British Game Show Wiki
Nicholas Parsons (1971–1983)
Steve Jones (1981 Celebrity Special)
Peter Marshall (1989–1991)
Keith Chegwin (1997)
Linda Hooks (1977)
Angela Daniels (1977)
Sneh Gupta (1977)
Tina Robinson (1977–1978)
Sophie Batchelor (1978)
Eunice Denny (1978)
Laura Beaumont (1978)
Caro Greenwood (1978)
Christine Owen (1978)
Caroline Villiers (1978)
Carole Ashby (1983)
Karen Loughlin (1983)
Jennifer Cresswell
Peter Marshall (1971–1972)
John Benson (1972–1983)
Mitch Johnson (1989: early shows)
Martin Buchanan (1989–1991: later shows)
Robin Houston (1997)
ITV: 20 November 1971 – 13 November 1983
Sky Channel: 6 February 1989 – 1991
Challenge TV: 3 February 1997 – Mid to Late 1997
Anglia (1971–1983)
Reg Grundy Productions (1989–1997)

Sale of the Century was the popular game show featuring contestants answering questions and using the money earned to buy prizes at low prices.


Three contestants competed in each edition. The rules varied depending on the version.

Rules (1971–1983)

Three contestants would start off with £15 (£10 in the earliest series). Questions were worth different values starting with £1, increasing to £3 after the second instant bargain, and finally £5 after the fourth; by 1982, the values started at £3 but increased to £5 after the fourth instant bargain. The question was asked and players could buzz in at any time. Correct answers would add the money to their score and incorrect answers subtracted the money from their score with only one player allowed to buzz in on each question. If a contestant ran out of money at any time, they were eliminated from further play, but were allowed to remain in their seat for the remainder of the show.

Instant Bargain/Instant Sale

At four points during gameplay (later five), all contestants would be offered the opportunity to purchase merchandise at a bargain price. The first player to buzz in after the prize was revealed purchased that prize. (In so doing, a "losing" contestant might not advance to go shopping at the end of the show, but could leave the show with a considerable haul for one day's play.)

In the early days, the prices of all prizes offered were expressed much as one would hear in a department store (i.e. in pounds and pence). All prize values were rounded off to the nearest pound before being subtracted from the score of the contestant who purchased the prize (later on, prizes were in full pounds and increased as the game progressed). Each instant bargain was hidden behind a curtain; the announcer would mention the price, and then the curtain would open as the prize was revealed. If a contestant buzzed in before the curtain opened, it was declared "No Sale", the contestant would have the price deducted from his/her score (but not win the prize), and the other contestants could then buzz in.

Also during the early ITV series, an "Open Sale" was offered just before the commercial break, in which a number of smaller gifts were offered for less than £5 each. In this situation, more than one player could buy a given gift, and a player could buy any or all of the prizes on offer. They could even buy two or more of some items. By 1982, Open Sale had been replaced by an instant bargain.

The contestant with the most money won the game and went shopping; the other two contestants kept their money, as well as any prizes they won during the game.

Rules (1989–1991)

Each contestant started with £20 and each question was worth a flat £5. In addition, there were only three "Instant Sales" (renamed Gift Shops), and only the contestant in the lead could buy; depending on the game situation, the host could reduce the cost 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).

Fame Game

The biggest change was the "Fame Game": Here, a succession of increasingly larger clues were given to the identity of a famous person, place, or event. In this round, contestants could buzz-in and answer at any time, with the player shut out for the remainder of the question if they gave an incorrect answer.

If one of the contestants buzzed-in and answered correctly, the contestant chose from a game board with nine squares. If all three contestants failed to come up with a right answer, then nobody got to pick. Once chosen, the space selected would be spun around to reveal either a relatively small prize (typically appliances or furniture valued at around a weekly wage) or a bonus money card, which added to the player's score.

There were £10, £15, and £25 bonuses added each round; in addition, in the third round was a "Wild Card", which offered the choice of £100 or a chance to pick again.

Speed Round

The game ended with the Speed Round where the host would ask as many questions as possible within 60 seconds. The player with the most money when time ran out won the game.

If there was a tie for the lead after the Speed Round, another question was asked of the tied contestants. Answering this question awarded £5 and the win; missing the question deducted £5 and lost the game.

Just like in the previous version, losing contestants kept whatever they won during the game, as well as their final scores in pounds.

Rules (1997)

The Challenge TV version was a combination of the previous two versions. All scores were in "Sale of the Century Pounds" (SotC£). Contestants were given SotC£15 to start. There were five rounds with eight questions worth SotC£1 in Round 1, eight questions worth SotC£3 in both Rounds 2 and 3, eight questions worth SotC£5 in Round 4, and eight to twelve questions worth SotC£5 in Round 5. In the fourth and fifth rounds, the questions were a bit more difficult.

Instant Bargain/Instant Sale

There were five "Instant Bargains/Instant Sales", each occurring at the end of each round. Like the ITV version, all three contestants could buy the prize; also, like in the Sky Channel version, the host could reduce the cost in order to entice the contestants to purchase.

Speed Round

Played in the exact same way as on the Sky Channel version.

Unlike the previous versions, the Sale of the Century Pounds were not real money (i.e. contestants who didn't win any Instant Bargains/Sales would go home with unmentioned consolation prizes).

Shopping (All Versions)

The winning contestant would be given the opportunity to spend their cash total on at least one of four grand prizes at the "Sale of the Century"; the grand prize being a new car.

On the original version, champions could buy more than one prize, but no more than £1,000 (£2,500 in the late 1970s); however, they could never buy every prize at less than the total of all of the sale prices. For the final three ITV series, the car was eliminated as a buyable prize, for now the champion, provided they won the game with £140 or more, could choose to shop or answer a possible four of five questions, with no risk, to win the car.

On the 1989–1991 and 1997 versions, there were a series of six prizes (five in 1997) and as the contestant's score built up, it applied to the next highest prize, with a car again being the top prize, which was available for £585 (£500 in 1997). Unlike the ITV version, they could only buy a single prize and leave or risk it and come back.

In Popular Culture

In the Monty Python's Flying Circus episode How Not to Be Seen, the sketch Crackpot Religions Ltd contains a parody of this show. In it, a Pepperpot named Mrs. Collins (played by Michael Palin) hopes to win a coffee machine, but ends up winning the star prize of "the entire Norwich City Council". However, she protests by saying, "But… I've got one already," resulting in a priest version of Nicholas Parsons (played by John Cleese) strangling her.

Additional Pages

List of Sale of the Century episodes and specials


Sale of the Century @

YouTube Videos

Eggheads' Daphne Fowler
Mike the Champ I
Mike the Champ III
Gordon Beattie