You're supposed to just live with the personal tragedy of knowing you can never go on Blockbusters with Bob Holness or Blankety Blank with Les Dawson. Well, we weren't prepared to. We wanted a Blankety Blank chequebook and pen, a Bullseye Bendy Bully and a bunch of other retro game-show consolation prizes, so we fired up eBay and set about simply buying them. It's harder than you think...
BLANKETY BLANK CHEQUEBOOK AND PEN
Leaving aside the non-canonical Lily Savage reboot, there should be upwards of 400 chequebook-and-pen sets from the Terry Wogan/Les Dawson era out there. The classic chequebook is supposedly solid silver, on a plinth with the pen nestling beneath and the contestant’s name lovingly if cheaply embossed on the front.
“Something that can be prized beyond avarice,” in Les Dawson’s words. The sporadic eBay auctions have recently ended at £280 (“Won by the seller (on whose behalf I am listing) in 1984 and presented by Les Dawson. Kept safely in a display cabinet since”) – or £250 for a chequebook without the pen, which seems like poor value. A contestant’s widow sparked a frantic bidding war for one in 2009.
3-2-1 CERAMIC DUSTY BIN
Good luck getting hold of the actual Dusty Bin, a three-foot high receptacle on wheels that cost £10,000 to manufacture in 1978. It used cutting-edge military robotics, which allowed engineer Ian Rowley to make it bend, twist, move and goose the show’s hostesses with its giant white hands. Rowley took Dusty back to his workshop in Leeds when the utterly baffling quiz/variety show was cancelled in 1989.
Losers on the show were given a ceramic Dusty, but these are hard to find on eBay, which is overrun by Dusty Bin money boxes, jugs, toys and other spin-off tat. Tip: the proper one should have separate, stick-out hands. Here's a real one, with episode one contestants Janice Long and her then husband Trevor, who later walked away with a sterling silver tea set worth £2,000. They sold it and put a deposit down on a flat.
BULLSEYE BENDY BULLY
A nightmare, since these were sold as merchandise, making it very hard to tell whether the one you’re buying ever genuinely emerged from beneath Jim Bowen’s podium. At the time of writing someone has bid £16 for one on eBay that, to us, looks questionable. Replica tankards and dart flights were made and sold too and now flood the memorabilia market.
There’s a further problem with wear and tear, even if the Bendy Bully you’re looking at is real. Back in January, semi-pro darts player and 1991 Bullseye contestant James Wilson revealed that his Bendy Bully had “disintegrated” five years previously. “It was made out of foam I think,” said Wilson on the eve of the BDO world championship. “It turned to dust when I last tried to pick it up."
CRYSTAL MAZE CRYSTAL
Once again, you’d imagine there’d be hundreds of these for sale on eBay, but there aren’t – it doesn’t help that the word “crystal” is contained within the name of the show, making it hard to filter out the books, board games and vintage £5 jackpot pub quiz machines. Plus there’s the old problem of replicas, although this is fairly easily solved since if it’s one that was presented to a contestant, rather than simply used as a prop, it should be engraved with the legend “I CRACKED THE CRYSTAL MAZE” and the year the episode was made.
An eBay user got £100 for one in 2012, with bidders competing madly to secure “crystal maze crystal from the cult tv series handed down from a relative who was a contestant in the show.Doesnt come with the box but neva seen one before on ebay”.
The ultimate imbalance between how many items were given away on the show, and how many are available for sale now, comes from the popular Bob Holness quiz for teens. Sweatshirts, jackets, Filofaxes and some kind of hideous cape were among the prizes, on and off, but for years everyone always got a dictionary with a red leather cover and “BLOCKBUSTERS” embossed in gold lettering on the front. Yet we can’t find a single one for sale online. You’ll have to make do with this photo of Konnie Huq and Simon Amstell instead.