Punchboard Collection A National Treasure?

Associated Press, October 12, 1999

Ding wtih puchboard donated to Smithsonian

After investing four decades and thousands of dollars in his collection of punchboards, Evan (Ding) Rangeloff is attracting attention from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C."It finally gives me credibility," the 67-year-old Duluth resident said.

Smithsonian archivist Mimi Minnick visited Rangeloff on Saturday to examine his collection. Her trip was a precursor to a more formal visit the Smithsonian in the spring, when officials probably will catalog some of the boards and take them back to the national museum.

"The Smithsonian Institution is enormously interested in Mr. Rangeloff's collection," Minnick said. "But not just the punchboards themselves, but also the knowledge he has about them." "It's like he's a part of the history of punchboards personally," she said.

Punchboards are considered gambling devices and viewed as a precursor to modern-day pulltabs. The boards are half an inch to an inch thick and have prize tickets folded or rolled up inside tiny holes covered in paper or foil. Players paid for a chance to take a punch at the board and see if they could win a prize.

Typical prizes were cigarette lighters, ballpoint pens or coins. Some had more valuable prizes such as guns, knives or even a new car. Many boards carried advertisements for automobiles, cigarettes, candy bars, liquor, snacks and sports teams.

Minnick said items such as Rangeloff's punchboards are referred to by historians as "ephemera" - objects never intended to last or have any real significance. In recent years, archivists have expressed more interest in such objects.

Rangeloff started his collection while working for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. Part of his job was to place the boards in bars and shops where the cigarettes were sold. During their heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, he said, the boards also were prevalent in grocery stores.

Some of Rangeloff's boards are worth thousands of dollars now, but he said he has a hard time putting a dollar figure on the entire collection.

When he put part of the one-of-a-kind collection on display at the St. Louis County Historical Society a few years ago, a curator told Rangeloff he would be crazy not to have that portion insured for less than $500,000.

But Rangeloff doesn't care to assign a value. The Smithsonian can't afford to pay for the boards anyway. Rangeloff plans to donate many of them. He said he'll sell the rest. "I'm getting to the age now where I better get something back for the time I've stuck into it," he said.

Image: Ding with punchboard donated to Smithsonian / Photo by Kort Duce / News-Tribune

Contact Ding Rangeloff at ding@rangeloffcollection.com