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|Sale of the Century|
|Created by||Al Howard|
|Presented by||Jack Kelly|
|Narrated by||Bill Wendell|
|Theme music composer||Ray Ellis & Marc Ellis|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5 (1969–74)|
|No. of episodes||approx. 990 (NBC 1969–73)|
39 (SYN 1973–74)
1,578 (NBC 1983–89)
270 (SYN 1985–86)
|Production location(s)||NBC Studios|
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||Program Syndication Services|
|Original network||NBC (1969–73, 1983–89)|
Syndicated (1973–74, 1985–86)
|Original release||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 (stylized as $ale of the Century) is an American television game show that 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 game shows Letters to Laugh-In and Name Droppers. The series aired until July 13, 1973, and a weekly syndicated series began that fall and ran for one season. Actor Jack Kelly hosted the series from 1969 to 1971, then decided to return to acting full-time. He was replaced by Joe Garagiola, who hosted the remainder of the daytime series plus the one season in syndication.
The game consists of contestants answering general knowledge questions. At certain points during the game, the player currently in the lead is offered an "Instant Bargain", a prize to keep regardless of the game's outcome, in exchange for a certain amount deducted from that contestant's score.
The rights to Sale of the Century were purchased in 1980 by Australian TV mogul Reg Grundy, who turned the show into a success in Australia (see Sale of the Century (Australian game show)) and eventually sold his format of the series to NBC. With Jim Perry as its host, the new American Sale of the Century launched on January 3, 1983, and aired until March 24, 1989. It was one of three NBC game shows premiering on the same date, along with Hit Man and Just Men! (both of which aired for only 13 weeks), and—like its predecessor—spawned a syndicated ion also hosted by Jim Perry. This syndicated series premiered on January 7, 1985, and ran daily until September 12, 1986.
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 short-lived revival 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, whatever contestant was in the lead 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 buzz in before the curtain opened. A contestant who did buzz in early was penalized by having the cost of the Instant Bargain deducted from their score and being locked out of purchasing the prize.
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 audience member would win.
During the last thirteen weeks of this series, and the aforementioned follow-up weekly syndicated series, 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 a returning champion and two challengers. Each contestant was given $20 at the start of the game. Except for Fame Game questions, contestants earned $5 for a correct answer and were penalized $5 for an incorrect answer. A contestant's score, however, could not be reduced below $0. Contestants could buzz-in before the question was finished, but had to answer based only on whatever information the host had read to that point.
Three Instant Bargains were played per game, with prizes generally becoming more valuable and costing more as the game progressed. In some cases, the host could reduce the cost and/or offer extra cash to entice a contestant to make a purchase. During an Instant Bargain, only the player in the lead could purchase the prize available. In case of a tie for the lead, a Dutch auction was usually conducted for the prize, although sometimes the price remained the same. For a brief time in early 1984, any contestant who bought an Instant Bargain could win back the money they spent by correctly answering a "Money Back Question" immediately afterward.
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 easier as the question continued. A contestant who buzzed in with a correct answer played the second half of the round; giving an incorrect answer eliminated a player from the round, but with no penalty. If none of the contestants answered correctly, the second half of the round was skipped.
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, some of which offered the contestant a choice between taking either the money or an extra turn. Hidden behind one space was a $25 Money Card, which added that amount to the contestant's score. The Fame Game was played three times per episode, and spaces were removed from play as they were revealed. After the third playing, the host asked three final questions to end the game.
The contestant with the highest final score became the champion. If the match ended in a tie, the tied players were asked one more question. Buzzing in and answering correctly won the game, while answering incorrectly resulted in a loss. In both cases, the losing contestants kept any and all cash and prizes won along the way, including their final scores in cash.
The champion then "went shopping" with the money he/she had earned. A total of six individual prizes were offered, which changed every five shows, and were arranged in ascending order of both retail value and sale price. A new champion was always allowed to buy the least expensive prize for either its sale price or his/her entire winning score, whichever was lower.
After a win, the champion could either buy the most expensive prize he/she could afford and retire from the show, or return to play another match in the hopes of winning enough money to afford a higher-level prize. If the champion was defeated, though, he/she left with only the cash and prizes accumulated in the main game. Prizes on the uppermost levels included expensive jewelry, fur coats, and opulent trips with first-class accommodations, with a luxury automobile as the most common top prize.
The ultimate goal for any long-term champion was to earn enough money to purchase every single shopping prize on the stage. For the first five months of Sale's run on NBC, a champion had to accumulate $510 in total and the prize package was augmented with enough cash to bring its value up to $95,000. Later, an accumulating cash jackpot was added to the prize package. The jackpot started at $50,000 and increased in value by $1,000 each day until it was claimed. In order to buy the entire prize package, a champion would now need to accumulate $600. After the speed round was introduced, the jackpot was added by itself as a seventh prize level, priced at $650; the entire package cost $760 as the eighth and final level.
The syndicated series featured a similar shopping round when it premiered in January 1985. Like its parent series, eight prize levels were available and a champion could elect to buy a prize at any time and retire. The final prize level, as before, was all of the shopping prizes and the cash jackpot. The difference was that the syndicated series did not offer the cash jackpot by itself as a prize. Instead, the car was the last individual prize offered and the penultimate prize level gave the champion an opportunity to purchase all of the shopping prizes without the jackpot. For the first three weeks of episodes it took $830 to win the entire lot, with $720 needed for just the shopping prizes. Beginning on January 28, 1985, and continuing until the shopping format was discontinued in November 1985, accumulating $640 won the prizes and $750 won them and the jackpot. During this period, the lot was won a total of four times, with the first win coming in February 1985 and the last in September 1985.
On rare occasions, a champion entered a match needing a certain amount for one prize and finish with a high enough score that, when added to his/her current bankroll, enabled him/her to buy the prize that was on the next level. For instance, the champion could have been aiming for a fur coat but ended up accumulating a high enough score during the game to give he/she an opportunity to buy the next prize in line (e.g., the car). When such a situation arose, the champion was allowed to buy either of the two prizes if he/she wished, but not both. If the next level involved multiple prizes, like the lot on the NBC series or all the shopping prizes on the syndicated series, there was no choice given between prizes. In the former case, the champion simply retired as he/she was at the highest possible prize level[better source needed] In the latter case, the champion faced the same decision he/she continued to face after each victory: either to take all the shopping prizes and leave, or try to add the cash jackpot.[better source needed]
All the shopping prizes were swapped out for different ones every five shows. If a contestant's reign was to continue past the Friday of a particular week, Jim Perry offered a reminder that a different set of prizes would be offered beginning on the next show, told the champion where he/she stood and what else would be available.
By July 1983, the Fame Game underwent two changes. The first involved adding two more Money Cards to the board, worth $10 and $15. These cards were added to the board one at a time, with the $10 card added on the first playing, the $15 on the second, and the $25 on the third. Occasionally, a fourth money card worth $5 was placed on the board with the $10 card. Later in March 1984, the famous faces on the Fame Game board were replaced by numbers, and for a brief time in late 1984, there was a "$5+" money card, entitling the contestant who found it to immediately pick another number and receive whatever was behind it in addition to the $5 score boost. Even later, in October 1985, a randomizer was added to the Fame Game board and the player in control of the board selected a number by hitting their buzzer, which stopped the randomizer. When this change was made, the locations of the Money Cards were shown to the players and the $5 card was done away with.
The regular game format also underwent a significant change in March 1984 when the series followed the Australian Sale's lead by replacing the final three questions after the last Fame Game with a 60-second speed round. To coincide with this change, Sale also increased the value of the shopping prizes. The price of the cash jackpot increased from $510 to $650, while the total amount needed to purchase the entire lot of prizes went from $600 to $760.
Beginning in May 1984, a "Sale Surprise" was occasionally and secretly added to certain Instant Bargains. It was only revealed after the contestant either purchased or passed on a prize, and consisted of a cash bonus in addition to any money the host might have already offered.
In March 1986, the third Instant Bargain was replaced by an "Instant Cash" game. The leading contestant (or, in case of a tie, the winner of an auction) was offered a chance at a cash jackpot for the cost of their entire lead over the second-place contestant. If the leader accepted the deal, he/she chose one of three boxes, two of which contained $100 each. The third box held the jackpot, which started at $1,000 and increased by that amount every day it went unclaimed.
Beginning in late December 1987, a prize was awarded to the winner of the match. Originally, there were six prizes on offer each week, each hidden behind a number, and the winner of the match got to determine their prize by picking one of the numbers (early on, the number was chosen by the defending champion during the game and the prize went to the winner even if the champion was dethroned later in the show). Beginning in August 1988, the prize was predetermined before the show began and Jim Perry announced it before the match started.
The shopping bonus round was later replaced with a game called the "Winner's Board", which was introduced in October 1984 on NBC and on November 18, 1985 in syndication. On the Friday before the switch was made on both series, the champion was awarded the shopping prize he/she was entitled to based on how much money had been accumulated to that point.
Unlike before, where a contestant had to continue winning and build his/her bank to a certain amount to have a chance at one of the major prizes on the stage such as the car, the Winner's Board guaranteed that the contestant had a fair shot at any of 10 bonus prizes that were offered during that given week.
Every new champion's reign started with a full board of 20 squares. As before, prizes included such items as jewelry, fur coats, and vacations; however, one prize was always $3,000 in cash. The two highest-valued prizes, a car and $10,000 cash, were each hidden behind one square, while the other eight were behind two each. Two "WIN" cards were also hidden on the board. The champion selected one square at a time and won the first prize for which he/she found a matching pair. If a "WIN" card was found, the champion won the prize revealed on the next pick. This was the only way to win the car or the $10,000 as long as the champion had won eight games or fewer. When a prize was won, it was removed for all subsequent visits to the Winner's Board by that champion, but the two "WIN" cards were always in play for his/her first eight visits. After a ninth victory, these cards were removed and two numbers were displayed, each concealing one of the two remaining prizes. The champion picked one number and won its prize, then automatically received the other one for a tenth win.
Any champion who cleared the board by winning 10 games was offered the option to retire undefeated and keep all the prizes, or return to play one more game against two new challengers. A win in this game awarded the champion a $50,000 bonus, but a loss forfeited the prizes. Regardless of the outcome, the champion left the show afterward.
In December 1987, the show changed bonus rounds again and introduced a new round called the "Winner's Big Money Game". 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 a famous person, place, or thing. To win, the champion had to solve a set amount of them within a time limit: originally five puzzles in 25 seconds, which was later reduced to four in 20 seconds. The clock began when the first word of a puzzle was revealed and 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 Winner's Big Money Game had a series of eight prize levels. Each of the first six were cash prizes that increased in value each time regardless of whether the round was won the day before or not. A new champion played for $5,000 on his/her first trip to the bonus round, $6,000 on the second trip, and so on up to $10,000 on the sixth.
If the champion reached the Winner's Big Money Game a seventh time, he/she played for a car. A win also allowed the champion to return for an eighth match, with $50,000 at stake in the bonus round if he/she won. The champion retired from the show after either failing to win the car or playing for the $50,000, win or lose.
From the time the round was introduced until the series ended, the $50,000 Winner's Big Money Game was played twice. The first player to reach it was Rani White in May 1988, who won the $50,000 prize. Five months later, in October 1988, the $50,000 level was reached by Phil Cambry. However, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to win the prize.
The 1969–73 version began with Jack Kelly as host, who was replaced by Joe Garagiola in 1971. Bill Wendell, then on the staff of NBC, served as announcer for the entire 1969–73 version. Madelyn Sanders, an African-American model, served as hostess for most of the run.
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 28, 1984,[better source needed] when Summer Bartholomew joined the program and remained as co-host until the 1989 finale. Jay Stewart announced until his retirement in January 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 a.m. (10:00 a.m. 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—made its debut.
The 1983 revival debuted on NBC on January 3 of that year at 10:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. Central) and remained there until January 2, 1987. Replacing Wheel of Fortune, the show that belonged in the time slot from April 1982 to December 1982, the show faced competition against Child's Play at the same time slot on CBS (ABC did not begin programming until 11:00 a.m.) from January to September 1983, then Press Your Luck from September 1983 to January 1986, then Card Sharks from January 1986 to 1987. On January 5, 1987, the network moved the show back thirty minutes to 10:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. Central). Sale of the Century stayed in that timeslot for the remainder of its run, enjoying respectable ratings. It faced competition with three CBS game shows airing at that same timeslot: The $25,000 Pyramid (for the entirety of 1987 and the spring of 1988), Blackout (which aired from January to April 1988), and Family Feud (which premiered in July 1988). The program's 1,578th and final episode aired on March 24, 1989.
Its place on the schedule was taken by Scrabble, which had been airing in the afternoons for several years, in a shuffle that also saw Super Password end after four-and-a-half seasons (its timeslot of 12:00 PM was given back to its affiliates) and the soap opera Generations inherit its place and Scrabble's old timeslot.
The revival series spawned an accompanying daily syndicated ion that premiered on January 7, 1985, and was distributed by Genesis Entertainment. The syndicated Sale of the Century was renewed for a full second season, but not enough stations were willing to pick it up for a third season and the series came to an end following the 1985–86 season.
USA aired reruns of the entire 270–episode 1985–86 syndicated series, and 120 episodes (August 1988 – March 1989) of the NBC daytime series from September 14, 1992, to July 29, 1994, for a total of 390 episodes.
GSN carried the series from April 1, 2013, until March 27, 2015. The network initially started out by airing the final sixty-five episodes of the NBC series. As part of the weekend beginning with that year's Black Friday, the network aired a four-hour marathon of episodes from the first season of the syndicated series to pay tribute to many retailers offering sales. GSN added the syndicated episodes to its daytime lineup in place of the network episodes that Monday and aired most of the run before dropping Sale from their schedule.
On October 18, 2015, Buzzr added the syndicated episodes to their Sunday night lineup, which later moved to the weeknight lineup in the summer of 2017. In July 2018, the show moved to the weekday morning lineup, and in July 2019, the network added NBC episodes to its rotation, starting from episode 1410, in July 1988.
The original 1969–74 theme was composed by Al Howard and Irwin Bazelon.
The main theme on the 1980s version 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. The show introduced a synthesized version of the Ellis theme in 1987.
Milton Bradley released two home ions 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.
|Australia||Great Temptation||Tony Barber and Barbara Rodgers||Seven Network||1970||1975|
|Sale of the Century||Tony Barber||Nine Network||July 14, 1980||November 29, 2001|
|Temptation||Ed Phillips and Livinia Nixon||May 30, 2005||January 23, 2009|
|Brazil||So Compra Quem Tem||Silvio Santos||SBT||late 1960s||mid-1970s|
|France||L'Affaire du Siècle||Alexandre Dubin||TF1||1995 (unaired pilot)|
|Η αуоρά тоυ αiώvα
I auorá toy aióva
|Mary Miliaresi||Mega Channel||1997||1998|
|Germany||Hopp oder Top||Andreas Similia||Tele 5||1990||1993|
Daai Sau Bat
|India||Super Sale||Sajid Khan||STAR One||2004||2004|
|Mexico||La Venta Increible||Guillermo Huesca||TV Azteca||1998||1998|
|New Zealand||Sale of The Century||Steve Parr||TV2||1989||1995|
|Nigeria||Temptation:Nigeria||Ikponmwosa "ik" Osakioduwa||M-Net||2006||2006|
|Paraguay||La Venta del Siglo||Néstor Povigna and Mariza Mountti||SNT||1995||1999|
|South Africa||Temptation:South Africa||James Lennox||M-Net||2006||2006|
|Turkey||Yüzyilin Indirimi||Mehmet Aslantug||Kanal D||1995||1997|
|United Kingdom||Sale of the Century||Nicholas Parsons||ITV||October 9, 1971||November 6, 1983|
|Peter Marshall and Maria Rice Mundy||Sky Channel||February 6, 1989||October 3, 1991|
|Keith Chegwin||Challenge TV||February 3, 1997||1997|
Champion Jan Robes was faced with this specific situation.
champion Darrell Garrison is retired after failing to win a Jeep in the Winner's Big Money Game.
Champion Rani White wins the Winner's Big Money Game for $50,000.
Champion Phil Cambry loses the Winner's Big Money Game and does not win the $50,000.