A booby prize is a joke prize usually given in recognition of a terrible performance or last-place finish. A person who finishes last, for example, may receive a booby prize such as a worthless coin. Booby prizes are sometimes jokingly coveted as an object of pride.
Booby prizes may also be given as consolation prizes to all non-placing participants of a competition.
The word "boob" stems from the Spanish bobo meaning stupid, which in turn came from the Latin balbus meaning stammering; the word booby to mean dunce appeared in 1599.
Booby prize literally means "idiot's prize". The OED dates this usage to 1893. Booby trap and "booby hatch" are related terms.An award is given annually for Mr. Irrelevant, the professional American football player each year who is selected last in the NFL draft. The award includes a trophy mimicking the Heisman Trophy depicting the player from the Heisman fumbling.
A Red Lantern is given to the cyclist who finishes last in the Tour de France, and the last musher in the Iditarod.
A wooden spoon is a common booby prize which is awarded in such sports as Rugby Union, Rowing, and in particular to the team finishing on the bottom of the ladder at the end of the Australian Football League (AFL) season.
The last boat to come into harbor in the Port Huron to Mackinac Race is called the pickle boat.
The anthropomorphic Dusty Bin was given as a booby prize in the TV game show 3-2-1.
A number of game shows have used their own terminology to describe booby prizes, won by contestants who had made either a poor decision or an unlucky choice. On Let's Make a Deal, booby prizes are called "zonks," while the Chuck Barris-produced The New Treasure Hunt called these items "klunks."
Two games on The Price Is Right offer a booby prize-of-sorts for a losing contestant:
A cash prize of less than $10 for revealing the three numbers in the piggy bank prize's blanks in Any Number (before completing the price of either one of the two more desirable prizes).
A cash prize of $1, $10, or $100 for picking the grocery item higher than the target price in Grand Game on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd pick, respectively (before finding all 4 items to win the grand prize of $10,000; finding the 4th item meant risking $1,000).
Traditionally, the cadet graduating from West Point with the lowest academic record was known as the "goat" and was given a silver dollar by each of his classmates.
On the BBC Quiz show Blankety Blank losing contestants were famously presented with a Blankety Blank Cheque Book and Pen.
On the New Zealand game show It's in the Bag, three of the game bags have booby prizes in them, ranging from rubber ducks to boxes of washing powder.
An older example of a booby prize was the Wooden Spoon (award), which was given to the lowest performing Cambridge Mathematics student who still gained honours (a third) until 1909. The last holder was Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse.
In the Russian version of Wheel of Fortune (Pole Chudes), in the "Prize" space, a player who lands on this space can either take 2000 points, or take a secret prize as a buy-out to leave the game. In the black box may be a car, prize or some booby prize (sometimes it can be a vegetable).