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A celebration more fun than passing Go

Monopoly, which turns 70 this year, rides the Reading Railroad to success.

May 27, 2005|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

Two-thirds of American households with children ages 8 to 17 own and play the game, according to research by Hasbro. And Monopoly consistently ranks at or near the top among bestselling board games, according to the NPD Group, which analyzes entertainment trends.

"It's a rite of passage," says Mark Blecher of Hasbro. "It taps into a core fantasy....

"It lets you become Donald Trump."

Orbanes attributes Monopoly's enduring appeal to "the social interaction that occurs around the table." Players can wheel and deal and experience the pleasure of bankrupting their friends and family.

Monopoly owes at least some of its popularity to a succession of publicity stunts designed to keep it in the limelight.

Before Hasbro took over in 1991, Parker Bros. operated more like a book publisher than a toy company, Orbanes says. "They saw no need to exploit the brand to the fullest." For decades, the company sold only two versions of the game: standard and deluxe, he says.

Hasbro has punched up the game's marketing. In 1998, the company asked the public to vote for a new metal game token. The winner was a bag of money, which outpolled a biplane and a piggy bank. Two years ago, Hasbro conducted a national Monopoly tournament aboard a chartered train traveling from Chicago to Atlantic City. The contest, which was won by a UC Irvine student, garnered such widespread news coverage that "Saturday Night Live" spoofed it on "Weekend Update."

The latest gimmick is the 70th anniversary edition of the game, packaged in a metal tin, with skyscraper hotels and fancier tokens (the shoe is now a high heel).

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Grab your top hat

If there's ever a Monopoly edition of Trivial Pursuit, here are some questions that could be included:

How many little green houses have been constructed by Parker Bros.? (Answer: 8.25 billion)

What is Boardwalk called in France? (Rue de la Paix)

Why do players receive $1,500 at the start of the game? (It was the median annual household income in 1935, when Parker Bros. debuted the game)

What was the original name of Mr. Monopoly, the game's mustachioed mascot? (Rich Uncle Pennybags; his wife's name is Madge)

Which Atlantic City property is misspelled? (Marvin Gardens. The correct spelling is Marven Gardens. In 1995, Parker Bros. erected a bronze sign at the site acknowledging the error.)

What is the name of the inmate in the jail square? (Jake the Jailbird)

Which game tokens were retired in the 1950s? (Lantern, purse, rocking horse)

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-- Roy Rivenburg

Sources: Hasbro, Associated Press

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