SALEM — Thousands upon thousands of Monopoly game tokens were manufactured in Salem while the Parker Brothers’ Bridge Street factory hummed with activity.
This week, it was announced that one of those tokens, the iron, will be retired and replaced with a cat.
The change was decided in a fan contest on facebook.com. The results were announced Wednesday after the shoe, wheelbarrow and iron were neck and neck for elimination in the final hours of voting. The cat won favor over a robot, diamond ring, helicopter and guitar tokens.
“It’s always bittersweet to see an element of tradition disappear,” said Phil Orbanes, the former senior vice president of research and development and in-house Monopoly expert at Parker Brothers. “It also sends a signal that Monopoly is as vibrant today as it was in 1935 when it became a nationwide hit.”
Monopoly has close ties to the North Shore. Generations worked for Parker Brothers at their factory in Salem — now the site of the Jefferson at Salem Station condominiums — and later at their corporate headquarters in Beverly.
The Salem factory closed and was torn down in 1994. Monopoly is now owned and manufactured by Rhode Island-based Hasbro Inc.
A group of former Parker Brothers employees still get together for a reunion every year, usually in Beverly.
“Monopoly and Salem and Beverly are synonymous,” said Orbanes, a judge at the annual Monopoly world championships. “... Many people still tell me, after all these years, the greatest job they ever had was at Parker Brothers.”
This winter’s contest to chose a new token marks the first time fans have had a say on which of the eight tokens to add and which one to toss. The pieces, which identify the players, have undergone some changes since Parker Brothers bought the game from its original designer in 1935.