The Secret History of Monopoly Tokens


The new cat token in Monopoly has now taken up her permanent, and if you ask me rightful, residence in the box. She — I have decided that the cat is a girl — replaces the unpopular iron, which Monopoly fans voted the least popular of the other tokens. As befits a regal beast, she even got her own introductory commercial:

Though the cat’s entrance has been attended by an abnormally high amount of fanfare — cats, such attention whores — this isn’t the first time Monopoly’s manufacturers have revised its token slate. The cat-replacing-iron maneuver was simply the first times that fans got a say. But in fact, even the existence of the tokens themselves was a “change” introduced to the game from its original. As detailed in this neat piece from Cool Material, originally there weren’t any tokens. Players were encouraged to just use common household items to play. Today, if we tried that, I assume there would be too many iPhones covering the board. (Also, my cat would be just about the worst playing piece ever. She resents being told what to do.)

Other interesting tidbits about the pieces:

The cannon was retired quietly, even surreptitiously, in the 1950s. Perhaps someone at Hasbro (Monopoly’s manufacturer) feared the militaristic message it sent. It could also be that someone pointed out that even very rich people don’t have cannons lying around the house, Second Amendment notwithstanding.

The purse blinked in and out of the set for years until the manufacturer abandoned it totally in the early 1950s. It looks… a little like a Birkin, no? Was it the girl token? Did young women gravitate towards it? I like to think that women preferred the top hat.

The sack of money, which was always kind of ugly and bloblike in my humble opinion, only had a short life. It won a contest for most favored new token in 1999, but was retired again by the end of the 2000s. I bet a piggy bank, which was another option in the contest that gave this moneybag life, would have had more longevity.

The Scottie dog, my personal favorite until the cat came along, has actually only been around since the 1950s.

In 2006, a “Monopoly Here & Now” edition replaced the Scottie dog with a Labradoodle, the race car with a Toyota Prius, and the shoe with a New Balance sneaker, and added a Starbucks coffee cup and a Razr cellphone. (Heh, as the latter suggests, times change fast.) Plainly this was a huge mistake. No one wants to have the dated Monopoly set…

… unless it’s a fancy set from the 1930s. Look, the lantern piece — a common piece that was retied with the purse in the 1950s — even had a glass lampshade! And there’s a streetcar! Though personally, I would have claimed the elephant.