It'll never fly - Monopoly

When Quaker Lizzie Magie of Virginia patented her 'Landlord's Game' in 1904, she can't have imagined it becoming a favourite pastime of capitalists.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The idea had been to teach the evils of land monopolies. Her original - featuring the familiar 'Go to jail' and 'Chance' alongside 'The Poorhouse', 'Rickety Row' and 'Slambang Trolley' - came with two sets of rules, one a precursor of today's 'Monopoly', the other designed to promote egalitarian land-tax theories. It was the former that Charles Darrow took to Parker Brothers in 1935; the games giant turned it down, citing 52 design flaws. When Darrow's home-made version took off, however, the near bankrupt Parker signed it up and paid off rival patent holders (a paltry $500 to Magie with no royalties) to secure a monopoly on 'Monopoly'. The company never looked back. By the close of 1936, it had shifted 1,810,000 sets, picking up an unprecedented $1 million profit. Current owner Hasbro says 250 million sets have been sold worldwide, and there are now more than 1,000 spin-offs, from the Star Wars franchise to 'Brewopoly', 'Redneckopoly' and 'Bibleopoly', in which players buy bricks to build churches. 'Monopoly' itself is adjusting to these property-obsessed times: Mayfair (£400), has been trumped by Kensington Palace Gardens, at £4 million. There's also a version where players pay by credit card. And last year, a section of the Scottish population was outraged over proposals for the Aberdeen version to replace 'Go to jail' with 'Go to Dundee'.

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