Creator of Operation Board Game Cannot Afford $25,000 Operation

John Spinello H 2014
Screen grab

John Spinello invented the popular game 50 years ago, but sold the rights for just $500

In a cruel twist, the man who invented Operation, the medical-themed board game that has frustrated and amused millions of people around the world for almost five decades, is now unable to afford a vital operation. 

John Spinello, the 77-year-old creator of Operation sold the rights to the game for just $500 in the early 60s, but now needs $25,000 for oral surgery, the Huffington Post reported on Monday. 

Spinello told The Huffington Post that he wasn't bitter about not making more money out of his invention, preferring to see the upside to what he created. "Look, everyone needs medical care... I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years," he said.

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Spinello created Operation for a class project in the early '60s as a young industrial design student at the University of Illinois. The game he created was so impressive that leading toy designer Marvin Glass, the man who gave the world fake vomit and wind-up chattering teeth, bought the idea off Spinello for just $500 and the promise of a job after college. 

The job never materialized and Operation hit the stores in 1965, going on to become a huge pop culture phenomenon, earning its rightsholders Milton Bradley, and presently Hasbro, over $40 million in sales since it launched. 

Spinello isn't broke, but the high cost of his medical bills make it almost impossible for him to cover the cost. Hearing of Spinello's predicament, some toy designer friends of his began a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money necessary for the oral operation.

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Toy designers Tim Walsh and Peggy Brown set up the website plus the crowdfunding campaign on By Tuesday evening, they had raised over $9,000 and by the following night had reached their $25,000 goal. 

Walsh told HuffPo that Hasbro has been supportive of the campaign by allowing the campaign to use promotional images for fundraising purposes. 


Oct. 30, 00:26 a.m. Updated with information on Crowdrise campaign reaching its $25,000 target.

Twitter: @gentlemanabroad