Collecting 1950’s: Vintage Board Games

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.

Hi folks, it’s Retro Dee and Collecting 1950’s!

Board games are always a fun way to spend a night in with the family. Even today, when video game systems, i-pads and smart phones have taken over the world, nothing is quite like the family fun interaction of a good ole fashioned board game.

Many classics that we still have today were available back then such as “Monopoly”, “Scrabble”, “Sorry”, “Chutes and Ladders”, and my personal favorite, “Clue”.

“Clue” came out just at the end of the 1940’s, and first arrived on the market with simple cartoon drawings depicting the six suspects on the box.


“Clue” circa 1950

By 1956, Parker Brothers had already updated Clue, with a bit more detail given to the characters, but not yet the classic Clue game that most of us are familiar with.

Suspect cards in “Clue” ca. 1956

Trivia: “Risk” is another classic board game that we still have today. It first debuted in 1957 and became the most popular game of the entire decade.

In addition to the classics that have withstood the test of recreational game time, there were some games that were unique to the era. They were based on stars, TV shows and popular characters of the time. Such as “Dragnet” (1955) and “Calling Superman” (1954). There was even “The Elvis Presley Game” marketed in 1957!  It came with a free poster of The King himself in the box.


Calling Superman: A Game of News Reporting (1954)

Also in 1957, Milton Bradley came out with “Name That Tune”, based on the popular TV game show. It came with its own record so that the players could listen to a part of a song and guess the tune.  Or, as the box eloquently states, “It plays excerpts from the world’s finest melodies.”  You might tend to think that the songs in the game would be popular hits of the time, but they weren’t. They were really just classic folk songs such as “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”, “Skip To My Lou” and “Turkey In The Straw”.



“Name That Tune Game” circa 1957

There was also a Davy Crockett game (with real compass!), a “Howdy Doody TV Game”, a Prince Valiant game, a Hopalong Cassidy game, and a Popeye game, to name only a few more. So what we’re really saying is that in the 1950’s, if it was popular, it was probably made into a game!


Davy Crockett game circa 1950’s

Hopalong Cassidy the Game ca. 1950’s

Through the years, there have been many board games marketed… but nothing is as nostalgic as a game from the Nifty Fifties. So where can you find an original board game in good shape with all it’s pieces?

There are many sellers offering vintage, original games on eBay, in varying conditions. You might also find some on Etsy. I tend to not recommend antique stores unless you don’t mind spending top dollar on collectibles. It’s true that finding an original game in good condition with all its pieces can be a “tour de force” since pieces get lost so easily. But remember that many of these games were mass-produced, so the pieces are out there… you can always buy replacement pieces to go with that board you bought.

While browsing old games from way back, you might wonder which games were actually from the 1950’s, vs. what came out a bit later in the 1960’s. Since new games were coming out on the market all the time, sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. If you’re particularly interested in finding games solely from 1950’s decade, a good rule of thumb is to look at the people on the box. In the 50’s, the happy family illustrated on game boxes was usually a drawing, rather than an actual photograph of people. However, this was true in the early 60’s as well. But one great way to tell, is to check the hairstyles on the women. If there is a “Mom” shown on the box, you can tell the era the game was made in by her hairstyle! Short, neat waves and curled under hair styles usually indicate the 50’s, while slightly longer hair in the “flip” style will indicate the early 60’s. Of course, the only accurate way to properly date a board game would be to look at the copyright year, if you can find it, but it might not always be visible.


1959 ad for Milton Bradley Games: Note that each game retailed for about $2!


I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. For more, please follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here on WordPress. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82


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