Monopoly: A Photo Essay

This photo essay was commissioned by Artifice editors from Roxane Gay, an Issue 1 contributor. As you can see, Roxane collects Monopoly sets…

I collect Monopoly sets. I am not, I don’t think, a creepy collector.  TV crews from A & E won’t be descending upon my apartment any time soon to film an episode of Hoarders. I am also not the kind of collector who gets frothy at the mouth about keeping her collection in pristine or “mint” condition. I keep it stored in a closet and I even play with some of the Monopoly sets. I am mostly interested in fancy Monopoly sets with unique designs and Monopoly sets from far flung places. The less I can understand the game board, the happier I am.

Did you know there’s an Express Monopoly game? It’s great for the Monopoly lover on  the go and it comes in a tidy little canister. I must admit it mostly sucks as a Monopoly game but it’s unique so I keep it around for kicks. I like to look at the canister which is cute.

These are my boring Monopoly sets–the original game, a couple updated Here & Now editions, and a sweet electronic banking edition which is great for those days when you’re feeling too lazy to have to deal with all that Monopoly money and arguing over who’s going to be the banker and so on. What’s pretty charming about these sets is how happy the Monopoly man is. Look at his arms eagerly outstretched? Look how zippy he is? I love the Monopoly man. We’re totally May December.

Please note that I do not connect branded Monopoly sets like the Harry Potter game or the Harley Davidson game or Texasopoly and other abominations. Those versions make me sad. To be honest, they offend me deeply. We don’t really need a Simpsons Monopoly game, do we?

The International Euro edition is a curious set. It tries to offer a bit of each country in the EU but it’s a super compact game board–very efficient, much like Europeans themselves.

Target is the most amazing store in the world and from time to time they sell super sexy Monopoly sets. This set, designed by Michael Graves, who I only know was the awesome Target designer, is so sexy it requires the use of a condom. I actually had to cut the condom open to get the set out. It was clinging to the Monopoly set for dear life.

One of the many reasons I love shopping in Target is that they give some real thought to the aesthetics of the shopping experience. You’re in a discount department store, certainly but there’s no reason to not feel chic about the whole thing. The best part of this set are the houses in blue and red, made out of a soft rubbery material. The board is shiny in the middle and could substitute as one of those sun tan reflectors in a pinch.

Apartheid is over thank goodness so I don’t feel guilty about owning a Monopoly set from South Africa. One of the most interesting things about Monopoly sets from around the world is that you can start to get a sense, in a small way, of what that culture values. It’s also really interesting to see how the Monopoly pieces and houses and Chance/Community chest and property cards differ from one country to the next.

This set is from Hong Kong. It has never been opened. It’s like a fortune cookie. I’m hoping that if I leave the box sealed for long enough, the Monopoly money will become real money and then I will be rich.

In London, the Monopoly franchise is published by Waddington’s. That sounds so British, doesn’t it? It also makes me think of Paddington Bear. I love Paddington Bear.

I love Spanish. I love the way it sounds. I love Univision and how the announcer on Sabado Gigante is always so excited. When I speak Spanish, I do so very slowly and when I’m around Spanish speaking people I mostly pretend I don’t speak Spanish so they don’t think I’m simple. Doing that also makes me feel like I’m an undercover spy, I’m Sydney Bristow with a sassy pink wig, because I can understand them and they don’t know it. It feels like the best secret. One of the best things about Alias was how Jennifer Garner faked speaking 20 different languages so well. *That* is acting. This Monopoly set is from a Spanish-speaking country but I cannot remember which. I think it might be from Spain. That’s the kind of collector I am, too, casual and disorganized. There’s also a little sadness in this box because, the game pieces are like the Sorry pieces, just little pieces of brightly colored plastic. That’s kind of discriminatory, isn’t it? Like what, Spanish-speaking people don’t deserve the little metal thimbles and wheelbarrows and roller skates and whatnot? La libertad para los descamisados!

Parker Brothers knows how to make money and keep on making money. Every five years or so they release nostalgia editions and suckers like me buy them. This is a reproduction of the 1935 edition with little wooden houses and such. It’s all very quaint.

I became obsessed with collecting Monopoly sets because as a kid, I would often play the French version of Monopoly when I was visiting family in Haiti. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that this game I played in the States was the same game people were playing all around the world. We had this one, great thing in common, this adoration of capitalism. Yes, I was exceptionally mature and insightful. I have two French sets–one I play and one I keep in creepy collector pristine condition. The French also get screwed in terms of game pieces. It’s not fair.

Ebay is a vicious, cutthroat place and I get most of my Monopoly sets via auction where Monopoly sellers are a nefarious lot, charging relatively exorbitant amounts of money for a game that costs $12. I cringe whenever I reflect upon how much money I’ve spent on my collection. This set is from the Middle East. I think of it as my firstborn’s college education. I don’t have a firstborn yet so it basically sucks to be that kid but hey, you can get a great education at a community college these days. Not all is lost. The writing on the board is so pretty even if I don’t have a damn clue what any of it means.

Like I said, Target is awesome. This wooden marvel is another Michael Graves design. It is sleek and sexy. This is my primary Monopoly set. When I play it, I feel sophisticated and fancy just like when I shop at Target.

As a child, I was pretty impressed by the Franklin Mint monopoly set. Gold! Fancy wood! Awesome infomercial! I dated someone once who owned the Franklin Mint set and playing with it was one of the bigger disappointments of my life–all that money for a Monopoly set decorated like a tacky High Roller suite in Atlantic City. Though I wouldn’t mind owning one, I would mind paying $495 (at the time) for the privilege so I was ecstatic when Parker Brothers released their 70th anniversary (I think, that kind of collector) limited edition, a poor man’s Franklin Mint set with an art deco aesthetic. Gold plastic flourishes! Fake gold and silver hotels and houses! Cheap wood! $75! Reno! Every time I play this version, I feel quite smug, like I’ve gotten an excellent bargain. Smug is also how I feel when I shop at DSW or when I get Mediterranean and Baltic Aves, Boardwalk and Park Place and North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Pacific Avenues and you’re forced to run through a gauntlet of properties I own each and every time you make your way around the board. Suckas!

4 responses to “Monopoly: A Photo Essay

  1. I collect Monopoly games, too, but your collection far exceeds mine! Also, I don’t have the prejudice against the local Monopoly games, in fact I find them fascinating! I am dying to own a San Francisco-opoly and a Chico-opoly. I have a strong preference for the square boards, however. Oh, and have you ever played Double Monoopoly? It’s great fun! You overlap square boards at Free Parking and play in a figure eight pattern. In order to build houses one must own all of a color on one board. It takes a couple of days to play it out, so it’s good for long holiday weekends, big family get-togethers and when snowed in (or otherwise miserable weather.)

  2. Double Monopoly? Dude! That is awesome!

  3. I really like this blog post, it has some great info. Thank you and keep up good work.<a href="">absa internet banking</a>

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