History of Punchboards

The original punchboards were wooden and made their debut in taverns back in the 1790’s. Players paid a fee, selected a silver circle on the board and punched their choice with a simple punching device. If the punched out slip contained a winning number or symbol, the player won food, drink, or a special prize.

In the 1870’s, punchboards began appearing in their present cardboard form. In 1913, with the first mass printing of the boards, they began flooding the country. They reached their peak of popularity in 1939 and could be found in bars, restaurants, drugstores, and barber shops.

During the 1950’s, in an effort to control ‘racketeering’, Congress passed strict laws regarding the interstate transportation of gambling devices. While not specifically mentioned, punchboards as a ‘chance device’ clearly fell within the governing regulations. As one manufacturer stated, “It took the wind right out of the industry... it’s never been the same since.”

Punchboard games of chance are still legal in many states and are often used for fundraising by fraternal, veteran, and religious organizations.

The most valuable punchboards are artistically imprinted boards sometimes found in antique stores, private collections, and online.

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