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Philip E. Orbanes papers

 Collection — Box: 1-21
Identifier: 112.7138
The Philip E. Orbanes papers contain materials from 1905 through 2012, with the bulk of the material dated from 1967-2005. The items in this collection include game designs, game instructions, personal and business correspondence, legal contracts, photographs, reference materials, research notes, and newspaper/magazine articles utilized by Philip (“Phil”) Orbanes throughout his lengthy career in the toy and game industry. This collection also includes research materials (including photocopies of materials from the Parker Brothers’ corporate archives) used by Phil Orbanes for his books The Monopoly Companion (Bob Adams, Inc. Publishers: Boston, 1988), The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit (Harvard Business School Press: Boston, 2004), and Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game – And How It Got That Way (Da Capo Press: Boston, 2006). Additional scope and content information is listed for each series under the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

The Philip E. Orbanes papers are arranged into nine series, three of which are further divided into subseries. The collection is housed in 21 archival document boxes. Digital video comprises one series, located on the internal network of The Strong.


  • 1905 - 2013
  • Majority of material found within 1967 - 2006


Conditions Governing Access and Use

This collection is open to research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


12 Linear Feet (21 boxes)


The Philip E. Orbanes papers are a compilation of correspondence, legal contracts, newspaper articles, reference materials, research notes, game advertisements, photographs, audio files, and other papers collected and used by Philip E. Orbanes over the course of his career in the American toy and game industry. The bulk of the materials are from 1967 through 2005. Staff at The Strong recorded a video oral history of Orbanes in 2013.

Biographical Note

Philip Orbanes was born and raised in Cape May County, New Jersey. During his adolescence, he took a strong interest in playing and inventing board and strategy games. After graduating high school in 1965, Orbanes founded Gamescience Corporation, the first of many entrepreneurial endeavors. Over the next few years, he and his partners provided game designs for companies such as Renwal Products, which bought the assets of Gamescience in 1968. Gamescience soon became Operation Design Corporation (later integrated into Orbanes’ new company, Infinity Quest Corporation). Infinity Quest focused on developing strategy games, consumer electronic programs, and puzzles. It also acquired the game magazine Strategy & Tactics. This early foray into the game industry helped to fund Orbanes’ undergraduate education at Case Western Reserve University. Throughout the 1970s, Orbanes cultivated strong relationships with other game designers, including Sid Sackson. He worked for Gamut of Games during this decade as well.

Orbanes joined Ideal Toy Corporation in 1976 as director of its games division. His initiative and acumen soon led him to Massachusetts-based Parker Brothers, where he became director of new product research in 1979. Parker Brothers named Orbanes vice president of product development in 1980, then senior vice president of research and development in 1985. During his time at Parker Brothers, Orbanes developed a reputation as an authority on the game Monopoly, serving as a chief judge at U.S. and world Monopoly tournaments. In 1990, Orbanes left Parker Brothers to establish his own consulting business. Along with three other seasoned game industry professionals, he launched another game company, Winning Moves Games, in 1995. Winning Moves, located in Danvers, Massachusetts, frequently produced classic card and board games licensed from companies such as Hasbro, Inc., the owner of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley games. As of 2013, Orbanes serves as vice chairman of Winning Moves, following his lengthy tenure as president of the company.

In 1988, with the permission of Parker Brothers, Orbanes authored The Monopoly Companion. This book explained the oft-contended origins of the game, its colorful history, and strategies for players. He also continued to acquire his own personal collection of rare and unique versions of Monopoly, many of which appeared in subsequent books. The March 2002 issue of the Harvard Business Review published an article by Orbanes called “Everything I Know about Business I Learned from Monopoly,” prompting his renewed research on the history of Parker Brothers. He conducted interviews with members of the Parker family and former Parker Brothers employees, and gained access to George S. Parker’s personal archives. The resulting book, The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit (2004), traced Parker Brothers from its 1883 inception through the start of the 21st century. He followed with Monopoly: The World’s Most Famous Game–And How It Got That Way (2006) and Monopoly, Money, and You: How to Profit from the Game’s Secrets of Success (2013).

System of Arrangement

Series I: Personal and business correspondence, 1960-1994

Series II: Contracts and agreements, 1968-1979

Series III: Game designs and instructions, 1936-1994

Subseries A: Orbanes-created games
Subseries B: Other designer-created games
Subseries C: Published instructions/game materials

Series IV: Toy and game reference materials, 1935-1990

Subseries A: News articles
Subseries B: Magazines
Subseries C: Toy and game company sales brochures/catalogs
Subseries D: Toy and game industry newsletters
Subseries E: Other publications

Series V: Orbanes’ research files, 1905-2012

Subseries A: Parker Brothers company history
1.Name/subject files
2.News articles
Subseries B: George S. Parker
Subseries C: Monopoly
1. Name/subject files
2. Variations of Monopoly
3. Publications
4. Anti-Monopoly trial transcripts

Series VI: Photographs, 1970s

Series VII: Audio, 1958-1991

Series VIII: Parker Brothers reference binders, 1979, 1982

Series IX: Video oral history, 2013

Custodial History

The Philip E. Orbanes papers were donated to The Strong in December 2012 as a gift from Philip E. Orbanes. These materials were accessioned by The Strong under Activity ID 11530, Object ID 112.7138. (In addition to these papers, The Strong received a sizeable donation of board games, puzzles, card games, video games, trade catalogs, and books from Philip E. Orbanes within the same Activity ID.)

Related Materials

For more on George S. Parker and the Parker family, see also the Parker family papers (donated to The Strong by Orbanes in 2020). Additional information on the Parker Brothers Co. can be found in the Collection of John J. Fox Parker Brothers oral histories.

Revision Note

This finding aid was updated in May 2013 with additional clarification on dates of games, based on information provided by Philip E. Orbanes. Also, it was updated in June 2013 to reflect a subsequent donation and the addition of the video oral history to this collection. Revised in January 2021 to note Parker family papers in archives.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, March 2013


Finding Aid to the Philip E. Orbanes Papers, 1905-2013
Julia Novakovic
26 June 2013
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)