The Penny Game Christmas Traditions

My great friends Rachel and Micheal were wonderful to share this awesome game with us.  Micheal’s family grew up playing this on Christmas morning and I loved the idea when he told us about it.  I like the thought of having so much fun on Christmas morning and not putting so much emphasis on what you get but having fun getting it.  Of course you may be playing with candy bars instead of Ipods or $5 bills instead of 10$0 bills, but the fun is in the game!

Penny Game Instructions

Background: My dad heard about a game called the Penny game from a work friend. It has now dominated as a Christmas Tradition in our family for the past 6 years. Such to the extent that my little brother, while serving his mission in Finland, wanted to spend his 30 min. phone call home playing this game…
•    Get good gifts
How it is played:

  • Place wrapped gifts on a table for all the bidders to see.
  • The leader of the game, doing the wrapping, may choose to disguise good/bad gifts in any way possible through the shapes and sizes of wrappings
  • Each player chooses from a stack of rolls of 50 pennies. (Those rolls the banks have.)
  • If the leader of the game chooses, there may be a dime in some rolls.

Beginning at the youngest, or however the leader of the game wants to do it, a child points to the gift they would like to start the bidding on. After the leader of the game touches the gift they were pointing to, the leader asks what they would like to start the bidding on. As soon as the coin amount is declared, the gift is fair game for anyone. In an auctioneer voice, the leader of the game leads the bidding. As with auctions, or e-bay, when anyone wants the gift, they must call out a higher coinage amount than the previous bidder. The bidder that wins the wrapped gift is the he/she that is willing to pay the highest amount of pennies.

After a gift has been won by the highest bidder, the leader picks up the gift and hands it to the winner who then opens the gift as everyone watches.

  • Some of the gifts are gages, some are cash, some are gift cards, ski trips, i-pods, cell-phone payment plans etc.
  • Some of the funniest gifts we’ve received are dried chillied mangos, princess crowns from all-a-dollar, and the best yet was a 5lb. salami sausage from Cosco that sold for 35 pennies (that is a very very high bid).

After the gift has been opened, if anyone else would like that particular gift, they may offer service to the recipient of the gift in exchange. If the service offered is appealing enough to the original receiver of the gift, they may choose the service offered instead of the gift. The gift is then given to the one giving the service and the individual that won the gift through bidding is then promised that service (doing their laundry for a month, washing their car every month of the year, etc.).

Also, after a gift has been opened, if anyone else would like that particular gift, they may offer their gifts in exchange for the gift that was just opened.

  • Ex. Sarah just won a ski trip from dad. She doesn’t love skiing as much as I do and I had won a 50$ gift card to Old Navy. After she opens up the gift of the ski trip, I could ask her if she would like to trade with me for my coupon. If she does, that would be awesome.
  • Gifts may only be used for trading, and/or be traded, three times. After the third trade of a gift, that gift is locked and may not be used for any other trading etc.

Caveats/”changing” it up:
•    Sometimes the leader of the game may choose to hide dollars in gag gifts. My whole family was laughing one year with my older sister when she opened up a Barbie car and then we were all stunned as she turned the car upside down and saw a 100$ bill taped to it.
•    “Tickets/coupons” of any sort may be wrapped as gifts to provide the game with unexpected twists.

  • One year my dad included three gifts that were tickets to “The Cash Game” after the penny game. After the tickets had been traded for service and exchange throughout the penny game the three individuals with the tickets all participated in the cash game.
  • The Cash Game: Three closed boxes are placed before the three contestants, after deciding on who goes first, the contestant chooses a box and it is opened reveling their cash prize. The year this game was included in the penny game my little sister was first: she won 2 dollars. She was positive about it. Then my younger brother won 2 100$ bills. Then my oldest sister chose the last box and there were 3 100$ bills in them. At the conclusion of that game my little sister began bawling and we concluded that this may not be the best way to dispense our Christmas gifts each year (we have no other Christmas gifts other than the Penny Game gifts we receive).

Any sort of adjustments may be used. If there are rules you think are too harsh , or favor particular players, the leader of the game may choose to change them and create a more level playing field.

Happy Bidding!!!

by The Ardvaark

Thanks again!