A rare find: second known Monopoly "tie box" set in April 11-13 auction A Rare Find: A second “Tie Box” Monopoly set emerges, prompting auctioneer Noel Barrett to relate a toy story that didn’t make it to the Antiques Roadshow
News-Antique.com - Apr 07,2008 - CARVERSVILLE, Pa. – Like the legendary Maltese Falcon, some objects truly are “the things that dreams are made of.” To game collectors, that quite likely would be a Monopoly® set assembled and hand painted by the legendary Charles B. Darrow. Only two sets of this type are known to exist. One of them – a recent discovery – will be sold by vintage toy expert and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Noel Barrett in an April 11-13 auction in New Hope, Pa.
The tangled history of the origins of this game of games is vividly drawn by Philip Orbanes in his definitive work Monopoly - The World’s Most Famous Game & How it Got That Way. Published last year and available through Amazon, it is essential to understanding the Monopoly story. As Orbanes reported, Darrow was not Monopoly’s® true inventor, but it was his energy and enthusiasm that put it on the path to becoming the most popular board game of all time.
Darrow’s first version of this game was made in the round, i.e., as a circular oilcloth game board carefully hand-painted by Darrow himself. This original circular game can be seen at the Forbes Gallery in New York City. It was purchased at auction for more than $60,000. Along with the round version, a copy of one of his square oilcloth boards is also on view.
These first sets were handmade by Darrow for friends and family – laboriously drawn with a drafting pen on white oilcloth, followed by various colors painted onto the appropriate squares. At best, he could complete one per day, which he typically sold for $4. His next step to keep up with demand (everyone who played it seemed to want a copy), was to arrange for a printer to print the deeds on colored cardboard and the black line art directly onto the oilcloth. Then Darrow would apply the appropriate colors by hand.
He bought play money from the dime store, sometimes used Cracker Jack charms for playing pieces, and hand-cut the houses and hotels from scrap wood moldings. Darrow was very frugal in putting these first games together, which brings us to the nomenclature “Tie Box” Monopoly set.
Rather than commissioning a custom box, Darrow found a supply (probably used) of necktie boxes that were just large enough to contain a rolled-up oilcloth board and the game pieces. According to Orbanes, only one other Monopoly set of this type has surfaced prior to the one consigned to Noel Barrett’s April 11-13 auction. That one was included in a lot of three Monopoly games in lighted display cases, with a $60,000+ price tag, and was purchased by an executive of Hasbro, owner of Parker Brothers and, hence, Monopoly. The game is sometimes on display inside the Hasbro headquarters.
Now flash forward to a few weeks ago when Barrett received a phone call from a woman who lives only 40 minutes from the auction gallery. “She had what she believed to be a valuable Monopoly game,