Estimating quantities for instant prizes

Determining how many instant prizes you will need for a game is not too difficult if you have some idea of how many players you expect to have at your carnival. We covered this topic under in Planning (see Determine Your Budget) but it is worth repeating here. If you know how to use a spreadsheet (like Quicken or Excel) it will make your work much easier. I have an example Excel spreadsheet that I can email to you on request.

  1. Determine how many players can play the game during your carnival You could make a chart like this:

If our carnival is 3 hours (180 minutes) long,

And the game takes this long:  Then this many can play:

30 seconds

360 players

1 minute

180 players

2 minutes

90 players

3 minutes

60 players

Do a reality check here -- If you are only expecting 50 players at your carnival, you probably won't get 360 players per game, unless it is so fun they want to play it 5 or 6 times!

  1. Out of the possible number of players, how many will win at each level? That is, if you have a game where the player throws three beanbags, how many will get one, two, or three down? This is somewhat of a guess on your part unless you've had this game at your carnival before. You could make a chart like this:

If 180 players can do this game in 3 hours,

Then at this level: I expect to have this many winners:
Level 1 - One hit on target


Level 2 - Two hits on target


Level 3 - Three hits on target


  1. Come up with target cost for prizes for the game. You could make a chart like this:

If 180 players do this game,

And this many win:  And prizes for this level cost:
Level 1 prize

 84 winners

$0.05 each

Level 2 prize

 60 winners

$0.10 each

Level 3 prize

 36 winners

$0.30 each

Then this game's prizes will cost: (84*$0.05)+(60*$0.10)+(36*$0.30)=$21.00.

  1. Estimate the average cost of a prize per player, to make sure you are going to make a profit on the game.

Cost of prizes for the game / Number of players = Cost per player

So for our example, it would be $21.00 / 180 = $0.12 per player. So as long as it costs at least $0.12 to play the game, you are going to come out ahead.

  1. Plan to order more than you need. Realize that the numbers you come up with here are only estimates. Order more than you think you will need to give yourself a cushion. 

  2. Choose your prizes. This is the fun part! Go through catalogs and look for prizes that are close to the amounts you want to spend. In my example, I would look for prizes that cost around 4 cents, 10 cents, and 30 cents. Remember that you just have to average these amounts, you can go over and under as long as you come close. Have a few choices, your first choice may be sold out.

  3. Check your work. After your carnival, take an inventory of your leftover prizes. Did you run out of items? Did you have tons left over? Write it all down for next year's carnival. This will help tremendously in the future.