How Cannon, Shoe, and Top Hat Came Together as Monopoly Pieces

Monopoly Pieces

As a kid, by choosing which of the piece to use in a Monopoly game can cause a bit of turmoil, especially if siblings are involved. Arguing over who gets the top hat, shoe, ship, and so on is part of the fun of Monopoly. But if you take a look at the Monopoly Pieces, do you notice how random they are?

Really, why are there such odd pieces amassed at random to use while going around the game board? Everyone is competing for collecting the most money and winning the game, so why is there an iron piece? Why is there a shoe? The history and changes of the pieces used in Monopoly is somewhat bizarre and unexpected. The way the pieces were thought of and how they are chosen today both have very different stories.

The Beginning of the Game

Monopoly was created by Charles Darrow in the early 1930’s. It has been said that Darrow stole the idea from other games. Part of Darrow’s vision was that players could use random small items from around the house as their game pieces. Things like a button, bottle cap, or coin all would have made great game pieces in the original version.

Darrow’s niece was part of the mastermind of the randomness of the eventual pieces. Suggesting he use pieces from her charm bracelet, his niece gave him the idea as well as a good size to use for the pieces.

Game Layout

The locations around the game board in the original version have been maintained to the modern version. Based off the streets of Atlantic City, the properties that the players move to using their game tokens have iconic names.

Of course the names of the streets of Atlantic City have changed a lot throughout the years and there are several streets that do not exist anymore. Leaving them off the game, however, would certainly cause a public outcry.

A Box of Cracker Jack

The best part of eating box of Cracker Jack is the prize at the bottom. But in the 1930s, the prizes looked an awful like the game pieces in the original Monopoly game. That was because Parker Brothers used the same molds that Crack Jack did to create the original game pieces.

Cracker Jack didn’t just have a hand in the creation of the Monopoly pieces. It was found that the candlestick from Clue also was originally a mold for a Cracker Jack prize.

The Originals

The first 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. It is thought the character was based off J.P. Morgan.

The iron and cannon have since been retired and replaced with new pieces. The reason the cannon and battleship were included was because they were leftover pieces from a failed board game called Conflict. The thimble and shoe are still a part of Monopoly.

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. 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 is also still included in the game today. The Scottie dog has been voted as the most popular piece of all time, acting as Mr. Monopoly’s sidekick.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Regardless of how the pieces were originally selected to be part of the game, the meanings for the current pieces, with a couple exceptions, better match the game itself. The top hat, racecar, and Scottie dog all seem to represent money.

The thimble, wheelbarrow, and shoe are more representative of hard work. They are more hands-on tools for making money as opposed to getting rich quick. Of course, the battleship was included because it was a leftover from another game. The eighth current piece is the cat, which was recently voted in as the iron was retired.

Materials

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. They then attempted to use lead and tin to keep the pieces from discoloring. When World War II broke out, they had to switch to wooden pieces.

Following the war, they went back to die-cast pieces, making them out of pewter. The pewter is still the standard for the pieces of today. There have been a few special pieces like the Franklin Mint sets that had 22-karat gold-plated pieces.

+ Bonus Knowledge Nugget

Monopoly’s game makers Hasbro came under fire in early 2016 after the release of its newest game edition of Star Wars. The game only came with four pieces, including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Finn. There was an outcry as the character Rey was missing from the board game, even though she is the main character of the movie. More comically, Darth Vader is already dead before the start of the movie, so his piece seems a bit uncalled for. Or if you consider that the standard game of Monopoly has eight pieces, the omission of Rey seems all the more absurd. Hasbro had claimed they omitted Rey to get rid of spoilers since the game was released before the movie. But of course, that does not really make sense since she was included in the movie’s trailer.