After I wrote tricks to win at McDonald’s Monopoly, I received an email from a reader who said I had written the article all wrong. I was a bit defensive at first because who wants to hear that their article is all wrong, but as I heard his story and how he makes money off of this game, I came to realize he was correct. The real way to win at the game is to come out financially ahead and there is a huge difference between trying to win McDonald’s Monopoly and making money at the game.
The key to making money at this game is flip the script and not play at all. The chances of winning any of the prizes that have any significant value is tiny, but if you can provide a service for those who have committed to playing, you have an opportunity to make some good side money. How much can someone make doing this? The reader says that he will make over $1000 from this game this year.
I was skeptical when he first told me this, but then he went through exactly how he does it, and I have to admit that he had a well thought out plan. He showed me proof that he had already made several hundred dollars off of the game. I had a hard time believing that someone could make that type of money until he explained some of the dynamics that take place as to why people will pay for these game pieces.
People Don’t Understand Odds
The main reason that it’s easy to make money off of this game is that a lot of people simply don’t understand how odds work. Since they don’t understand the odds, many people who want to win a prize go about collecting pieces backwards. That is, they try to collect all the pieces instead of just the rare pieces.
If you were to try to win at this game, the most logical approach would be to try to get a rare game piece and then once you had that piece, get the other common pieces from eBay or Craigslist. That isn’t how a lot of people approach the game. Instead, they try to get all of the game pieces they can so that if they happen to get a rare game piece, they have all the pieces to win right there and then. The result is that people overpay for game pieces when trying to get all the common pieces for their board.
He relayed a perfect example to highlight the way that people do this. He put on a group of the three different common railroad pieces that ended up selling for $8 as a few people got into a bidding war for them. This would seem to be bad enough for over-payment of pieces, but it didn’t stop there. The person who won asked if he had any more sets and the auction winner ended up buying two more sets for $5 each because she wanted to make sure that she had the needed pieces in case she won the free gas for a year multiple times.
Now, this isn’t common, especially for someone to overpay as much as this lady did. What it does show, however, is that when people have missing game pieces that they think that they need, they will overpay for these. He said this is especially common when people are searching for those last few pieces to fill all the common pieces on their game board.
Another reason that it’s possible to make money off of the game pieces is because all the property pieces have codes on them giving people who enter those codes an additional chance to win prizes. Since these codes provide the best chance to win some of the larger prizes, there will always be people who will want them to try their luck in this portion of the game. This means that even if someone isn’t looking for a particular property piece, they will still be willing to buy the piece for the code. The seller says that because of this, each game piece where the code hasn’t been used is worth at least a quarter.
Game Pieces Worth over $0.50 Each
With game pieces having a minimum value of a quarter due to the codes, in addition to people overpaying from time to time to get certain pieces and those who will pay for the free food instant wins, the average amount each piece is worth ends up being somewhere between fifty cents and a dollar.
With those facts in mind, it all comes down to the more game pieces you can get your hands upon, the more money that you can potentially make. But I still wasn’t convinced this was a good way to make money. How was he getting enough game pieces to make this worthwhile? Did he have some unique way to get game pieces that the average person didn’t? If not, what about all the time it took to gather the game pieces? What about the cost of driving to get those game pieces? Even though he could sell the pieces for fifty cents or more on average, were his time and costs making this worthwhile?
I was surprised at the simple solution he had devised to address all these concerns. He said that when he originally started doing this, he would dumpster dive for the game pieces. He said that depending on how full the garbage dumpster was at the McDonald’s, he could find anywhere from $20 – $100 worth of game pieces in the trash. As he put it, “If someone told you that there was possibly $100 in a garbage dumpster, and at least $20, would you be willing to go look for it?”
Ultimately, however, he found even a better way to get game pieces without having to get dirty himself. He basically has an arbitrage system going with the game pieces. He put word out to all the neighborhood kids that he would pay ten cents for every open game piece (with unused code) they brought to him and twenty-five cents for every game piece that hadn’t been opened yet. Unopened pieces are worth more because one in four have a food prize which will sell for a minimum of one dollar. The kids do all the dirty work and earn a little summer money while he resells the game pieces for a larger amount online through local online classified ads, eBay and Craigslist.
While it is probably a little late to make a significant amount on this game this year if you haven’t started collecting pieces yet, it’s worth keeping in mind for future McDonald’s Monopoly games. Even better, this concept can be adapted to the similar games that other companies sponsor which could provide some additional side income for anyone willing to put in a little effort.
(Photo courtesy of David Schott)