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Trivial Pursuit-The Hot Game of the '80's

Updated on September 19, 2012

How could one board game cause so much fervor with a box of questions? Well, in the mid-1980’s Trivial Pursuit really took off. That would have been 1984 when sales hit a record $80 million dollars and individuals competed against each other, students defended their colleges, and the battle of sexes heated up to find out who had the brightest bulb burning for trivia questions.

The History Behind Trivial Pursuit

The two inventors, Chris Haney, a photo editor and Scott Abbott, a sports editor, met while on assignment with the Montreal Gazette in the late ‘70’s. They discovered they hit it off and a friendship was formed. Two of their mutual interests were board games and beer. Four years after this meeting, while drinking beer and attempting to play scrabble with missing pieces the two began creating a game to occupy their time and jotted the premise of the Trivial Pursuit game, along with six categories, on scraps of paper. The initial brainstorm took about an hour and produced the basics for the game and the player’s piece: an empty pie shape that had to be filled with wedges indicating you had achieved your place of knowledge in that category.

Once the game was in the beginning stages of development, Haney and Abbott attended a toy fair in Montreal. Posing as reporters they questioned game experts and picked their brains for valuable information which they used to continue the development of their invention. Then, they solicited Haney’s brother and friend to join forces with them, eventually convincing 32 people to invest a total of $40,000 to begin production.

The initial game production, under the marketing name of Horn Abbott, sold just over 1,000 games for $15 each and the investors took a hit, as the games cost $75 to manufacture. That was in 1982. Creators Chris Haney and Scott Abbott could not find an interested party to buy Trivial Pursuit, however, after sales continued to climb Selchow and Righter bought the rights to the game in 1988. In a few short years it was sold to Parker Bros. who eventually sold all licensing rights to Hasbro in 2008. That purchase cost Hasbro’s a cool $80 million.

How to Play

Coleen, my cousin, was the first to bring our family’s attention to the game Christmas of 1984. We gathered around the kitchen table as she excitedly explained the rules: six people could play, or you could create teams. I come from a highly competitive family so it was always cut-throat.

The object was to move around the board and answer questions from the large deck that held a question for each category, eventually landing on the category ‘headquarters’ at the top of each spoke. If the player answered that question correctly he would receive the wedge that matched. If not, you had to move off the space and try again.

I don’t recall how many cards were in the first edition, but the questions seemed endless. As the player’s piece moved around the wheel shaped track the spaces on the track were marked in colors which matched the categories. The winner had to be in the center of the board after filling up her pie with all six wedges. Then, she could only be declared the winner if she correctly answered the final question. The catch was it would be a category that her opponent would choose. The game could go on for hours and often did.

Trivial Pursuit

#8 of 30 June Hubchallenge
#8 of 30 June Hubchallenge | Source

Since Genus

Since that initial first edition there have been numerous versions, such as the Baby Boomer edition, the series of Genus (I, II, III, IV, and V), the promotional versions such as: The Rolling Stones, The Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings ; and of course the Anniversary Editions, including the 10th and the 25th.

But, not to be excluded there are editions for children. Young Player and For Juniors, are two editions which encourages children to get in on the fun with their own age appropriate questions. And, if you don’t have a game taking up space in your home, go to the internet-Trivia Pursuit has had an online version since 2003.

One more bit of trivia: by 2010 Trivial Pursuit sales have reached 100 million copies and is sold in 26 countries with questions printed in 17 languages. Since its creation Trivial Pursuit, and its many follow up versions, has reached over one billion dollars in sales. That is a very impressive figure.

The Original Categories and Color

Science and Nature
Arts and Literature
Sports and Leisure

Please Take the Trivial Pursuit Poll-Thank You

What was your favorite category?

See results


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hahaha, oh that is funny, Sharkye11. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub-it's fun when it brings back memories, isn't it? My very favorite was the game of CLUE! After that and the Nancy Drew stories I wanted to be a detective!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Awesome hub! Trivial Pursuit has been my favorite game since I was eight. I played it so much I memorized all the cards from four editions and then no one would play with me anymore! :)

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for reading and commenting Jimmie. I loved getting together with family and playing that game.

    • JimmieWriter profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      8 years ago from Memphis, TN USA

      I loved Trivial Pursuit in the 80s and 90s. My mom still has the original one we played. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Jo. Hope you are doing well and your weather is sunny-been blowin up a storm here in NC.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      9 years ago

      Hello! This is such a great game. It helps to build on your knowledge of history(my favorite subject). Another game i liked was scrabble! :-) vote up..really nice memory.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Colin-you are too kind. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. I appreciate it. :)

    • epigramman profile image


      9 years ago

      ...that is why you so have so many devoted followers Denise - you have such a fine selection of hub subjects like this one - which are so well researched and put together and for your readers they are enlightening and entertaining as well ....

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Spiritwhisperer-What I think is that people do not share that social interaction with game boards (or cards) any longer. It is a shame because it is a wonderful way to interact with family members and friends, plus see who is the most competitive, LOL. The weekly inspiration topic has actually inspired me to dust off my game of aggravation to play with my nephew this summer. Thanks for commenting.

      Eiddwen-glad to see you enjoyed this 'reminder', LOL Thanks.

      Hi Dahoglund-I agree, it is hard to find people who want to gather for a game of trivial pursuit or other games. It is fun, once it gets going though! Thanks for your feedback.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I think I would have liked it but I don't know any people who play games of this type.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      9 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting Denise, it reminded me that we haven't played this game for years.

      Thanks for the reminder in your great hub.

      Here's to many more hubs to share.

      Take care


    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      9 years ago from Isle of Man

      Yes, we used to play this a lot at one time. It is a great family game and the kind of game that would appeal to every generation. The fact that the questions would have to be updated regularly makes it a great money maker for the ones who created it. "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" also became very popular over here and I think it replaced Trivial Pursuit for a while. I wonder if board games have now become a thing of the past as more people are hooked on computers and social networking so not much time for sitting around to play games as a family. What do you think?

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Ruby-thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, you're right-it is like the board game version of something like jeopardy...ok, maybe not, LOL but it does make you think!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      9 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I love to play Trivial Pursuit, not only is it a lot of fun, it's educational. Thank's

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      acaetnna-I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your enthusiastic feedback, LOL I appreciate it. :)

      Hi Credence2-I failed miserably at the Rubic's cube, LOL but my dad loved it. There prob is an electronic version of the T.P Thanks for commenting. :)

    • Credence2 profile image


      9 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Yes, Indeed, I sort of miss the game. It provided hours of fun after dinner. Maybe it can now be obtained in an electronic counterpart. Thanks for bringing this one up, next, how about the Rubic's cube?

    • acaetnna profile image


      9 years ago from Guildford

      One of my absolute favourite games! Gosh you brought back so many memories. We still play it whenever we have a big family get-together! Brilliant hub Denise - thank you for the memories!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Genus is just the name for the first edition of T.P.-the original one. Thanks, Pam, for reading and commenting.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      We used to spend hours playing Trivial Pursuit but I don't have anyone around to play games with anymore and I'm not familiar with Genus. This hub brought back some good old memories. Thanks.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I know! Or had invented it LOL I really never heard of it before my cousin brought it to our attention. :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      Wow! It makes me wish I had invested in Trivial Pursuit!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      It sure is Stephanie. Who would have thought that a couple of pieces of missing scrabble letters would have led to a multimillion dollar business. And, another point I did not add is that Chris Haney's mother wanted to be part of the investment and he talked her out of it b/c he did not want her to 'lose' her investment. LOL I bet he paid for that bit of advice in the long run!

      I just added an addendum at the end that I neglected to put in initially. I imagine you will have a lot of fun with the game. Now that I've written it, I need to dust off my box and get into a game with my family, LOL Thanks for your comment.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      Our family went through a stage where we played Trivial Pursuit often. Now that you've reminded me, I'll have to dust it off and bring it out the next time we get together. I enjoyed the history of the game's inventors. Isn't it amazing how some of these great ideas are born?

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow, thanks for all the great comments. I can tell that this brought out the memory book for everyone. It appears that most people have some recollection and experience with the game.

      Reading the comments have been great. I've learned that there are two sets of games-the American and Canadian...makes me curious if there are other changes in the different countries that have been printed out. Which brings me to my second point-that I neglected to add a bit of information about the popularity of the game. I was in such a hurry last night to get it out before the clock struck 12 mid. It actually was a record for me: 90 min. from start to finish. I didn't think I had it in me.

      So...Thanks all of you for leaving your comments and voting in the poll. It is so much fun to see which 'colors' were the most popular amongst us hubbers. I would have wagered it would be BROWN, LOL. I'm going to add the 'trivia' I remembered now. :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      Love this hub and all the interesting facts about the original inventors and the history of this game.

      Do remember the craze when the original version first took off, but I never actually played the game. I think playing a baby boomer version now would be fun. Am rating this hub up and awesome.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      At Christmas time we still play Trivial Pursuit. It is a fun game! We like to play the Canadian Version Genus IV :)

      Another great hub Denise!

    • Sunnyglitter profile image


      9 years ago from Cyberspace

      I loved Trivial Pursuit! I miss this game.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 

      9 years ago from Australia

      Remember Trivial Pursuit well. It was a family favourite for many years then had a revival about ten years ago with the junior version so a newer member of the family could be involved. I have to admit I did better in the junior version! Great Hub Denise, like a little trip down memory lane.

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      9 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      I used to play this a lot - great hub voted up useful and awesome

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Denise, you have really outdone yourself with all these great game hubs! I truly enjoyed this one; it brings me right back to the good old eighties! I used to love this game for its endless fountain of knowledge, and the chance to try to look smart! We originally bought the American version, but were glad to get the Canadian version, which did not have all the questions about American presidents!

      Great hub! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow, thanks for ALL of your excitement and enthusiasm, Lizzy. I really figured someone would do the hub-either my sister (Danette Watt) or YOU, actually, after I saw that huge list of games you posted. But, NO ONE did and I kept waiting. Here it is, late Sunday night and I thought-I'm just going for it.

      I'm glad I did-it was pretty interesting to research. I am not familiar with the genus II version, however, I did read somewhere that the 'baby boomers' mostly preferred the original game and nothing compared to that.

      I also read that the 'word' problems turned out to be a controversial and legal issue b/c one man who attempted to suit stated that they pulled the questions out of his Trivia Encyclopedia, typos and all...the man actually lost the suit.

      I'm so glad this brought back such great memories for you. I can relate. My mom loved that game and was great with the literature category also. She passed in 2003. Hope you resurrect the old game and get another partner! Thanks for the vote.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      OMG!! I'm sooooooo glad you covered this one, because I sure forgot to! I was originally going to include it in my hub, but that somehow morphed into games I remembered from my own childhood! :-\

      My mother and I were die-hard Trivial Pursuit addicts! We played at every opportunity. My favorite and best category was science and nature; hers were Geography and Arts/Literature.

      We both sucked at sports/leisure! LOL

      I must say, the game creators came up with a winning concept, but they sure fell flat on their faces in the grammar department. Nearly every question had either awkward wording or a dangling something-or-other: almost impossible for 'word-a-holics' and English majors such as Mom and I to miss. ;-)

      The "Genus II" edition, we thought, was mis-named, and should have been, "Trivial Pursuit; Canadian Edition," as so many of the questions were about Canadian trivia--we did not do at all well with that version. ;-)

      All in all, however, we LOVED the game...and I am saddened that since Mom passed, I've no one to play with anymore.

      Great hub; voted up, awesome, useful and shared!


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