Originally created 11/05/06

Book looks at popularity of time-tested 'Monopoly'



If you're a fan of Monopoly, do not pass go but head directly to the bookshelf and pick up Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game - and How It Got That Way.

If you have even a passing interest in the history of games in the United States, the Depression era or economics, the book's not a bad read for you, either.

As a bonus, if you've always liked Monopoly but haven't quite been able to savor as many victories as you'd like, author Philip E. Orbanes drops a hint or two about winning strategies. (Hint: The orange properties are golden.)

Mr. Orbanes' book unravels the long and complicated history of Monopoly, from its humble beginnings as a teaching tool in college classrooms through its explosion as an American phenomenon.

A newcomer to the world of Monopoly history will find Mr. Orbanes' book to be a revelation. Who knew that Monopoly games were used to smuggle maps and other materials to prisoners of war during World War II?

It's just such nuggets, along with numerous photographs of vintage games, that make the book such an enjoyable read. It also satisfies on a number of levels; it's not just a book about the game.

After all, Monopoly wasn't created out of a vacuum. Its earliest incarnation dates to the 1900s, when it started as a way to teach students about finance and real-life monopolies before it became available to the game-buying public in 1934.

In telling the story of the game, Mr. Orbanes sheds light on the history of the era in which the game was born, the legal fight about its trademarks and creator, and the evolution of the game itself.

For the truly hard core, Mr. Orbanes includes a plethora of information in the appendixes, including descriptions of various versions of the game during the years, the original 1936 rules, and excerpts from patents pertinent to Monopoly's history.

Mr. Orbanes' gushing about the game toward the end of the book comes off as a tad self-serving, given that he had worked as a senior vice president at Parker Brothers, the game's manufacturer. He has also served as the chief judge at the U.S. and world Monopoly championships since 1979.

Clearly, the book was a labor of love for Mr. Orbanes. Anyone looking for a more critical assessment of Monopoly and its role in American culture should look elsewhere. (There's no denying the enduring popularity of the game: Who can argue with more than 250 million copies sold worldwide?)

At the very least, the book will motivate readers to pull the game out of the hall closet.

Just remember, buy the oranges.