The World’s Most Expensive Board Game

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You’ll probably only need a moment’s thought to determine which board game is loved by people so rich that they can afford to spend $100,000 on it.

That’s right: Monopoly. One of the few games whose objective is inherently immoral: crush your opponents into dust by monopolizing properties and jacking the price up. Not only is the End bad, but the Means ain’t pretty either. You buy your way out of jail, fail to report bank errors, and every time you find a good parking space, you loot the public treasury. In Clue, the objective is to catch the murderer, not get away with the crime, but in Monopoly, business practices that result in federal lawsuits result in a win.

Also, it’s factually inaccurate: I’m pretty sure an iron is not legally allowed to own real estate.

In fact, the game’s whole history is tainted by theft and lies. Charles Darrow, who sold the game to Parker Brothers (after they originally rejected it for 52 “fundamental errors”), claimed to be the sole inventor, but in fact was just the last in a series of developers. During a later lawsuit regarding a game named Anti-Monopoly invented by San Francisco State University economics professor Ralph Anspach, it was revealed that not only had Darrow not invented the game, he had actually copied it verbatim from another game designer, even going so far as to copy the mispelling of Marven Gardens as “Marvin Gardens.” (Anspach even wrote a book about it.)

Since Darrow patented the game, it’s been played by an estimed 750 million people, making it the most played commercial game in the world. Darrow was the first millionaire game designer, while the guy he stole it from probably went, well, bankrupt.

So of course Monopoly appeals to the uber-rich. And if one of them wants to acquire a set of the game to advertise their monetary excess, then they need look no further than famous toy store FAO Schwarz, which once offered a One of a Kind Monopoly board that cost $100,000 and featured:

  • 18-carat (75%) gold tokens, houses, and hotels
  • Rosewood board
  • street names written in gold leaf
  • emeralds around the Chance icon
  • sapphires around the Community Chest
  • rubies in the brake lights of the car on the Free Parking Space
  • the money is real, negotiable United States currency

Yes, that’s right, the money is real. Real money. Which, of course, begs the question of where they got the $500 bills. William McKinley appeared on $500 bills issued in 1929, but Richard Nixon halted their circulation by executive order in 1969 in an effort to combat organized crime (like, say, the large scale monopolization of real estate–what could be more criminal than that?).

However, if you want to actually flex your economic muscle, then you’re going to want to check out jeweler Sidney Mobell’s two-million dollar version. Rosewood board? Fuck that. Sidney’s board is made of 23k gold. Here’s a picture:

This is the caption

It doesn’t come with real money, but if you’re buying a two-million buck board, then come on, you can spring for the extra $15,140. But the most delicious irony of it all is that someone is spending two-million smackers on something that, according to Wired Magazine, isn’t even a good game. From an article on Settlers of Catan, they write:

Derk Solko, a garrulous former Wall Streeter who cofounded the Web site BoardGameGeek.com in 2000 after discovering Settlers, explains it this way: “Monopoly has you grinding your opponents into dust. It’s a very negative experience. It’s all about cackling when your opponent lands on your space and you get to take all their money.” Monopoly, in fact, is a classic example of what economists call a zero-sum game. For me to gain $100, you have to lose $100. For me to win, you have to be bankrupt. Gouging and exploiting may be perfect for humiliating your siblings, but they’re not so great for relaxing with friends.

Monopoly also fails with many adults because it requires almost no strategy. The only meaningful question in the game is: To buy or not to buy? Most of its interminable three- to four-hour average playing time (length being another maddening trait) is spent waiting for other players to roll the dice, move their pieces, build hotels, and collect rent. Board game enthusiasts disparagingly call this a “roll your dice, move your mice” format.


3 Responses

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  1. I really like just going for a break from studying and visiting your site. I just wish you posted more frequently.

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    April 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

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    September 12, 2011 at 5:52 am

  3. That’s right: Monopoly. One of the few games whose objective is inherently immoral: crush your opponents into dust by monopolizing properties … gboardm.wordpress.com


    August 21, 2015 at 5:44 am

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