Story behind gold Monopoly set

Even the most mundane of Monopoly sets contains over $20,000 in fake money — but this custom-made, jewel-encrusted one-off is estimated to be worth over $2 million, and it’s headed, appropriately enough, for Wall Street.

San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell created the set in the 1980s after he heard about a Monopoly tournament taking place in London. It took a year to complete, and it’s only been played once, in an exhibition game between Mobell and former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. Mobell donated it to the Smithsonian in 2003.

This gold and jewel-encrusted Monopoly game set, on display Friday at the Museum of American Finance, is estimated to be worth roughly $2 million.

According to the Wall St. Journal, 84-year-old Mobell has made his career crafting bizarre, decadent objets d’art.

“He’s made diamond-encrusted yo-yos and mousetraps, as well as solid gold sardine cans, cellphonesand eyeballs,” the Journal reports. “Not to mention a gold toilet seat and garbage cans, long before John Thain’s $35,000 commode made headlines. And Monopoly is not his only contribution to the rarefied world of lavish board games: Mobell has also made bejeweled backgammon, dominos and chess sets.”

Why’s his Monopoly set so expensive? It’s made from 18-karat gold, for starters, and the bling-heavy board is decorated with 165 gems. The two dice are worth $10,000 (don’t lose one under the couch, whatever you do), and boast 42 diamonds for the number pips. The Chance and Community Chest cards are photo-etched sheets.

If you want to see it for yourself, it’s going on display this week at the Museum of American Finance in New York City. And according to Mobell, it’s not for sale.

A Monopoly Board That’s Too Rich for Boardwalk

The world’s most expensive incarnation of the Monopoly board game is headed to Wall Street.

An 18-karat gold version of the famous Parker Brothers board game will be on display beginning Friday at the Museum of American Finance. The gold and jewel-encrusted Monopoly is estimated to be worth roughly $2 million.

The set of dice alone is valued at $10,000, with 42 full-cut diamonds for the number dots. All of the properties that make up the game board are also set in gems, with some 165 gemstones in total. The “Chance” and “Community Chest” cards are photo-etched.

The notion of creating a blinged-out version of the board game came about in 1988, when San Francisco jeweler Sidney Mobell heard about a Monopoly tournament taking place in London. He called Parker Brothers (now part of Hasbro Inc.) for permission and then set to work creating the golden game, working every day for a year straight.

An ounce of gold cost between $360 and $460 when Mobell started working on the game set. Now the price of gold has topped $1,300 an ounce.

When Mobell brought the finished board to London, he was closely followed by guards, he says. “I felt like the king of England.” That was the only time the prized set was played on: a showdown between him and Britain’s former Prime Minster Edward Heath, he says.

Mobell, 84, has staked out a career as an unconventional crafter of decadence. He’s made diamond-encrusted yo-yos and mousetraps, as well as solid gold sardine cans, cellphones and eyeballs. Not to mention a gold toilet seat and garbage cans, long before John Thain’s $35,000 commode made headlines. And Monopoly is not his only contribution to the rarefied world of lavish board games: Mobell has also made bejeweled backgammon, dominos and chess sets.

The Monopoly board will be on display at the Museum of American Finance for two years, on loan from the Smithsonian. It is one of 19 works donated by Mobell in January 2003 in honor of his late wife .

Monopoly’s rich history continues to draw avid followers, competitors and discussion, even a century after it was introduced. A tournament for younger players will take place at the museum this Friday as well.

Mobell relishes the notion that such a decadent symbol of capitalism as a game is heading to the heart of the financial crisis. “The timing is fantastic,” he says. But if any financiers are thinking of blowing their bonuses on the Monopoly board, they should be warned: “The set is not for sale.”

Over half a billion people have played Monopoly since its turn-of-the-century creation. And over the years, we’ve seen almost as many redesigned, reskinned, and remixed “special editions” of the game wend their merry way to toy store shelves. Read on to see some of the good, some of the bad, and a lot of the ugly.

National Parks Edition

Do you hate the National Park system? Contrary to appearances, this might well be the perfect Monopoly for you. Socialized land maintained for the free usage of all? Ridiculous! Bulldoze the trees, and build a bunch of houses! You’ll be laughing all the way to the bank (or at least until you want to go on vacation).

Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition

Who carries cash any more? If Monopoly banknotes seem like a relic of a bygone age, check out this new edition of the game, which replaces them with debit cards and an electronically maintained balance. And yes, that means your little brother won’t be able to short-change you any more.

Monopoly Milk Chocolate Game Edition

If you’ve ever had the urge, upon landing on an opponent’s hotel, to snatch the offending edifice and smugly consume it, here’s the game for you. Just don’t leave it in the sun. Or ever go back to standard Monopoly again, because you’ll probably choke.

Nintendo Monopoly

With playing pieces like Mario’s hat, Link’s shield, a NES controller, and a Koopa shell, this is easily one of our favorite Monopoly special editions. It also comes with 60-minute speed play rules, making it even more lovable.

Monopoly: My American Idol

If you just can’t get enough American Idol, you have our deepest sympathy. But we doubt that’ll be of much use to you, so here’s a picture of a Monopoly special edition that features all your favorite “stars.”

Cat Lover’s Edition

How do you build a hotel on a cat? What do you do when it inevitably gets bored and wanders off? Sadly, we suspect Cat Lover’s Monopoly contains the answer to neither of these questions, because it’s pretty much the regular game but with lots of pictures of cats.

Beatles Monopoly

Well-known for their belief that money can buy you anything (especially love), a Beatles-themed Monopoly game is so obviously an appropriate tribute to the world-famous foursome that we’re surprised it’s taken so long to appear.

Monopoly .Com Edition

Set amid the hubris of the dot-com boom, this increasingly dated Monopoly version features not one, but two appearances of Yahoo! itself. Here’s our suggestion: play the game with a time limit, and rule that once it runs out your properties all become worthless and all your money disappears.

Posted in Games.

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