Game Shows Wiki
Various (1945–April 1946)
Bert Parks (July 1946–1957)
Bud Collyer (1953 daytime; assisted Parks from 1948–1953)
Substitute Hosts
Peter Donald & Johnny Olson (1948–1953)
Bill Cullen (August 1954)
Assistant/Paying Teller
Janice Gilbert
Bob Shepard
Win Elliott
Johnny Olson
Break the Bank!.png
Break The Bank '48.png
Mutual Radio (Weekly): 10/20/1945 – 4/13/1946
ABC Radio (Weekly): 7/5/1946 – 9/23/1949
ABC Primetime: 10/22/1948 – 9/23/1949 (Simulcast of Radio Version), 1/31/1954 – 6/20/1956
NBC Primetime: 10/5/1949 – 1/9/1952, 6/23/1953 – 9/1/1953
NBC Radio (Weekly) (Simulcast of Television Version): 10/5/1949 – 9/13/1950
NBC Radio (Daily): 9/25/1950 – 9/21/1951, 9/15/1953 – 7/15/1955
ABC Radio (Daily): 9/24/1951 – 3/23/1953
CBS Primetime: 1/13/1952 – 2/1/1953
NBC Daytime: 3/30/1953 – 9/18/1953
Mutual Radio (Daily): 10/11/1954 – 4/8/1955
NBC Primetime: 10/9/1956 – 1/15/1957
Ed Wolf Productions

Break the Bank was a show where contestants answered a series of questions in an attempt to win the money in the Bank.


Contestants were called upon to the stage from the studio audience to play a question & answer game where the more questions answered correctly, the more money they could win.

The value grew for every question level. One incorrect answer dropped them down one level, but two incorrect answers ended the game, though the contestant kept their winnings at that point. The same amount was then put into the Bank, which started at $1,000 ($500 on the daytime show) and grew from there. When he/she reached the penultimate question, that became the "Gateway to the Bank Question", which if answered, won the contestant a chance to answer the final question dubbed the "Break the Bank Question", to which a correct answer won all the money in the Bank.

Prize Ladder[]

Question Level Prizes
Daytime Nighttime
Early Episodes Later Episodes
1 $10 $25
2 $20 $50
3 $30 $50 $100
4 $50 $100 $200
5 $100 $200 $300
6 $200 $300 $500
7 $300 $500 BANK

Special Features[]

  • Wish Bowl – A special home viewer contest in which a penny postcard was drawn. The home viewer who sent in that postcard won a trip to New York to be a guest on the show, a three-day stay for two at the Statler Hotel, and $150 in spending money.
  • Bank Holdup – A camera scanned through the studio audience until an alarm went off, at which point the camera stopped and the audience member chosen won a chance at a special prize.

Break the $250,000 Bank[]

For the show's final three months (October 9, 1956 to January 15, 1957), several rule changes were made:

  • Contestants now had specialized knowledge in specific categories.
  • Parks now asked five $100 questions to the contestants. Answering all the questions won the right to answer $5,000 questions. Answering correctly won the right to continue. Each multiple of $25,000 would be guaranteed in case of a loss.
  • Should a contestant get stumped, he/she went to the "Family Circle" and called upon a member of the family for help.

Nobody won the $250,000 in this version. The highest anyone ever got was $60,000, won by dentist Dr. Harry Duncan.

Taping Location[]

New York City, NY


Bettye-B released two board game adaptations in 1955. (NOTE: The original first edition has a picture of Bert Parks on the cover)


Rules for Break the Bank (1)

YouTube Videos[]

A Full Episode from 1951 (Bank starts at $2,250)
A full episode from around February 1955 (Bank starts at $3,400)
A full episode from December 1955 (Bank starts at $1,300)