Anytime you play Monopoly, it’s always fun to choose which piece to use. Will it be the top hat, or the shoe, or the ship, or another piece? Maybe you’ve even had passionate arguments with friends or family about who gets what piece.
But…did you ever pause for a moment and think about how random the pieces they are and wonder why? Why is there an iron? Wy Is there a shoe?
Today we have the complete scoop for you about how these pieces were chosen and it’s quite interesting!
How Monopoly Got Started
Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow in the early 1930’s. Mr. Darrow was an American entrepreneur who modified the design of a game known as The Landlord’s Game that was originally invented by Lizzie Magie.
The fascinating thing about Mr. Darrow is that he became the first millionaire game designer in history! And back in the 1930’s that was a LOT more money!
Part of Darrow’s vision was that players could use random small items from around the house as their game pieces – for example a coin, or a button, or a bottle cap.
It was Darrow’s niece that is responsible for the random pieces though. She suggested he use pieces from her charm bracelet and that is the story behind why the pieces ended up being so random!
Monopoly Game Layout
The locations on the game board in the original version have been kept over time and maintain their sense of history. The properties are based off streets in Atlantic City (New Jersey, USA) and have kept their iconic names for decades.
Over time, in the real Atlantic City, some of the names have changed in real life. But on the monopoly board, the names have been preserved over the decades.
The Original Monopoly Pieces
The initial pieces that came with the Monopoly board game were the top hat, the thimble, the iron, the shoe, the battleship, and the cannon.
The top hat is a natural association to the game’s character Mr. Monopoly, also known as Rich Uncle Penny bags. People have speculated the character was based off J.P. Morgan.
The iron and cannon have since been retired and replaced with new pieces. Originally these were leftover pieces from a failed board game called Conflict and the manufacturer used them to reduce their costs.
The thimble and the shoe remain game pieces as of 2022.
Evolution of the Pieces
The seventh piece that was released for the game was the racecar, which is still included in the game today. What’s more amusing is that the racecar exactly matches the racecars found in Cracker Jacks in the 1930s! The racecar came out in 1935 and was thought to be the car that Mr. Monopoly could have back then in the historical context of the time. It has gone through a few changes over the years, but is still pretty similar today.
The Scottie dog and wheelbarrow pieces came out in the 1950’s and both are still included in the game today.
Funny Fact: The Scottie dog has been voted as the most popular piece of all time, acting as Mr. Monopoly’s sidekick.
The Pieces are Meant to Help Both Rich and Poor Relate
In general, the pieces are meant to help people relate regardless of how poor or rich they are.
For example, the top hat, race car, and Scottie dog all seem to represent money.
The thimble, wheelbarrow, and shoe are more representative of blue collar manual labor and hard work.
Materials used in the Monopoly Pieces
The pieces were originally made from a zinc alloy called die-cast zinc. The pieces would turn black due to the impurities in the metal and that was rather unappealing!
So they tried to use lead and tin to keep the pieces from discoloring. Which worked but when World War II broke out, and those materials were needed for the war effort, they needed to switch manufacturing to wooden pieces.
After the war, the manufacturer went back to die-cast pieces and made them out of pewter which remains the standard for today’s pieces.
And there are even luxury pieces available in gold plate and other fancy finishes!
Video: The Story Behind MONOPOLY Pieces
What do a thimble, a sack of money, a battleship, and a top hat have in common? Not much, other than that they are among the playing tokens you receive in a standard Monopoly set. And don’t forget the wheelbarrow, which you’ll need to carry all that cash you are going to appropriate from your hapless opponents.
Also see our fun facts about Donkey Kong
I’m Natalie Garcia and I started this website to share my love of trivia, facts and fun knowledge tidbits. We cover things like celebrity gossip, historical facts, tv shows, world leaders and just odd and random fun things. I started this site to have some fun with my hobby and share some useful information with you, our community. Please feel to send me your suggestions and feedback through the contact form. And if you have suggestions for things to write about, please shoot me a message!