At 75, Monopoly remains a popular way to play with money
After three-quarters of a century, snapping up property and building houses and hotels remains popular with real-world investors looking to cash in like Monopoly’s mustached mascot.
Monopoly, billed by game-maker Hasbro as the world’s best-selling board game, celebrates its 75th anniversary tomorrow. Its combination of strategy, chance and money management is still as relevant today as a teaching tool as it was when Parker Brothers introduced the game in 1935, business and real estate experts said.
“Very frequently, people will become familiar within a certain area of the city, and they tend to buy multiple properties within a small geographic area,” said Peter Sukernek, general manager and vice president of Howard Hanna’s commercial real estate division. “Creating small monopolies by buying three properties next to each other is something investors do.”
That holds true for properties in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Downtown as much as it does for make-believe plots of gold such as Park Place and Boardwalk, Sukernek said.
“You put up houses, eventually build a hotel and then charge more money,” he said. “If you own adjoining pieces of property in a certain area, maybe, over time, it is more valuable for a bigger use.”
Investing in real estate has similarities to Monopoly’s “chance” cards, Sukernek said.
“In real estate there is chance involved. Crazy things happen,” he said. “I guess chance is a part of life, and it’s part of investing.”
But outside an imaginary world where properties and buildings are bought with colored paper money, investing in actual real estate brings risks such as mortgages and volatile markets, said Cait Poynor, an assistant business professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Rich Uncle Pennybags, whose name was changed in 1999 to Mr. Monopoly, doesn’t have to worry about a housing boom going bust or widespread foreclosures. Even if he did, Forbes.com once listed his worth at $7.1 billion.
“Monopoly is very, very simplified,” Poynor said.
In the game, buying expensive property and building posh developments nearly is a guaranteed success.
“In the real estate bubble world, we’ve learned that really isn’t the case,” Poynor said. “Real estate can be more of a gamble than a sure thing.”
Property values and that of the dollar fluctuate, she said. Diversification of real estate holdings also might be better than monopolizing a block, she added.
“Monopoly doesn’t really take into account that, in the real world, people make choices each step along the way,” Poynor said. “The world was probably a little simpler 75 years ago, but the game of Monopoly has probably always been simplified.”
Still, Poynor said, Monopoly has value as more than a mere game. It teaches children how money works, she said.
“It’s still a good game for kids,” she said. “It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it helps.”
Allegheny County is well represented in Monopoly, although it is widely accepted that Atlantic City, N.J., provided the inspiration for Monopoly’s street names.
Atlantic Avenue — McKeesport, Brackenridge, Forest Hills, Glassport, Elizabeth Township
Baltic Avenue — None
Boardwalk — None, although there was The Boardwalk Entertainment Complex in the Strip District
Connecticut Avenue — Clairton, Beechview, Dormont
Illinois Avenue — Dormont/Mt. Lebanon, Braddock Hills
Indiana Avenue — Glassport, Braddock Hills, McKeesport
Kentucky Avenue — Shadyside, Swissvale, Monroeville, Harrison, Brackenridge, West Mifflin
Marvin Gardens — None, although the phone directory lists a Marvin Gardner as residing in Vanderbilt, Fayette County
Mediterranean Avenue — None, although there is Pitaland Mediterranean Bakery in Brookline
New York Avenue — Ridgemont, Clairton, Port Vue, Turtle Creek
North Carolina Avenue — None, although West Mifflin has both North and Carolina avenues.
Oriental Avenue — None, though there is Oriental Kitchen in Bloomfield, Oriental Express in Oakland and O’Bannon Oriental Carpets in Lawrenceville
Pacific Avenue — McKeesport, Glassport, Forest Hills, Harrison
Park Place — Crafton, Indiana, Kennedy, Ross, Monroeville, Robinson; also a neighbor wedged between Point Breeze and Regent Square
Pennsylvania Avenue — Ben Avon, Bridgeville, Coraopolis, Liberty, Oakmont, Wall, Pitcairn, West Mifflin, Braddock Hills, White Oak, Jefferson, Monroeville, Plum, Ross, Shaler, McKees Rocks, Clairton
St. Charles Place — O’Hara
St. James Place — Fox Chapel, Mt. Lebanon, Shadyside, Oakland, McCandless
States Avenue — None, although there is a State Avenue in Coraopolis, Moon, Collier, Robinson
Tennessee Avenue — Dormont, Glassport
Ventnor Avenue — None
Vermont Avenue — Mt. Lebanon, Glassport
Virginia Avenue — Avalon, Glassport, Munhall, Oakmont, Turtle Creek, West Mifflin, Braddock Hills, Harrison, North Versailles, O’Hara, Aspinwall, Monroeville, Shaler
Note: This list is not comprehensive
Source: Tribune-Review research
• The three most-landed-on properties are Illinois Avenue, “GO” and the B&O Railroad
• Parker Brothers rejected the game when it was first presented to them in 1933, citing 52 fundamental playing flaws
• More than 5,120,000,000 little green houses have been “constructed” since the Monopoly was introduced in 1935
• More than 250 million game sets have been sold worldwide
• The game is published in 37 languages and sold in 103 countries
• The total amount of money in a standard Monopoly game is $15,140
• There are 22 properties that can be built upon
A group of students from the University of Pittsburgh are credited with playing in the first officially recognized Monopoly event in 1961.
The students, members of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, ran out of money for the bank after four days of play. Considering they were playing by official rules, that state the bank never goes broke, they wired Parker Brothers and asked for more money.
Parker Brothers sent $1 million in Monopoly money by plane and had Brink’s Armored Car Service to pick up the cash at the airport. The money was delivered to the fraternity, and the game went on.
There have been more than 100 Monopoly editions made, according to USAopoly, which has a licensing agreement with Hasbro to produce the games. Among editions with local ties:
• Monopoly Pittsburgh
• Steelers Super Bowl XL champions
• Steelers Super Bowl XLIII champions
Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review assistant city editor. You can contact Jason at 412-320-7936, email@example.com or via Twitter .