Punchboards FakedBy

Punchboards Faked

A punchboard is basically a low-stakes form of gambling often used as a trade stimulator. The "board" was made of pressed layers of paper and resembled a hard thick cardboard. Sealed holes in the board, about 1/8" diameter, held small folded strips of paper printed with numbers (Fig. 3). A "play" was to "punch" a hole of your choice and force out the folded paper sealed in the hole. The numbers printed on the paper determined your prize. Most punchboard prizes were merchandise like cigarettes, but boards could also pay off in cash.

Punchboards were found in small stores, cafes, tobacco shops, bars and gas stations. Boards were used from about the turn of the century up through the 1950s when they were forced out by tighter enforcement of gambling laws. Most boards are brightly printed with period scenes and subjects and have become very collectible as wall art (Figs. 1 & 4). Since price is largely determined by the design and subject of the board's illustrations rather than the board itself, punchboards have been the targets of enhancements and upgrades. This is usually done by switching images or applying images which never appeared on original boards.

In Fig. 1, the original illustration has been replaced by the higher valued image of a sports related 1930s style pin-up illustration. Packs of cigarettes have also been added. It is perfectly normal for illustrations to be glued to boards like the all original board shown in Fig. 4. However, original illustrations will fill or at least nearly fill all the space allowed. In Fig. 4, there is just the slightest rim of white around the original illustration. Further, the girl and the cigarette packs are part of one single illustration printed on one piece of paper. You should not find several separate pieces of paper glued to an original board.

It is easy to catch these "upgraded" boards with black light. Under normal light, the glue used to apply the illustration and packs of cigarettes in Fig. 1 was invisible. Under black light, there was glue smeared all over the board including fingerprints.

Some of the sources for glued on additions include baseball cards, photos of famous athletes cut from magazine articles and covers, computer generated digital images and color photocopies of original images.


Fig. 1


Fig. 2


Fig. 3

Figs. 1-3 Fig. 1 began life as an average punchboard but has recently been upgraded with a 1930s sports theme pin-up girl. The replacement illustration is smaller than the original illustration and creates a wide white frame (see arrows) in the area once filled by the original. The 1930s styled packs of cigarettes are also glued on additions as shown in the close up in Fig. 2. The basic parts of a punchboard are shown in Fig. 3––the punch, the sealed holes and the printed papers removed from the holes.


Fig. 4 An original board and illustration. The illustration completely fills the white area allowed for it. The girl and the packs of cigarettes are printed on the same piece of paper.