Solid Gold Monopoly Set Arrives on Wall Street
By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The world’s most expensive Monopoly set arrived on Wall Street Friday morning.
Sculpted of solid gold and encrusted with jewels, the $2 million game will be on display for the next two years at the Museum of American Finance.
"It isn’t just a set," said jeweler Sidney Mobell, 84, as he unveiled his handiwork on Friday. "It’s a piece of art."
Sudents crowded around the glass case displaying the golden game on Friday, murmuring and pointing out their favorite features.
"I want it!" said Jakarhi Dupree-Walker, a sixth-grader from the Family Life Academy Charter School in the Bronx. "It's so cool."
Monopoly is one of Dupree-Walker's favorite games, he said, "Because you get money."
Mobell got the idea for a set made of gold when he heard about the 1988 World Monopoly Tournament in London. Parker Brothers gave him a commission, and Mobell spent a year crafting each intricate piece by hand.
The board is plated in 23-karat gold, and all the pieces are made of solid 18-karat gold. Diamonds stud the sides of the dice to mark the numbers. The chimneys on the houses are topped with rubies, while sapphires top the hotels. A glittering topaz marks the light bulb on the "Electric Company" space, and a ruby drips from the faucet on "Water Works."
"It was a lot of fun," said Mobell, who lives in San Francisco.
When Mobell built the set, gold cost about $300 an ounce, he said. Today, gold sells for over $1,300 an ounce, he said.
In 2003, Mobell donated the game — along with other whimsical creations, including a solid gold mousetrap and toilet seat — to the Smithsonian, which is affiliated with the Museum of American Finance.
"Monopoly is a very symbolic game in America," said David Cowen, president of the Museum of American Finance, on Friday morning. "It was popularized during difficult financial times in the 1930s. As the nation again faces difficult economic times, I’m happy to have the item here."
To mark the gold set’s arrival, the museum hosted two rounds of Monopoly tournaments Friday, one for children and one for adults. Winners received standard Monopoly sets made of cardboard, plastic and paper.
As games went on all around him Friday morning, Mobell said he wasn’t tempted to join in.
"I’m a terrible player," he said with a laugh, recalling the time former British Prime Minister Edward Heath easily defeated him while playing on the gold set. "One of these kids could beat me up and down."