review of monopoly pieces

April 15, 2007

Monopoly is back, at least in my house. But let’s not review Monopoly. That just doesn’t seem random. How’s about we review the actual pieces used in Monopoly? They have a long and storied history. Well, long, anyway.

Whether you believe the conspiracy theories or not about how Parker Brothers cheated and connived in producing the game, it’s indisputable that Parker Brothers first produced the game in 1935.

Okay, I spose it’s disputable, but only if you’re like my 11 year old son, who disputes whether his Lucky Charms exist.

Oddly, the first edition of the game didn’t include game pieces. You were expected to use whatever you had lying around. Like buttons. Or bottle caps. Or cheese (although, as has been documented, the moving of cheese can cause problems. I’m just saying, exercise caution of you’re going to use cheese).

Mercifully, Mr. Parker and his brother almost immediately began including pieces. Sadly, they were simply small waxy pieces of wood. We got no die-cast metal pieces until 1937. I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s not so many years. Anyway, after World War II, Mr. Parker got rid of the lantern, the purse, and the rocking horse, and added the dog (modeled after his own dog, Scotty, which is, I think, just a great name for a dog), the wheelbarrow, modeled after wheelbarrows, and the horse and rider, which looks remarkably like a horse with a rider on top.

By the early 1950s, Mr. Parker’s brother had settled on the game pieces we get today, sort of: a wheelbarrow (1937b edition), a battleship, a sack of money (1999 editions onwards), a horse and rider, a car, a train (Deluxe Edition only), a thimble, a cannon (1937b edition), an old style shoe, a Scottie dog, an iron, and a top hat. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have come up with a better panoply of characters.clip_image001

Scotty the Dog

Kim insists on the dog. Well, actually, she likes the moneybag, but Maddy also insists on the moneybag, and Kim concedes that to argue with your own daughter about which piece you get to use in the game we’re playing to bring us together as a family is a bit counter-productive.

Regardless, the Dog is definitely the coolest piece. I’m just not sure why.

Chances of winning with The Dog—50%

Cool Factor—10 out of 10


William Carlos Williams notwithstanding, wheelbarrows aren’t cool, and rarely win anything.

Chances of winning with the Wheelbarrow—0%

Cool Factor—1 out of 10


It’s hard to argue with a battleship, unless you’re Winston Churchill with a grudge to settle. Imagine you’re rounding Go To Jail, staring Pennsylvania Avenue and Park Place/Boardwalk in the face. Would you rather be pushing a wheelbarrow, or standing on the prow of your battleship, aiming your 15” guns?

I thought so.

Chances of winning with The Battleship—40%

Cool Factor—8 out of 10

Sack of Money

No question, money is cool. And also no question, money is good to have, especially in a game like monopoly.

However, even if you put “of money” after it, you never want anybody to call you “a Sack.” How’s this strike you—“he’s rounding Free Parking, and now that Sack is just about to land on Kentucky.”

That would suck.

Chances of winning with The Sack of Money—20%

Cool Factor—2 out of 10

Horse and Rider

The horse and rider look a lot like the Lone Ranger on his horse, Silver. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. The Lone Ranger would never fall of his horse. The Monopoly Horse and Rider combo is about as stable as any element heavier than bismuth. Which is to say, none stable. This combo would trip over Baltic and fall right onto Income Tax. It’s cool to ride a horse, but it’s waaaay uncool to fall off one.

Chances of winning with The Horse and Rider—20%

Cool Factor—3 out of 10

The Car

The Car is fast yet old school. This is a lot like what Burt Monro would drive if he drove cars instead of Indian Motorcycles. I admit it, the Car is my personal favorite. But I promised myself I wouldn’t let my feelings intrude on this wholly objective review.

Chances of winning with The Car—100%

Cool Factor—10 out of 10


Someday we’ll review trains, and I’ll tell you about the time I took the Amtrak with my Dad from Minneapolis to Shelby, Montana, and then drove to Lethbridge, Alberta, and got sick and threw up all over the dining car. I got sick on the way home too, and threw up all over the bathroom near the dining car.

Someday I’ll tell you about that. But it is not this day.

Chances of winning with The Train—35%

Cool Factor—5 out of 10


Some folks really like the Thimble. Some folks like to turn the Thimble upside down, and combine the Thimble with the Dog. Those folks don’t realize that you can’t combine winning percentages and coolness factors, that combining game pieces actually REDUCES both.

Chances of winning with The Thimble—20%

Cool Factor—4 out of 10


My game doesn’t have a cannon, cuz the cannon was only available in 1937. I was born in 1965. If I had a cannon I would use it every game. I wouldn’t play unless I was allowed to use the cannon. The cannon is like the battleship, except, without all that water.

Chances of winning with The Cannon—100%

Cool Factor—10 out of 10


I like the shoe, I really like it, but in the end it’s just a shoe. It walks, even saunters around the board, not running like a dog, no steaming like a battleship, no racing like a car. The shoe, I spose, is what it is. Which isn’t much.

Chances of winning with The Shoe—5%

Cool Factor—3 out of 10


Have you ever played Monopoly with anybody, anybody at all, that insisted on being the iron? Any game piece that inspires this level of indifference and apathy, well, why even have an iron? In case your mother in law plays? Or your “special” cousin?

Chances of winning with The Iron—0%

Cool Factor—0 out of 10

Top Hat

I have to admit, the top hat inspires me. When I’m the top hat, I feel like a winner. I go after Park Place and Boardwalk with a vengeance, I want to dominate and destroy my competitors. The top hat makes me feel like a Carnegie, a Kennedy, a Rockefeller.

Sadly, I’ve never actually won at monopoly. In the end, I resemble Norville Barnes.

Chances of winning with The Top Hat—1%

Cool Factor—10 out of 10


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