, invented by Elizabeth Magie Phillips in 1902.

The game was developed to support the theories of the economist Henry George, who advocated a land value tax to reduce inequality. Darrow also knew of another “Monopoly”, very similar to today’s version, which had been played by Quakers in Atlantic City since the 1920s.

Ironically, given the game’s origins, Parker Brothers (bought by Hasbro in 1991) acted aggressively over the years to stop similar games emerging, even trademarking the suffix ‘opoly’.

It launched several lawsuits against rivals, most controversially in 1973 against Anti-Monopoly, a game invented by Professor Ralph Anspach of Berkley University as a direct response to the original, to show the damage done to free markets by monopolies.

After a long battle, the US Supreme Court in 1983 effectively voided Monopoly’s trademark on the grounds that the phrase had become generic. But protests from manufacturers fearing the precedent this set led to laws reversing the ruling.

66% off newsstand price

12 issues (and much more) for just £12

That’s right. We’ll give you 12 issues of MoneyWeek magazine, complete access to our exclusive web articles, our latest wealth building reports and videos as well as our subscriber-only email… for just £12.

That’s just £1 per week for Britain’s best-selling financial magazine.

Click here to take advantage of our offer

Britain is leaving the European Union. Donald Trump is reducing America’s role in global markets. Both will have profound consequences for you as an investor.

MoneyWeek analyses the critical issues facing British investors on a weekly basis. And, unlike other publications, we provide you with the solutions to help you turn a situation to your financial advantage.

Take up our offer today, and we’ll send you three of our most important investment reports:

All three of these reports are yours when you take up our 12 issues for £12 offer today.

MoneyWeek has been advising private British investors on what to do with their money since 2000. Our calls over that period have enabled our readers to both make and save a great deal of money – hence our position as the UK’s most-trusted investment publication.

Click here to subscribe for just £12