Ah, the art of wheeling and dealing – the opportunity to start at the bottom and work towards financial riches and unfathomable wealth. But along with the potential for affluence comes the risk of losing it all. For those not quite ready to take such a risk in real life, board games have long offered a safe way to try one’s hand at this wheeling and dealing world, without the danger of financial ruin. If real estate was your area of interest, you might take a stab at Monopoly, but those with their eye on the art world, Masterpiece was the way to go.
Introduced by Parker Brothers in 1970, Masterpiece thrust players in to the role of art dealer via a set of cards that represented 24 genuine paintings, direct from the Art Institute of Chicago. The worth of each of these masterpieces was determined by a series of value cards, and could fetch as high as $20 million or be revealed as a worthless forgery. With a simple shuffle of the cards at the game’s outset, players were unable to determine the value of these paintings until they were acquired. Each player started with a healthy sum of $1.5 million and their very own masterpiece, the value of which was only known to the owner.
Players were welcome to wheel and deal as themselves, or assume the identity of a number of fictional and stuffy high-rollers such as “Baron von Oberlitzer” or “V. Elton Whitehall.” Each dealer took turns moving around the game board, where they could land on spaces marked “Bank Auction” or “Private Auction” and try to buy and sell paintings with their adversaries. Landing on other spaces afforded the opportunity to inherit paintings, or purchase them from, and sell them to, the bank at set prices. The winner of the game was determined once all of the paintings found homes. The person with the greatest combined assets emerged victorious.
Masterpiece remained popular for many years until Parker Brothers discontinued it in 1996. The game still has its share of devoted fans, however, and can be easily found online for purchase at places like Ebay. Sure, Boardwalk and Park Place will always remain on the scene for the future real-estate moguls of the world, but for those more artistically inclined, Masterpiece always offered a different way to build a formidable virtual bank account, all without risking the farm.
Do you have fond memories of playing this great old board game? Share your recollections of playing Masterpiece with all of us in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Parker Brothers for giving us a chance to lead a life of opulence, if only for a few hours.