10 Things You Didn’t Know: Vintage board games

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This Top Ten list was inspired by the Donal Markey toy auction, in which an early hand-painted wood Monopoly game board was estimated to sell for $3,500 to $4,500 but brought sold for $23,000. See page 50 for the sale results.

1. The oldest backgammon game was discovered in 2004 in the Burnt City in Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran. The 5,000-year-old game is caled “Nard” in Persian.

2.   Mancala (similarly Wari, Gabata, Hus) was first played without a board; players used holes made in the sand or soil and played with pebbles or seeds. Mancala is a game of mathematical skill and may be the oldest game in existence.

3. George S. Parker founded Parker Brothers in Salem, Mass., in 1883 at the tender age of 16. The company was the first to specialize in games offering simple fun rather than emphasizing morals or values.

4. Milton Bradley is often credited with launching the board game industry in the United States. He set up his first color lithography shop in Springfield, Mass., in 1860.

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5. There have been hundreds of versions of Monopoly produced, including locally-themed Monopoly games. The exact number of variations is unknown because Milton Bradley/Hasbro licenses the design rights to smaller companies for custom versions. It is licensed in 103 countries for 37 languages.

6. The game “Bingo” started in 1530 in Italy. It is related to a lotto game named “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d Italia.” New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe transformed the popular carnival game “Beano” (named for the dried beans used to cover a numbered grid) to the recognizable “Bingo.”

7. Eleanor Abbott (while recuperating from polio in the 1940s) invented games to help children deal with the endless hours of bed rest. She invented Candy Land for children who had not yet learned to read. The game has been continually produced since 1949.

8. In 2005, French artist/jeweler Bernard Maquin directed 30 craftsmen who spent 4,500 hours (and a total of $500,000) creating the Royal Diamond Chess set. The gold, platinum and jewel-encrusted set carries a retail price tag of $7.8 million.

9. The world’s largest board game is The War Game: World War II, by Jeffry Stein of Burbank, Calif. The board measures 6 feet 5 inches long by 3 feet 2 inches wide and weighs 13.8 pounds. 

10. The fastest time to complete Operation was 21.87 seconds. The feat was achieved by Maharoof Decibels of India at the Guinness World Records Pavilion in Dubai, Nov. 28, 2008.

Sources: Strong Museum of Play (); LiveAuctioners.com, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency; wikianswers.com; bingohistory.org; most-expensive.net; www.ccgs.com; www.guinnessworldrecords.com.

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