January 25, 1979
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The contestant was given three oversized pennies at the start of the game. They were then shown a grocery item with four possible prices displayed, only one of which was correct. The contestant had to select the correct price. If they were incorrect, they had to give up one of their pennies. If they were correct, they moved on to a second grocery item played the same way. If, however, the contestant made three mistakes between the two items, they were out of pennies and the game was over. If the contestant guessed the second price correctly and had at least one penny left at the end of the game, they won a large prize.
The gameplay took place on a game board which was split in half vertically to represent the two grocery items. An item sat on each half, with the four possible prices displayed in a row of buttons in front of the contestant, as well as along the back wall of the game board. When a selection was made, the corresponding button was pressed, and a row of illuminated pennies ran up the board to the price on the back wall, which revealed either the word "yes" or "no" behind it.
The first five playings of Penny Ante used different rules in which the possible prices were not divided into two groups for the two grocery items and the goal was to find both prices before the total of the contestant's incorrect guesses reached $1, instead of three oversized pennies. The total of the incorrect guesses was measured by penny catchers, into which pennies fell in the amount of the wrong guess and an electronic readout counting the amount of pennies that have fallen. The same board was used, but it was not split into green and blue halves as it was under its final format; it had an orange-red-yellow board (similar to the colors of the show's first set from 1972-1975); right answers had green "YES!" flaps with an arrow pointing to which item had the right price while wrong answers had a red flap using a picture of a penny, where real pennies would fall out.
On March 30, 1979, Penny Ante adopted its normal rules and its sports type penny counter was removed; presumably, the first version of its green & blue color scheme also debuted at this point. On December 21, 1984, Penny Ante is believed to have adopted the second version of its green/blue color scheme.
This is one of two games to use the words "Yes" and "No" to refer to correct and incorrect guesses; the other being Triple Play.
The Sound EffectEdit
The game was arguably best known for the unusual sound effect which was heard whenever Bob pressed a price button causing penny lights of one section of the board to light up towards the corresponding price and the little door with the price on it opened up to reveal either "yes" or "no".
However, "Price" wasn't the only show where the sound effect was being heard; it was also used on the following shows:
- Double Dare (1976) - The short-lived show when the shutters of the electronic board and player's booths opened.
- Tic Tac Dough - when a player buzzed in on a Jump-In question.*
- The Joker's Wild - when a player pulled a large lever to start the bonus wheels.
- Break the Bank '85 - when a bank card was inserted to an electronic reader.
- Strike it Rich '86 - when the arches' arrows lit up during Joe Garagiola's explanation of the rules of the main game.
All of those shows minus the last two aired on CBS (though CBS stations such as WCBS in New York did carry them); the first was a Mark Goodson-Bill Todman production.
*In the later years of the syndicated run of "Tic Tac Dough", a different buzzer sound was used.
Penny Ante suffered recurring mechanical problems, in which instances occurred where all shots of the board in action had to be added in post-production because none of electronics would work. These problems started happening in the 1990s, growing more frequent year after year. Sometimes, the flap would not open when Barker pressed the button, in other times the flap inadvertently opened before Barker press the button on the machine. The game was scheduled to be played on October 9, 2002, but it malfunctioned and could not be repaired in a timely manner; Pick-A-Number was eventually played to replace it, and Penny Ante was retired. The staff later decided to reverse its decision and attempt to have the board repaired, but in the intervening days, it had been left outside in the rain and was damaged to the point of being unusable. They then decided to have a new board built for the game, but the plans never got past the design stages, and after a five-year hiatus, it was finally shelved permanently in April 2007. Having been played for 23 years, it is the third longest-lived pricing game ever to be retired, behind Hit Me (2nd) and Poker Game (1st).
Penny Ante was the last game to be officially retired during Bob Barker's tenure as host; however, Hit Me, which was retired several months earlier, was played a number of times in the four and a half years between Penny Ante's final playing and ultimate retirement.
Penny Ante Win (December 7, 1993)
Perfect Penny Ante Playing from the late 1990s (January 29, 1999)
Perfect Penny Ante Playing from 2000 (February 15, 2000) (Stop the video at 3:40)
Penny Ante Win from 2002 (April 3, 2002)
The final playing of Penny Ante