The series premiered on January 3, 1983, the same day two other game shows premiered on NBC's daytime lineup: Just Men! and Hit Man. Only Sale of the Century would enjoy a much longer run, while the other two series lasted only three months.
This episode guide is unofficial. Data will be added as fresh episodes appear on YouTube or other video sharing sites. It was originally claimed on YouTube around 2009 by Mitt Dawson (a staffer who worked on the show; he is now deceased) that all of the NBC daytime episodes prior to late-August 1988 were erased, possibly as per Reg Grundy Productions policy.
Much later, on April 30, 2018, it was revealed by Alexandra Hedgewood (the director of sales from Fremantle, which currently holds the rights to the franchise) that 883 episodes of the show exist. This figure may or may not include the 1985-86 syndicated run. She also mentioned that no daytime episodes prior to 1985 are in Fremantle's archives.
Player 3 (Champ)
First episode to air on NBC. Sally Julian is the first hostess, and this episode also had several differences from those aired even slightly later, including:
The Fame Game has just the $25 Money Card, available in all three segments; there is no $10 or $15 card. If the Money Card is not found, upon the reveal a different cue -- the sting used to denote the end of the front game -- is played. Also, the Fame Game faces are named before the start of the first segment, rather than after the contestant answered the question and won a chance at the board.
A different background music cue is used for the Shopping round, as opposed to the "dinner theme" music cue used later. Also in shopping, the prize targets are much lower, starting at $48 and continuing to $114, $181, $254, $326 and $390.
The rainbow buzzers flash going into the third commercial break.
Jim did not make a quip about the previous question before the second commercial break and the camera focused on him.
Differences seen during the first year, and continuing through about February 1984 were the Fame Game faces and three final questions; these were eventually replaced by the Fame Game spaces being numbered 1-9 and the 60-second Speedround. Also, departing contestants win a Sale of the Century stick pin (created by MasterCraft Jewelers) as a memento of the show.
Some of the Instant Bargain prizes offered on this episode were also offered on the premiere of the Australian version in 1980. This included $750 in plush toys that Janice buys in the second Instant Bargain segment. (Janice also buys a $550 stereo system in the first Instant Bargain; between the two segments, she also pockets $400 cash, the first two cash offers Jim offered.) Joel is the first contestant to turn down an Instant Bargain, doing so in the third segment when he declines a $1,387 trip to Puerto Vallerta (with $300 cash).
Lynn wins a bedding ensemble from the second Fame Game to go with $45. Joel wins only the $45 in front of him, Jim telling him he wished he'd had bought the trip to Mexico in the end (even though Joel would have been mathematically eliminated by the final three questions had he bought the trip).
The Fame Game faces for the first week of shows are, going from 1-9 order, are Jane Pauley, Denver Pyle, Marilu Henner, Gary Coleman, Meredith Baxter-Birney, Bob Hope, Charlotte Rae, Sorrell Booke and Nell Carter. Jim reminds the contestants that the answer to the Fame Game question he is about to read is not one of those faces; indeed, the first Fame Game answer is Alan Alda. (Incidentally, Bob Hope, who was not picked, had the $25 Money Card; after the reveal, Sally can be heard chuckling for no apparent reason.)
Janice wins the first game, which comes down to the final question, and has $2,395 in prizes for the first day, also picking up a mantle clock and vacuum cleaner in the Fame Game. She turns down a $1,800 man's watch for $48 to play on; up the line were a $3,500 living room suite for $114, a $5,500 fur jacket for $181, a two-week tour of Europe worth $13,316 for $254, a $21,000 yacht for $326, and, a $41,400 Mercedes Benz 300SD TurboDiesel 4-door sedan for $390.
Just before the first match of the series, a close-up shot of the judge is shown. Jim claims he looks like Santa Claus.
Lee Menning's first show. Jim acknowledged that Lee was previously a hostess on Las Vegas Gambit.
Day 1 of Mort Kamins' run. It comes down to a tiebreaker; with the score between Mort and Tom tied at 60-apiece, Tom incorrectly answers the Fame Game question (about Las Vegas; he answered El Paso), costing him his championship. Tom had picked up $7,780 in cash and prizes during his run.
Setting up the tie-breaker: Tom trailed Mort 60-55 going into the final three questions, and rang in on all three. Needing two correct answers but unable to afford a mistake, Tom goes 2-for-3, incorrect on the second question but successfully gambling on the third question with an early ring-in (on a question about where the Orange Bowl is played (Miami)).
Tom comes in with $150 in his bank, and was playing for an artist-signed Norman Rockwell lithograph ("Triple Self-Portrait") worth $13,000.
Mort passes on a $1,500 3-in-1 game table (Regal Manufacturing). Up the line was a $3,500 Neiman Marcus shopping spree ($105), a 12-day trip to Ireland ($8176, included $1,200) at the $150 level; the artwork at $204; Lancer Yachts' MKD sailboat ($24,000) at $246; and the 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300 TD station wagon ($37,000), along withe the key ring and suitcase was worth $6,774, a $44,824 value at $310.
At this point, banking $360 nets the entire lot, worth $95,000.
Mort is in on all three Instant Bargains, but -- wisely so, in the end -- passes on all three: a $500 wardrobe of polo sweaters, a $700 singing machine (Helroch Studios Inc.) and a $1,120 ping-pong table and equipment (from Abercrombie and Fitch), along with $1,800 in cash offers spread over the three items.
On his first day, Mort wins two Fame Game prizes: a $500 microwave oven (White-Westinghouse) and a metal detector (White, $400), in the first two games. Lenore wins a $277 assortment of small kitchen appliances during the third Fame Game, her lone lone highlight of the day.
Jim is featured on vocals on the song featured in the second Instant Bargain.
Day 2 of Mort Kamins' run.
Mort has a great day. ending with $81. With $141 in his bank and just $9 away from the trip to Ireland, he passes on the $3,500 Neiman Marcus shopping spree.
Boosting Mort was finding the $25 Money Card in the first Fame Game, which puts pressure on Sheila and Rosemary early. They play well but cannot catch up and leave with $25 and $35, respectively. Sheila picks up a $409 collection of Quoizel lamps from the first Fame Game along with her cash; Rosemary takes just the cash in front of her.
More confident today, Mort picks up all three Instant Bargains: a $549 set of Compton's Encyclopedia; a package including a $249 Columbia tandem bicycle and $400 in sportswear; and a $1,000 1-week ski vacation to Mammoth Lake, Calif., plus $1,300 in cash over the three Instant Bargains. He also picks up $999 in Galaxy carpeting during the third Fame Game, bringing his cash and prize total to $5,397.
Following the car plug, when Jim is mentioning the lot, he says that three players have already won everything to this point.
Day 3 of Mort Kamins' run.
Day 4 of Mort Kamins' run.
Jim makes a reference to St. Patrick's Day at the start of the show.
Jay Stewart is dressed in green for an appropriately themed Instant Bargain.
Day 5 of Mort Kamins' run. He comes into the day with $301, needing $9 for the car and the cash, and $59 to win the entire lot.
Mort etches his name in game show history; with $95, he is able to win the entire lot of prizes (see March 14 episode for listing) and leave with $107,369 in cash and prizes, the biggest win total in series history to this point.
Mort's win total is $95; he effectively seals the victory and his historic win by finding the $25 Money Card in the second Fame Game. (For those who consider it important, Mort's final bank total was $396.)
A different "big win" music cue is played after Mort seals the win, and also during the end credits; it is simply a different version of the main theme, more swing-like with horns.
Mort salts his week-long run by picking up all three Instant Bargains -- a $549 computer golf trainer, $695 diamond solitaire earrings (from Service Merchandise) and a wrought iron and brass day bed (Wesley Allen) worth $910, plus $2,300 cash over the three Instant Bargains; and from the Fame Game, dinnerware (Metlox's "Quail Ridge" collection) worth $350 and porcelain birds (via Sadek Imports) worth $300. That take alone is worth $5,104.
John and Jacqué never gain any traction and leave with just the cash in front of them -- $35 for John (who did answer the last question of the day, about London) and $20 for Jacqué (who never buzzed in once during the entire game).
By this point, the sale targets for the other prizes are changed, with $55 needed for the first-level prize (generally valued anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500); although unstated, contestants who win their first game with less than $55 are automatically entitled to the first-level prize. Other cash goals are $120, $185, $250, $335, $420 (to win the car) and (for the cash jackpot) $510.
At this point, Jim ends the day with $214 in his bank account.
Contestant Jim comes into this show with $214, and is playing for a $15,000 fur coat. Up the line are a $24,000 sailboat and the $37,000 Mercedes-Benz TD300 4-door station wagon.
Perhaps focused on building his bank account (as host Jim points out at one point), contestant Jim says "pass" on the first two Instant Bargains ($595 in jogging suits and a French-door refrigerator freezer worth $945) and "no sale" on a $1,387 trip to Puerto Vallerta. Also turned down was $1,100 in cash offers over the final two Instant Bargains.
Host Jim refers to contestants hitting the $25 Money Card (at this point, apparently still the only Money Card, and available throughout the game) on the first Fame Game on the previous two episodes; per the host's comments, these were likely contestant Jim's opponents because of needing to rally to win. This time out, however, John finds a crystal wine decanter and glassware set on the first Fame Game; contestant Jim picks up a $473 KitchenAid food mixer/preparer on the second Fame Game.
During the opening segment, host Jim reveals his weekend plans involve going to Rodondo Beach to play in the Bill Cosby Celebrity Tennis Tournament over the weekend
First episode with the accumulating cash jackpot, which is spotted at $50,000 and grows $1,000 for each day it is unclaimed.
No later than this point, the luxury automobile on offer is changed from a Mercedes-Benz to a Cadillac.
Per fan recollections, champion Maureen McGovern wins and elects to retire with the $54,000 cash jackpot.
Richard ends the day with $393, just $27 short of the car (a Cadillac Eldorado coupe) and needing $117 for the cash jackpot.
Cash jackpot: $81,000
During the episode, Richard turns down the second Instant Bargain, a man's suit from Botany 500 and $400 cash, but buys the third Instant Bargain, a Hitachi rack stereo system worth $1,011 (in which Jim offered an additional $1,000). Richard also hits the $15 money card in the second Fame Game and wins his/her watches in the final Fame Game.
David wins a James Kenrob by Dalton women's wardrobe(!) worth $400 (from the first Fame Game), while Gail takes home a $514 set of small kitchen appliances during the first Instant Bargain.
Richard ends the day with $483. With just $27 needed for the cash jackpot, he turns down an offer to buy a Cadillac Eldorado coupe, worth $26,583, to play for the jackpot.
Jim does not inform Richard of the requirements to win the Lot; at that point, Richard would have needed $117 to win all the prizes. Jim simply says in his signoff, "It's an all or nothing situation for Richard Heft. ... He's going to win it or lose it ... tomorrow, on Sale of the Century."
Cash jackpot: $82,000
Richard wins and elects to retire with the $82,000 cash jackpot. Based on recollections, his total winnings were somewhere around $90,000.
Barbara Phillips has a cash total of $484, needing just $26 to win the cash jackpot. She declines the Cadillac Eldorado, worth $24,527, to go for the ultimate prize. So far, her winnings stand at $11,045.
Barbara Phillips becomes the first -- and, per fan recollections and based on circulating/YouTube footage, only -- contestant to win the Lot (the cash jackpot and all the prizes) during the Shopping Era. Her total winnings are $151,689.
The lot and cash jackpot together total $140,644. In addition to the $68,000 cash jackpot (which was to be earmarked toward the first house), the lot includes a tour of New England ($3,242); a man's raccoon-trimmed coat ($5,000, via Dicker and Dicker Beverly Hills); a luxury living room ($9,025), a gold lion's head necklace ($13,000, via Jewels by Edwar), an electric motorboat ($17,850) and a Cadillac Eldorado 2-Door Coupe ($24,527).
In her final victory, Barbara amasses a then-record score of 120, getting within striking distance of winning all the prizes upon hitting a $15 Money Card in the final Fame Game. It is only at this point where Jim informs her that she can win all of the shopping prizes plus the cash jackpot if she answers all three questions correctly.
The "big victory" music cue plays and big-win sirens sound immediately after she is told she is correct on her third question.
Barbara's opponents, Diane and Dwight, are barely factors in this game, winning just $20 and $25, respectively, based on footage posted to YouTube.
Sale of the Century did not air on November 24 and 25, 1983 due to special Thanksgiving programming. Based on recollection, at least two Saturday morning cartoons were given rare Friday airings instead of the usual NBC daytime lineup - the cartoons in question were The Smurfs and Alvin & the Chipmunks.
Player 3 (Champ)
Tournament of Champions (Week 2, Day 1)
Tournament of Champions (Week 2, Day 2)
Tournament of Champions (Week 2, Day 3)
Tournament of Champions (Week 2, Day 4)
Tournament of Champions (Week 2, Day 5)
Tournament of Champions (Week 3, Day 1)
Tournament of Champions (Week 3, Day 2)
Fran wins the match and has $145 in her bank at this point.
Tournament of Champions (Week 3, Day 3)
Tournament of Champions (Week 3, Day 4)
Tournament of Champions (Week 3, Day 5)
Tournament of Champions (Week 4, Day 1)
Tournament of Champions (Week 4, Day 2)
Tournament of Champions (Week 4, Day 3)
Tournament of Champions (Week 4, Day 4)
Tournament of Champions (Final Day)
The tournament concludes on this day with Mort walking away with $249,982.
Based on recollections, this episode never aired on the East Coast due to Space Shuttle coverage.