What kinds of bingo equipment are there?
First of all, you need something for people to mark their numbers on. The cheapest option is plain bingo paper. You can get many sheets of it at a low price, but it is designed to be marked up and thrown out when finished. With this type of paper, you often hear the terminology "n On" or "m Up," where m and n are numbers. m and n indicate the number of cards per sheet and sheets per pad, respectively. So "4 On, 5 Up" paper comes in pads of 5 sheets of paper, each with 4 bingo cards. Alternatively, you can get hard bingo cards which are intended to be reused. These are much more expensive, but in the long term could pay off. There are even some "Slide Cards" (or "Shutter Cards") with a slider for each square. This minimizes the additional bingo equipment needed, as you don't have to get daubers or markers,
The next most needed kind of bingo equipment is balls. Bingo balls vary widely in type and cost. The price for a set of balls at a single given retailer might vary from $15 U.S. to well over $200! The prices depend on the ball's quality, size, and number of sides (places where the number is printed). In reality, you can play fine with the cheap 7/8" balls, but if you want to give your bingo operation a high-class appearance, you might want to go with the fancier ones.
Once you've got the balls, you'll need to have some way of picking them. This is likely to be the most expensive piece of bingo equipment that you buy. At a minimum, you'll need a cage, which you manually roll to mix around and get a number out of, and which typically costs $50+ U.S., but can easily cost well over $200 if you want high quality. But if you want to go really fancy, you're going to want a ball blower, which blows a ball up to the top for you to read. It is quite easy to find blowers that cost over $1000 U.S.
Once the balls have been picked, you have to have some way of indicating which balls have come up and which ones haven't. Many of the ball blowers and cages come with a "masterboard," where there is a numbered slot for each ball, so you have a quick reference of which balls have been picked. But bingo players will want a summary that they can see, so they can make sure they are filling in only the correct squares on their cards. Time for more bingo equipment! Your choices here range from a dry erase board (available for less than $50 U.S.) to giant electronic "flashboards," which can cost thousands of dollars.
Now that people know which numbers to mark off, they must have some way of marking them on their cards! Unless you got Slide/Shutter Cards, your bingo equipment purchases aren't over yet! One option is bingo chips. These are reusable, so they would be what you need for hard bingo cards. You can even get magnetic chips which you can easily collect with a magnetic "wand." But if you have bingo paper and want people to be able to mark their cards, you can get daubers (sometimes called dabbers). These are small bottles of ink that people use to mark off the numbers they've gotten. You can even get novelty daubers with bottles fashioned after cartoon characters and other cute designs.
Those are the main pieces of bingo equipment that you will need. Of course there are many others that you may want. You might want a bingo bag to carry all your other bingo equipment. If you have a large-scale operation, you could buy dauber racks, ashtrays, seat cushions and various other accessories. It's all up to how much you want to spend.
Here are a few tips for buying bingo equipment:
- Check ball sizes! If you buy 1.5" balls, make sure you buy a cage or blower designed for balls of that size.
- Check whether balls are included with your cage or blower. If so, don't buy more.
- If you just want to play recreationally, consider getting an all-inclusive set. This will have everything you need to play with a discount for buying so much at once. It won't be the highest-quality bingo equipment, but it's enough to play!
Finally, here are a couple of web sites where bingo equipment can be sold:
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