Let’s Play Monopoly

Submitted by Michael Ely May 30th, 2010
Certifikitsch Winner

This is a collection of Monopoly tokens ranging from the 1930’s to the near present. My partner and I built the display case out of a vintage Monopoly board framed in wood with glass for the shelves. On the second shelf down from the top, you will see composite tokens (pink elephant, yellow pig, red train, etc.) made during World War Two (as metal was scarce). The third shelf contains World War tokens from the United Kingdom (including an army tank).

The original game did not come with tokens. You were instructed to use coins or buttons. Then one day the inventor of the game saw his little daughter using Cracker Jack charms as tokens and the idea came to him. The original tokens were an iron, cannon, thimble, ship, shoe and top hat, and the deluxe version also had a car, lantern, rocking horse and a purse (the purse is my favorite token).

btw, I love collecting tokens, but I hate the game itself (too long and boring to play)!!!

21 Responses to “Let’s Play Monopoly”

  1. Allee Willis

    Beautiful display. And I love the history of everything. Do you still actively collect old Monopoly tokens?

    I really love when collections get obscure like this and it’s so great that you have everything displayed together.

    I never had much patience for Monopoly either. I absolutely loved the paper money and the sound the tokens made as you clunked them around the board but that’s as far as my fascination went. I was never very good at strategizing things financial.

    • Michael Ely

      Oh Allee, I’m no good when it comes to strategizing things financial either, not when it comes to games or in real life.

      I have never been that much into playing games. I could care less about winning.

      There are still a couple of composite tokens from WW2 that I would love to have (man on horse and battleship), and every now and then a new version of tokens are released that I may find interesting, however I have nearly run out of shelf space!

  2. windupkitty

    oh wow…..so cool to know the history of the game…i had no idea….and I LOVE your display case! It makes my day!!

    i love that you’ve collected all the tokens…the best ting about the game…i never had time for it either….it’s boring and kinda mean (hell, i used to throw games of candy land cause i felt guilty if my little sister lost!), but always stole the little silver scotty dog to play with it….

    • Michael Ely

      Whenever I ask people what their favorite token is, 9 times out of 10 they pick the little scotty dog! There’s just something about it. Maybe it reminds people of Toto. It was introduced to the game right after the end of WW2.

      • windupkitty

        wow, thanks for the history!!! yeah, maybe it’s the toto vibes that everyone loves…..he was such a noble little guy!

          • windupkitty

            SHUT, UP.!!!!!!! Are you kidding me????? That’s the one of the greatest movies EVER made!!! It’s a kitsch lover’s dream too!!!!!!!

            When i was a kid, it would be on tv once a year and seriously, my life was planned around that day….my mother even set up our tape recorder (little plastic mic in front of our tiny black and white tv) and taped the whole thing…i listened to those tapes religiously…it’s still weird to see that movie because i know every single sound so well…

            i recently watched it again at a friend’s house (who has promised to build me aplace exactly like munchkin land and I am definitely holding him to it!) for my first “dark side of the oz” experience (the phenomenon in which Pink Flyod’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is played while watching Oz and it mysteriously syncs to the film….which yeah, it did, but when that cd ran out it also synched up beautifully with Django Rheinhardt and Memphis MInnie…coincidence?!)

            OK, you have to watch it immediately…it will blow your mind…….I can’t even rest until you so this!!!!! :D

            • Allee Willis

              I have a thing about certain things that would seem so obvious that I would have done that I’ve never done. I’ve certainly seen enough clips that I probably have seen the whole movie but I get very annoyed with musicals which, of course, makes no sense in my universe as I have written a hit musical. It’s just one of those insane incongruities about me that I may have to hold onto…

  3. Douglas Wood

    I’m bowled over by this brilliantly crafted, stunning display, but not as floored as I am by the admission that Allee has never seen THE WIZARD OF OZ. This flies in the face of all that I (and I’m sure my fellow akitschianados) know (or think we know) about you. Clearly your friends and family need to stage some sort of intervention and get you to a screening A.S.A.P.

    • Allee Willis

      No, no, all my friends know this about me. I’m far, far, far, far, far more into the obscure then I am the mainstream. I’m not hidden about this fact at all. So between me finding musicals annoying and all of the big stars in the Wizard of Oz mixed in with how often it was shown on TV this is a perfect formula for what I don’t watch. I’m blanking right now but there are so many films, places, etc. that I’ve never experienced it would only shock someone who knows me from afar. You’ll get a better and better sense of my tastes as we proceed here. You saw how fast I ran to rent ‘The Room’ when you told me about it or how excited I got about that Liberace Hot Nut Dispenser when you wouldn’t have gotten a rise out of me had it been Marilyn Monroe memorabilia ( though I’m going to see a show of the largest collection of that ever assembled this Tuesday night). It’s the non commercial things that slide under the wire that get me going and not the big hits fare. I’m very secure with all this because my career takes me to very legitimate high places. It’s the incongruity between very high level experiences I have in my life and my love of kitsch that takes me to things that might be considered ‘low’ or ‘off’ that makes it so much fun for me.

      • Michael Ely

        Allee, I understand about The Wizard of OZ. Hey, if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.

        Just curious, are there any film musicals that you do like? I personally like some musicals, but I don’t think many of them translate well to film. I think they work better on a stage. Exceptions for me would be a musical such as Cabaret where the numbers are performed on a stage within the film.

        Also curious, if musicals annoy you in general, were you hesitant to work on The Color Purple? How did you approach the work? What were your influences if not other musicals?

        • Allee Willis

          I did The Color Purple because I thought it was the greatest book ever written. A friend of mine had bought the rights to do TCP as a musical. Originally I was only brought on as a consultant. I had to advise on other songwriters until I a year and a half later there were going to be auditions. Although I had never read the book or seen the movie I was very aware of the impact both had made on the culture at the time of their release. Once I knew that I had a chance to audition I read the book and saw the movie over a period of four days. The movie did nothing for me compared to the book which slayyyyed me more than anything I’d ever read in my life. The chance to get to live inside of that powerful of a work and to be able to work with such brilliant characters was very appealing as an artist to me. I had been multitasking in my career and changing focus every few hours for the last 20 years so this was the kind of space I was looking for artistically. In addition, the music I wrote was Pop R&B. BUT When I stopped writing music in the 90’s to pursue technology (https://www.alleewillis.com/technology/index.html) it was a very white tech world. I really needed to get back to my soul roots and I couldn’t think of any better way than to immerse myself in something that was so much a part of African-American culture.

          This is a lonnnnnngggg story so only a brief summary here as to how I actaully got my head into writing a musical. I’m a firm believer that no one can walk into a field that’s unknown to them and just taken over by storm without learning why audience loves the medium. And that of course means that you need to understand why musicals work. My collaborators, Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray, and I took a full year listening to every musical cast soundtrack we could find and watching the few that were on DVD due to completely stupid Equity rules that prohibit shows from being taped. I did always love the music to a lot of 50s and 60s musicals, it was later more contemporary musicals that left me running out of the theater or shutting off the soundtrack after four bars. We finally saw an incredible CD chronicling the making of the “Company” cast recording. I got very interested in Sondheim and how he wrote for characters. It felt very similar to how I approached characters if I was writing a song for a movie or scoring something animated.

          Eventually it became easier and easier to listen to cast albums and I also constantly surveyed people to know what their favorite musicals were. Then I decided to which rules were going to be important to keep and which rules were not going to allow any individual freedom and away we went for the next four years writing until we opened on Broadway in 2005.

          • Douglas Wood

            What a great narrative of your involvement in TCP, and I don’t even feel guilty for how much time it took up for you, because now it’s out there for everyone else to read. I also loved the book of TCP when I read it years ago– it is incredibly powerful– but strongly disliked the movie which seemed to strip it of its complexity and edge and treat it as a simplistic, highly sentimental fairy tale. Sounds like the musical is more akin to the book than the movie– I look forward to seeing it.

            • Allee Willis

              Thanks, Doug. The Spielberg movie told a very different story than the book and we were consciously out to restore the story told in the book as it made it Celie, the lead character, so much more powerful. The movie also depicted men as either devils or bumblers but we really tried to explore what it meant to be a man at that time in history in the South. Celie had such a profound effect on the man who abused her most, to the point that Mister, who never really turned around in the movie, evolves in the book and musical so much as a result of his relationship with Celie that he actually asks her to marry him a second time. I wish you could’ve seen it the last time it was here in LA a couple of months ago. That was the last show of the first national tour and included a lot of the original Broadway cast, including Fantasia who was brilliant as Celie. The second national tour is underway now. Whole new cast and staging. I haven’t seen it but I do hear it’s wonderful. No plans for it to come back here though as far as I know. Though LA was always one of our favorite stops. We did three months at the Ahmanson, a month at the Orange County Center for Performing Arts and three weeks at the Pantages in February.

  4. Douglas Wood

    Actually, believe it or not, I completely understand your sensibility because it’s very similar to mine. On paper, it’s probably hard for people to see some of your insanely successful mainstream credits (FRIENDS, COLOR PURPLE) and reconcile those with your passion for kitsch.

    I’ve worked for years in the mainstream entertainment industry, all the while keeping my dirty little secret that I don’t much like anything mainstream.

    I grew up loving the seventies era of personal filmmaking and was so depressed when Star Wars opened, ushering in an era of big budget vapid studio films. I still avoid those films (and all the other mainstream hits, especially formulaic romantic-comedies with big stars and formulaic action pictures that bore me to tears), although every so often I force myself, and dutifully go to a blockbuster so I’m not totally out-of-touch and keep a tenuous grip on what the rest of the world seems to like.

    BUT… having said all of that… THE WIZARD OF OZ transcends everything. It’s a miracle of a film because despite its enormous popularity, it’s actually quirky, kitschy, witty, campy, intelligent, genuinely moving, off-beat, scary, even subversive.

    I can’t think of another mainstream movie that succeeds on so many levels while also thumbing its nose at movie traditions. (For one thing, its low-tech special effects of 1939 are far more fun than any of the “state-of-the-art” CG effects that are everywhere these days.) And how bizarre is it to see a movie that starts out in black and white, switches to color, then back to black and white?

    Throw in lots of midgets, flying monkeys, an Art Deco city, a field of sedating poppies (we all know what THEY produce), and a really depressing ending in which the hero actually prefers the bleak, backwards Kansas farm to the colorful land of Oz and you have a truly avant garde experience.

    And as a consummate songwriter yourself, I can’t believe you wouldn’t totally dig the amazingly clever lyrics (“Yes, it’s sad, believe me missy, when you’re born to be a sissy without the vim and verve/But I could show my prowess, be a lion– not a mou-ess if I only had the nerve.”)

    Ok, I’m done. Thanks for hearing me out. No pressure, but if you ever do decide to see THE WIZARD OF OZ from beginning to end, we all want a full report.

    • Allee Willis

      Well, I will say that if anyone were going to convince me it would probably be you with this excellent account of everything. I’ll see if they have it on Netflix for instant play (which, by the way, has changed my life in the last couple of weeks since I’ve been doing at. The fact that I can have a massive array of movies late at night with no fear of them being punctuated by commercials or ending with nothing else but lousy choices to watch is UNBELEIVABLE). So maybe some night soon I might lie back in the poppy field and watch them all hop down that yellow brick road.