Sale of the Century (U.S. game show)
|Sale of the Century|
|Created by||Al Howard|
|Presented by||Jack Kelly (1969–71)
Joe Garagiola (1971–74)
Jim Perry (1983–89)
Barbara Lyon (1969–71)
Kit Dougherty (1971–74)
Madelyn Sanders (undetermined; 1969–74 version)
Sally Julian (1983)
Lee Menning (1983–84)
Summer Bartholomew (1984–89)
|Narrated by||Bill Wendell (1969–74)
Jay Stewart (1983–88)
Don Morrow (1988–89)
|Theme music composer||Ray Ellis & Mark Ellis
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5 (1969–74)
|No. of episodes||approx. 1,000 (NBC 1969–73)
approx. 39 (SYN 1973–74)
1,578 (NBC 1983–89)
260 (SYN 1985–86)
New York, New York (1969–74)
Burbank, California (1983–89)
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Al Howard Productions (1969–74)
Reg Grundy Productions (1983–89)
|Distributor||Screen Gems (1973–74)
Genesis Entertainment (1985–86)
|Original channel||NBC (1969–73, 1983–89)
Syndicated (1973–74, 1985–86)
|Original airing||First Run
September 29, 1969 –
July 13, 1973
September 1973 –
January 3, 1983 −
March 24, 1989
January 7, 1985 −
September 12, 1986
Sale of the Century is an American television game show which debuted in the United States on September 29, 1969, on NBC daytime. It was one of three NBC game shows to premiere on that date, the other two being the short-lived Letters to Laugh-In and Name Droppers. The series aired until July 13, 1973, and then aired in a weekly syndicated version for one additional year. Jack Kelly hosted the series from 1969 to 1971, then Joe Garagiola, Sr. took over for Kelly, who returned to acting.
The rights to Sale of the Century were purchased in 1980 by Australian TV mogul Reg Grundy, who turned the show into success in Australia (see Sale of the Century (Australian game show)), and eventually succeeded in selling NBC a new version of the format in 1983. The new version aired weekday mornings from January 3, 1983, to March 24, 1989. Again, it was one of three NBC game shows premiering on the same date, along with Hit Man and Just Men! (which both lasted only 13 weeks). This version of Sale originally aired at 10:30/9:30 AM Central and later moved to 10:00/9:00 Central. A concurrent daily syndicated version ran from January 7, 1985, to September 12, 1986. The 1980s versions were hosted by Jim Perry.
Al Howard was the executive producer of the initial 1969–73 version, and for a short time was co-executive producer of the 1980s version with Robert Noah.
A new version of the series entitled Temptation, like the recent Australian revival, debuted in syndication on September 10, 2007, following a September 7 preview on MyNetworkTV. This series ran for one year.
Contestants answered general knowledge questions posed by the host at a value of $5 per correct answer. However, any contestant who answered incorrectly lost $5, and—unlike most game shows—only one contestant was permitted to answer for each question.
At certain points during the game, contestants participated in an "Instant Bargain" and were offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise at a bargain price. The selling price for the item, generally the value of one or more questions, was then deducted from the contestant's score, and the prize was theirs to keep regardless of the game's outcome.
Depending upon the version, question values either remained at $5 or increased as the game progressed. Additional Instant Bargains were also offered. The contestant in the lead at the end of the game was declared the champion and used their final score to purchase a larger prize, or played a separate end game, which varied depending upon the version of the show.
From 1969 to 1973, the game featured three contestants, who all began with $25. Midway through the game, the question values doubled to $10. At first, the final round consisted of 30 seconds of $15 questions; later, this was replaced with five $20 questions (called "The Century Round," as the total value of the questions was $100). If a contestant's total was reduced to zero (or lower), that contestant was eliminated from the game.
At certain points during gameplay, all contestants were offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise at a bargain price. The first contestant to buzz-in after the prize was revealed purchased that prize, and the price was deducted from his or her score. The prices of all prizes offered were expressed much as one would hear in a department store (ending with "and 95 cents"), and the prices increased as the episode progressed (e.g., $7.95, $11.95, $14.95, $21.95). All prize values were rounded up to the nearest dollar before being subtracted from the score of the contestant who purchased the prize. Each Instant Bargain was hidden behind a curtain, and contestants could not purchase the until the curtain was opened. If a contestant buzzed-in before the curtain opened, the contestant was then penalized by having the price of the prize deducted from his or her score and was locked-out of buying it. The other two contestants then had the opportunity to buzz-in.
The "Open House" round was played in early episodes of the original version, usually about halfway through a particular episode. Five prizes were presented to the contestants and each could buy as many of them as he or she wanted. Unlike Instant Bargains, multiple contestants could buy the same item. This was later replaced with an "Audience Sale" round in which three members of the studio audience guessed the "sale price" of an item. The one that bid closest without going over won the item. The three contestants could increase their score by correctly guessing which, if any, audience member would win.
During the last thirteen weeks of the 1969–73 NBC version, and also during the 1973–74 syndicated version, two married couples competed instead of three individual contestants. Each couple was given $20 at the start of the game. On the syndicated version, the first round consisted of questions worth $5, and in the second questions were valued at $10. A series of five questions worth $20 each were asked to conclude the game. If either couple's score reached $0, both couples were given an additional $20.
The winning contestant or couple was given the opportunity to spend their score on at least one of several grand prizes at the "Sale of the Century". Contestants either purchased a prize with their winnings and retired, or elected to return the next day and try to win enough to buy a more expensive prize. Champions could buy more than one prize. Also, when contestants chose to return the next day, they were asked which prizes they were considering buying; as long as the contestant kept winning, those prizes remained while others were replaced by more expensive ones.
The 1970s syndicated version featured two different formats. Both offered three possible prizes (almost always a trip, a fur coat, and a car), only one of which the couple could win. Originally, each prize had a sale price, and Garagiola asked questions worth $100 each, which was added to the couple's score from the game. When the amount reached the sale price of a prize, the couple could buy the prize or keep playing for a more expensive prize. Later, this was changed to "The Game of Champions". The three prizes had sale amounts ($150, $300, and $600). The winning couple chose a prize and had to answer three questions (worth $50, $100, or $200 each, depending on the prize) in order to win.
Three contestants competed each day, usually consisting of a returning champion and two challengers. Each contestant was given $20 at the start of the game and all questions were worth $5. Any contestant whose score was reduced to zero stayed in the game at a score of $0, and any subsequent incorrect questions did not reduce their score below $0.
During an Instant Bargain, the player in the lead was the only person who could purchase the prize available. Three Instant Bargains were played per game, and, as before, the value of both the prize and the amount it cost to buy the item increased as the game progressed. Depending on the game situation, the host often reduced the cost and/or offered cash in order to entice the contestant to purchase. In case of a tie for the lead, a Dutch auction was usually conducted for the prize, although sometimes the price remained the same. Three separate Instant Bargains were played during each game.
Additional questions were asked after the first Instant Bargain, following which the first "Fame Game" was played. A "who-am-I?"-style question was posed to the contestants, with clues becoming more descriptive as the question continued. If one of the contestants buzzed-in and answered correctly, he or she played the second half of the round; if not, that contestant was locked out from the round and play continued until one of the remaining contestants either answered correctly or all three failed to answer.
The contestant who answered correctly was given a choice of nine spaces on the Fame Game board, each displaying the face of a celebrity. Eight of the spaces hid either small bonus prizes or various amounts of cash, and one hid a $25 Money Card, which added $25 to the contestant's score. The Fame Game was played three times per episode, with earlier spaces selected removed from subsequent available choices.
In May 1984, a speed round replaced the final segment, which originally contained only three questions. In the speed round, the host asked as many questions as possible in 60 seconds. The contestant in the lead at the end of the speed round became the day's champion. In the event two or three contestants were tied at the conclusion of the speed round, one final question was asked; a contestant who answered correctly won the game, but a contestant forfeited for providing an incorrect answer.
Following the addition of the speed round in 1984, the game progressed along a specific format. Five individual questions were asked, after which the first Instant Bargain was offered. The game continued with three additional questions, and the first Fame Game followed. After the Fame Game, three additional questions were asked, and the second Instant Bargain was offered. Five more questions followed, and the second Fame Game was then played. Three more questions were asked, and the third Instant Bargain was offered. The final segment included three more questions, the final Fame Game, and then the speed round.
The winning contestant used their cumulative score to shop for prizes. Six grand prizes were featured each week, culminating in a luxury car. If a new champion had not accumulated a score high enough to purchase the first level prize on his or her first day, the purchase price of that prize was reduced to the champion's winning score. A contestant who purchased a prize immediately retired from the game. However, the champion could also elect to return the next day and try to win with a large enough score to buy the next most expensive prize.
For the first four months of Sale's run on NBC, if a contestant accumulated at least $510, he or she won all the prizes and enough cash to make the entire package worth exactly $95,000. Later, an accumulating cash jackpot was added as a seventh prize, which began at $50,000 and increased by $1,000 each day it went unclaimed. Once a champion reached $510, he or she could purchase the jackpot and retire, or continue to play, hoping to accumulate $600 total in order to claim all of the shopping prizes. When the speed round was implemented, $650 became the target amount for the jackpot by itself and $760 for all the prizes.
The syndicated series featured a similar shopping round, but the cash jackpot was not offered as a stand-alone prize. Instead, the penultimate shopping prize was the entire collection of prizes. If the champion chose to continue playing at this point, he/she would win the jackpot in addition to the prizes by earning enough to reach the maximum score needed to accomplish that. For the first several weeks of episodes it took $830 to win the entire lot, with $720 needed to win just the shopping prizes. Beginning in February 1985 and continuing until the shopping format was abandoned that fall, accumulating $640 won the prizes and $750 won them and the jackpot.
- Main game
Beginning in May 1984, a "Sale Surprise" was occasionally added to any one of the Instant Bargains, which consisted of a cash bonus of anywhere from $300 to $1,200. However, the bonus was not used for every show, and was only revealed after the contestant chose to purchase or pass on a prize.
Instant Cash replaced the third Instant Bargain in March 1986. Instead of having the opportunity to purchase more merchandise, the leading contestant (or, in case of a tie, the winner of an auction) had a chance to win a growing cash jackpot for himself/herself. The pot started at $1,000 and went up by that amount each day until someone claimed it. In order to play the round, the leader had to give up his or her lead over the second place contestant. Three boxes were available to choose from, with one box containing the jackpot while both of the other boxes contained $100 bills. As with the purchased Instant Bargains, if the contestant won the jackpot it was his or hers to keep regardless of the game's outcome.
Differently valued Money Cards were later available depending upon the game segment. A $5 and a $10 Money Card was added before the first Fame Game, a $15 card before the second, and the $25 card was only available during the third game. Money Cards which had not yet been revealed remained on the board and were available in subsequent Fame Games. The famous faces were later replaced with the numbers 1–9, and even later, contestants stopped a randomly flashing light with their buzzer to choose a number instead of making a verbal selection; when this change took place, the location of each Money Card was revealed before a contestant's turn.
- Bonus round
The shopping bonus round was later replaced with a game called the "Winner's Board". Introduced in October 1984 on NBC and November 1985 in syndication, the Winner's Board gave a contestant an opportunity to win a prize simply by matching two squares on a 20-square board. Ten prizes were available, with the most valuable prizes being $10,000 and a car. Two "Win" cards were always on the board, and if they were selected at any time the contestant won whatever prize they revealed with their next pick. Eight of the prizes had matching pairs, with the car and $10,000 requiring a Win card to match. Win cards were replaced and re-shuffled until both the $10,000 and car prizes were won.
Once a champion cleared all ten prizes from the Winner's Board, he or she was given the option to retire or play one final game. If the champion chose to play, he or she risked all ten prizes (totaling anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000) against two new competitors in their final match. Winning that match earned the champion a $50,000 bonus, but the champion forfeited all of the cash/prizes from the Winner's Board for losing their final match (however, all cash/prizes won from the main games were still theirs to keep). If a player lost a game prior to clearing the board, they kept all prior winnings.
The Winner's Board was discontinued in late December 1987 in favor of the Winner's Big Money Game. When this round was introduced, the champion received a bonus prize for winning the game, then played a separate game for an additional cash prize. The champion was given a choice of three envelopes (red, yellow, blue) before the start of the round. Inside each of the envelopes was a series of six-word puzzles that served as clues to lead to a famous person, place, or thing. The champion was originally given 25 seconds to solve five puzzles, but the requirement was later reduced to four puzzles in 20 seconds. The clock began when the first word of a puzzle was revealed and only stopped when the champion hit a plunger to stop the clock and give an answer. Passing was allowed, as was one incorrect guess; a second incorrect guess ended the round. The contestant won a cash award for solving all puzzles before time expired.
The prize for the Winner's Big Money Game increased every day a champion returned to play, regardless of whether or not the champion had won the previous round. All champions played for $5,000 on their first day, $6,000 on their second, and so on up to $10,000 on their sixth day. A returning champion played for a car on their seventh day. If the champion failed to win the car, he or she retired undefeated. Otherwise, he or she returned for a final match, and played the Winner's Big Money Game for $50,000 if they were again the day's champion.
The 1980s version was hosted by Jim Perry, who was initially joined by Sally Julian as co-host. Two months later, Lee Menning replaced her until December 1984, when Summer Bartholomew joined the program and remained as co-host until the 1989 finale. Jay Stewart announced until his retirement in 1988, when he was replaced by Don Morrow.
Sale of the Century premiered on September 29, 1969 on NBC's daytime schedule at 11:00 AM (10:00 Central), replacing the three-year-old Personality, which was hosted by Larry Blyden. It aired at that time slot for the whole of its initial three-and-a-half years on the network, ending its first run on July 13, 1973, after which The Wizard of Odds, the first American program hosted by Alex Trebek, would make its debut.
The 1983 revival debuted  on its network of birth, NBC, in the 10:30/9:30 AM slot, where it remained for the next four years. On January 5, 1987, NBC moved Sale of the Century to 10:00 AM. The 1,578th and final episode of the show, which had enjoyed respectable morning ratings through much of its 1980s run, aired on March 24, 1989. Scrabble, whose former 12:30pm ET place on the NBC daytime schedule was now given to Generations, moved to the time slot previously occupied by Sale of the Century and remained there until its first cancellation in 1990.
USA aired reruns of the 1985–86 syndicated series and some of the 1988–89 season of the daytime series on its daytime schedule from 1992 until 1994. On April 1, 2013, GSN began airing 65 episodes from the final months of the 1980s daytime series and, in honor of Black Friday, reran eight episodes of the syndicated series on November 29 of that year. Beginning on December 2, 2013, GSN began airing episodes from the first syndicated season featuring the shopping endgame. However, GSN has currently aired no Winner's Board episodes of the show, as its initial batch of purchased episodes all came from the Winner's Big Money Game era.
The original 1969–74 theme was composed by Al Howard and Irwin Bazelon.
The main theme on the 1980s version, titled "Mercedes", was composed in 1982 by Ray Ellis and his son Marc, and was more or less a reworking of Jack Grimsley's original 1980 recording for the Australian version of the show. Both Ray & Marc have composed music for other American Reg Grundy game shows as well, including Time Machine and Scrabble. In late December 1987, which coincided with the debut of the "Winner's Big Money Game", Ray and Marc Ellis composed a new music score for the series and an updated version of the main theme.
Milton Bradley released two home editions based on the 1969–74 version. A version based upon the 1983–89 version of the show - made by American Publishing Corp., and featuring the Quizzard game - was released in 1986.
As part of their "Game Show Greats" lineup, IGT released a video slot machine in 2003.
- Schwartz, David (1999). The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows. Checkmark Books. ISBN 0816038473.
- Chance, Norman. Who Was Who on TV: Volume III. Vol. 3. N.p.: Xlibris, 2011. 158-59. Print.
- "UCLA Library Catalog".
- "GSN acquires new series Sale of the Century and new episodes of Press Your Luck to launch April 1".
- David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 192
- "Post from Museum of Television Production Music Facebook page". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "The Sale of the Century Home Game Home Page". Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "Sale of the Century Quizzard". Board Game Geek. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- "IGT - Games: Sale of the Century™ Video Slots". Retrieved 30 November 2013.