Originally Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2013, 1:26 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 30, 2013, 2:40 pm

Editorial: Monopoly's Death Row

Comment on this story

The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus

Forget about going directly to Jail without collecting $200. Nearly eight decades after its birth, the owners of Monopoly have put eight of the game's classic tokens on death row.

Only Facebook voters can win a reprieve for their favorite game pieces. Their votes will decide whether it's curtains for the battleship, iron, racecar, Scottie dog, shoe, thimble, top hat or wheelbarrow.

In all of its history, Monopoly's website says, 20 tokens have been cast. Soon another will leave and a new one will join them because, in addition to voting "out" a token in this Facebook campaign, you can help to vote one "in." New choices are diamond ring, guitar, toy robot, cat or helicopter.

Before the purists among us in love with the old days get exercised over this excising, remember this isn't the first time tokens have changed.

Yes, most of the pieces now on the block were part of the very first game introduced by Parker Brothers in 1935, but that original game also included a lantern, purse, cannon and rocking horse. The tokens, which we're told were inspired by the charms in a bracelet owned by Creator Charles Darrow's niece, also weren't always made out of metal. In World War II, when metal was vital to the war effort, they were wooden. Game pieces also have been made out of chocolate and gold and diamonds.

We suspect most Americans played a far less fancy form of Monopoly at least once in their lives. Many of them, many, many times. Indeed, before that television in the living room had double digit channels to choose from families gathered around the Monopoly, Trouble and Clue boards for entertainment. No wonder more 275 million games have been sold in 111 countries and in 43 languages. Hasbro says more than a billion people have played the game, sometimes for serious purpose. According to the Monopoly website, "Escape maps, compasses and files were inserted into Monopoly game boards smuggled into POW camps inside Germany during World War II. Real money for escapees was slipped into the packs of Monopoly money."

For many players, the game holds a treasure trove of wonderful memories, even those marathon sessions which felt like they rivaled the longest Monopoly game on record -- 70 straight days. Especially when the winner was a board-game whiz of a younger brother whose amazing luck and wise investments helped to account for a goodly portion of the six billion little green houses and 2.25 billion red hotels Hasbro says have been "constructed" since 1935. (Oh, and did we mention, he put them ALL on Boardwalk and Park Place?)

But times have changed, and who can blame Hasbro for trying to keep the game relevant in an electronic age? Indeed, recent versions of the classic game have replaced paper money with an electronic bank, iPads have entered the field of play and there also are apps for smartphones and tablets.

The "Save Your Token" campaign is a clever way to use the explosion of social media to sell products and add to the 10 million Facebook fans the game's current owner, Hasbro, said already are on board as Monopoly "friends."

Comments on the page offer just a hint of the memories stored in the brains of longtime users.

One, for example, wrote, "That ugly shoe needs to go, Although I did swallow the top hat when I was 3 so we never had it! I vote for the robot."
Which token is in trouble? Just about everyone but the Scottie Dog and the racecar, when we last checked. Who knows how many votes will come in before the campaign closes next Wednesday. (The winner -- and loser -- will be announced next Wednesday.)

So, if you don't want the shoe to get the boot, or the battleship to sink, or any of your favorite game pieces to disappear forever, you had better hurry.
As Hasbro urges, "Don't leave this one to Chance."