Punch In

punchcardI’ll bet many of the
younger readers of
the Muscleheaded Blog
have never seen one of these:

(Not that there many
younger readers of the M/H blog,
and no wonder, I guess ….)

This is what used
to be called a ‘Punch Board’.

I should explain that,

before the earliest computers
changed the meaning of ‘punch card’,

….. this idea of punching cards
meant something very different a
to my grandfather’s generation.

Gambling has had it’s share
of ups and downs in American society,

… and around the Great Depression,

it was frowned upon as a low-life activity —

In the big cities,
many people certainly could,
and would, gamble–

either in the casino,

a1embedded within a local speakeasy,

at back alley crap and poker games,

and other impromptu venues —

Or, perhaps–

at the bus station or train station kiosk,
cigar store, restaurant, or grocery —

ones that featured large ‘Punch Board’
displays offering the lucky player
the chance to win either cash, or merchandise.zippo

Cigars were groovy,
so was beer, and cigarettes —

Zippo lighters were given out
by the hundreds of thousands.

These punch boards were amazingly popular–

…. and made both the store owners
and the publishers/providers
lots and lots of profit.

bThey were said to have been invented
by some enterprising shopkeeper in New York,
circa 1750’s, or so…

…. who basically drilled out holes in the wall,
stuffed paper numbers behind a peg,

and then would sell chances
to pull a peg and win a prize.

Of course, it didn’t take long
for the whole concept to be commercially developed —

and pre-printed cardboard punch boards
were being mass produced as early as the 1880’s.

Apparently, the cost of printing,retro

added to the cost of any prizes offered,
was still so low–

— and the potential profits so high —

that the lucrative business was
quickly taken over by elements
of organized crime in many cities,
beginning in the early 1900’s.

It gave the crime families an opportunity
to make plenty of money,
or at least, semi-legally,
c— with very low overhead costs,

and they could use their ‘muscle’
to ‘encourage’ shop owners to stock them..

It was pretty good for money laundering, too.

And, as late as the 1960’s,
low level Mob associate
and Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Jack Ruby
was actively involved in the
production and distribution of such boards.

There is an interesting variety hitler
of these things still to be found
in collectible and antique shops —

some titles include:

Pick a Cherry”,
“Punch Out Bingo”,
or “Hit Me, Take Me.”

They’ve always been
the most lucrative
when they used some
type of topical theme,
like baseball, movie stars, etc.

a1During the height of World War II,

…. many punch boards
used an anti-Axis theme.

The ones I like best
featured pin-ups,
of course,

like the one in the lead pic;
Fins and Deuces”.

That board had a premium feature —

the last guy to punchlonesome
the card won a buck.

I often see old punch cards
at Card and Stamp shows,

…. and they were so common
that they’re usually
not very expensive.

Not so common,
but just as fun to look at today,

— are the smaller, handheld
“Party Punch Cards”.

These served primarily
as ‘parlor games’-

–for entertaining guests
— at dinner parties, wahoo
social occasions, etc.

One of the most
popular ones
would have each
guest punch out a hole,

and behind it,
would be an activity
that they would be
required to perform.

They could be mild,else

or they could be wild

depending on your tastes,

where you got them, and —

of course,
what kind of party it was.

It could range from:

Quack like a demented duck“,

Kiss the girl next to you” ,

Take a drink” ,


Tie your shoelaces together
and strut like a peacock

Show your best feature“,
and …


— the blind-folded gropey stuff
that I like so much but that
we won’t go into right now.

Sorta like a cardboard truth or dare.

Remember —game

this was before TV —

———— folks had to have
SOMETHIN’ to do, ya know.

Another type would
tell your fortune,
… or your personality,
or what kinda person
you were gonna marry.

Trivia / popular culture quizzes
were also good sellers.

Practically any variation on this theme
that you could conceive of,

….. it’s been sold
as a punch card.

Titles from the period include:

Dippy Parlor Game Charades
Phony Fibs“,
The Fortune-Teller in Rhymes“,
Kissing Games“,
Cats Meow“,
Peppy Punch-It“,
and “Coo-Coo

of course, like the
dirty ones the best,
— but they’re very hard to find.

But, for the sake of my readers,
I will valiantly continue my struggle
to search for them,
you can rest assured.





8 thoughts on “Punch In

  1. I like the unbathed ones bestest, too! 😉 😀

    How interesting and what fun! I would love to punch a card and win a prize!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  2. Brett says:

    I’ve seen punch boards for years at antique shops and flea markets and always considered them to be an odd curiosity but never understood how they worked. Now I do! I guess all those coins back in the day really added up.

  3. A visual feast and great history!

  4. julespaige says:

    Bingo is still a popular game at fire houses, religious places and we’ve even got a building near town devoted to it at least six days a week. But I think half the fun was taken out of the game when they replaced the boards and chips with all those little paper ‘boards’ and ink daubers.
    I guess that took up too much time those little clear chips and cleaning the board after the games.

    I think I saw something like this at a fair a few years ago. You bought this little ticket. There were only about 1,000 of ’em. And there were only one or two big prizes. Maybe a dozen or so others for less amounts. But most had nothing and they only sold for a buck a piece.

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