Game Shows Wiki
Bud Collyer (1954)
Bill Goodwin (1955)
Johnny Olson (1954)
Jay Stewart (1955)
Penny to a Million.jpg
Pilot: 1954
ABC Primetime: 5/4/1955 – 10/19/1955
Wolf Productions

Penny to a Million was a short-lived quiz show where contestants competed in a question-and-answer game with the value of the jackpot doubling with each correct answer escalating from one penny to one million pennies ($10,000).


Two rounds of regular game play were in each episode. In each round, four new contestants selected from the audience took turns answering questions. The first correct answer added one penny ($0.01) to the jackpot, with each subsequent correct answer doubling it; if a contestant gave a wrong answer or failed to answer, they were eliminated from the game, awarded a gift certificate or savings bond ($25 for the first two eliminated, $50 for the round's runner-up) and a prize from the show's sponsor (either a pack of Brown & Williamson's Raleigh cigarettes, or a pen from W.A. Sheaffer; the sponsors alternated each week). Wrong answers did not affect the jackpot. The round continued until three of the four contestants were eliminated or 20 questions were answered correctly (for a jackpot of up to 219¢, rounded down to 500,000 pennies). The jackpot reset to zero after each round.

Questions were separated into categories. As long as each contestant answered correctly, the next question would be of the same category; lines of questioning began with the easiest questions first, becoming progressively more difficult with each question. After a wrong answer, a new category would be introduced, and the process began again. For musical categories (identifying tunes was a recurring question format), a big band was on hand to perform short snippets.

The winners of each round competed in the Playoff Round, where the jackpots from each round were added together. The two players took turns answering questions until at least one of them missed a question. If they both missed a question in turn, they both split the pot evenly. If one player correctly answered a question and the other missed, the winner won ¾ of the pot while the runner-up received the remaining ¼ of the pot.

The show's name comes from its concept: the smallest prize was 1¢, and the highest prize the show offered was "a million pennies," or $10,000. The rules of the game ensured that only $7,500 of that top prize could be won by any particular contestant.


Ritz Theater, New York City, NY (May–June)
ABC Television Center, Los Angeles, CA (July–October)


Penny to a Million @ Game Show Garbage

YouTube Videos[]

Intro of a 1955 episode
Partial intro and first question round of a 1955 episode (from the 1987 special TV Turkeys)
A full episode from October 12, 1955