The History of Punchboards


Punchboards were originally used in the 18th century for gambling purposes. It is a game board with small holes in it covered by paper or foil. Behind the paper or foil would be a small paper ticket. If the paper ticket contained a winning number the patron would win. In order for the patron to know if they had a winning number the game board itself would display which numbers were winners and or what prizes would be given depending on what number the patron had. 

At first the only place that you would usually find Punchboards would be at the local tavern. In the late 18th century they stared showing up at drugstores as well. Punchboards became increasingly popular to the point that there was an estimate of 30 million Punchboards sold between 1910 through 1915. Punchboards reached their peak of popularity around 1939 with an estimate of 50 million of Punchboards sold.
After World War II Punchboards began to decline in popularity due to people frowning upon it being a gambling tool. Many states also began to outlaw Punchboards around this time also; to disguise the gambling aspect of the Punchboards many manufactures started to disguise the reward by making the winning ticket a "for trade only ticket" for the prize item listed on the Punchboard.
Over the course of their history Punchboards attracted their share of shady characters over the years from crooked operators who "fixed" the boards and sold maps, called "keys" to the winning slots on the boards to mobsters.  The most infamous Punchboard salesman of all time is Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
Punchboards may have mostly faded into the history, but you still have a chance to own a piece of that history.  Here at Spinettis we have a wide selection of Punchboards from pre-World War 2 to the Post War years.
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