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Gaffed Dealing Boxes
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Gaffed Dealing Boxes

The very first Dealing Box was invented by a Virginia gambler named Bayley around 1822. His box was made of brass, about 1/2" wider than a deck of cards and a bit longer. The top was solid with an oblong hole in the center large enough for a dealer to use a single finger to slide the top card out of the box. Because the cards were concealed by the boxes construction gambling houses declined to use the new devise.  That is until a watchmaker from Cincinnati, Ohio named Graves invented an open top dealing box that clearly displayed the cards.

Soon after Grave's dealing box was introduced gaffed boxes began showing up with names like;  tongue-tell, sand-tell, top-sight tell, end squeeze, screw box, needle squeeze, lever movement, coffee-mill and horse-box. There was even a devise called a gaff, which was a small instrument shaped like a shoemaker's awl and worn attached to a finger ring. For the most part these devises were of intricate design utilizing springs, levers, sliding plates, thumb screws and needle-like steel rods.

Many of these early gaffed boxes were made by Graves himself while others were made by Louis David of Natchez, Mississippi who also happened to be a watchmaker.

R. F. Foster, who at one time was, the foremost American authority on games wrote that in the heyday of American gambling a first-class Faro dealer was called a "mechanic" or an "artist" and paid from $100.00 to $200.00 a week plus a percentage of the profits. This was at a time when the average wage was no more than a dollar per day. These guys were not being paid to allow the law of averages or lady luck to determine the outcome of a game but to control the results.

I understand there are 50 or so different designs of gaffed dealing boxes. I hope to compile a complete list with photos and build this page out so anyone can access it for easy reference.

Shown above is a Will & Finck squeezer Dealing Box. Below is the box broken down.

Will & Finck made many gaffed boxes such as the Second Card Skeleton Box and:
  - Sand Tell Box
  - Two-way; Sand Tell and Second Card
  - Needle Tell Box (Rare)

A. Ball & Brothers made a Sand Tell Box, right hand squeezer with right spring plate lock up.

George Mason had a open-sided (skin or skeleton) Box used for dealing second cards. George Graham also had a "Skeleton" box used to deal seconds and it could be locked up and used as a "Square" box.


This article is from the book, " Monte Carlo, secret service-sealed book. "Don't Be A Sucker". Cheating Exposed 100 ways to win ways to cheat" copyright 1925.

Description of various Dealing Boxes

Box #1 - about 1/2" wider than the cards. Has a part 1/4" wide on top inside of box that allows a card to be slipped into. Using marked cards a dealer could hold back the top card.

Box #2 - Has a small spring at one end, on the inside of the box. This spring lies the thickness of 3 cards from top of box and has a point, small like the point of a needle, that catches on the edge of the cards. Using trimmed cards the dealer could tell what card is present from the noise made by the card coming in contact with the spring.

Box #3 - Known as a "Crank-Box", this box has 4 springs inside and a plate to raise the cards up. The back of the box has a hinged shutter so box can be entirely closed up. Inside are rollers running from end-to-end. A "crank" was used to pull cards out. Using trimmed cards with the use of a hidden spring inside the box  a dealer could decide if top card or second card would be dealt from the box. This bos also had a second hidden spring which could be used to lock spring that engaged second card.

Box #4 - This box had an open top that exposed three quarters of the top card. A dealer could run his nail in behind the cards and start two cards at a time. The finger nail had to be grown long and sharpened to a point in order to preform this move and the cards were trimmed.

Box #5 - The back of the top of this box was not as wide as Box #4 and it was thinner so that by bearing down on the back of the box two cards could be pulled or by putting pressure on the front of box only a single card could be pulled.

Box #6 - Made in all appearances as Box #5 but made stiffer on the back bar and the front a little less open. By pressing two cards very hard and with the aid of a gaff (worn on middle finger) both cards could be pulled out.

Box #7 - This box was a little shorter and a little wider than normal. On the back bar was a secret blade which was attached to the outer screw next to the bar. The screw had to be pushed in order to get the blade to come out.

Pictured below is a Will & Finck Button Bottom graffed box. The first photo shows the top of the box plus it's original leather carrying case. The second photo reveals  the bottom button once the felt covering is pulled back.