What is a Punchboard?

The term "punchboard" (or in some cases "punch board", "push board", "punchcard", or "push card") refers to a gambling device popular in the United States from roughly 1900 until 1970. Punchboards were particularly popular during the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. Although they are illegal to operate in many states, you can still find punchboards being played today in some areas of the country, particularly as fund-raisers for clubs and organizations. Punchboards are also beginning to gain popularity in countries outside the United States.

A punchboard generally consists of a square piece of wood or cardboard in which hundreds or thousands of holes have been drilled, and filled with slips of rolled or folded paper. Each slip of paper has a number or combination of symbols printed on it. The holes are covered with a foil or paper seal, which protects the corresponding slips. Punchboards usually have a chart listing the combinations of numbers or symbols that are considered winners, along with the prizes or cash amounts that will be awarded to the winners.

Typical board construction is of laminated cardboard built up to a thickness of 5/8 to 1 inch with a series of holes drilled thru the board to accommodate the folded up set of paper slips. Some Punchboards use a seperate payout card with jackpot seals or a seperate payout board.

Here's how the game works: A player pays the punchboard's operator a set amount of money (usually a nickel, dime or quarter) for a chance to use a metal stylus (or "punch") to break the seal on the hole of his choice, and "punch" one of the slips of paper out of the board. If the number or symbols found on the slip of paper matches one of the pre-determined winning combinations, the player is awarded the corresponding prize.

Punchboards normally feature cash prizes, although they have also been used to advertise everything from shoe polish to Coca-Cola.

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Bingo-themed punchboard payout table

Punchboard label and stylus seal

Operator's payout slip

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