Old Pueblo Coin – Tucson, AZ

The Coin Geek


Punchboards are gambling devices of a bygone era. They were found everywhere from taverns, bars, and gas stations, to church social halls and the local Elks lodge. They were designed to raise money for the proprietor at the expense of the participant, with the promise of prizes and winnings if you play (somethings will never change).

Pony Express

The Pony Express cost 5 cents per play, but you could win the Jackpot

Most states started outlawing punchboards in the 1950s. Government looked at it as an unfair form of gambling (just let that last sentence seep in for a while). Of course, today the states make sure that they are the ones who get the gambling revenue and we are left with this slice of gambling history known as punchboards. In fairness to the states, the companies that produced the boards started providing a map or a key to the winning punches, calling it a “protection slip”. The vendor could then reduce their risk (that is, increase their profit) by removing the grand prize. They also could have a shill win a prize to get others around them excited.

Turf Kings

This derby themed punchboard cost 25 cents per play

Punchboards consisted of a foil playing field full of small circles, and the player would purchase ”punches” for the price listed. They would push the key through the foil, releasing a roll of paper out the back. If the number or item on the paper matched a winning number from the board then they would win the matching prize. The game was somewhat similar to some modern lotto tickets (but you’re paying per “scratch”), and very similar to the Punch-a-Bunch game found on The Price is Right (but the game show variety is so big that you literally punch the holes with your fist).

Punchboards from the 1950s and 60s were mostly tame, or bland. Some of the earlier ones were rather risqué. They often featured pin up artwork from GC Orde, George Petty, Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran and Alberto Vargas. Sports were often also a popular theme with some die-cut boards actually shaped like a baseball or a football. Occasionally a specialty board will be found for a specific team or franchise.

Checkers Punchboard

Circumvent this swinging model to reach some of the checker board

The value of punchboards is in large part a matter of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Of course condition plays a major factor, but desirability is also attributed to shape, topic, and eye appeal. Boards that are plain tend to be less valuable. Having a board that is a cut out of a specific shape rather than a simple rectangle will usually add value. Some boards had slots for actual prizes, such as coins or knives or lighters. Usually, the more extravagant the better.

Cigarettes 2 cents

Note the unique cutout shape of this risque punchboard

Old Pueblo Coin still has a few punchboards displayed on the wall. Come swing by the shop if you want to take a look.

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