A Brief History of Ticketing

Tickets – easily overlooked but essential to our enjoyment of theatre, music, sport, art and more. As we move away from the conventional paper ticket to e-tickets, we take a look over other key milestones in theatre ticketing history and beyond.

Ancient Greece The first known tickets were used for events that primarily took place in theatres.

Roman Era Originally, small disks of clay were used to stamp seating details and were used as tickets (or tessara). The small disks were about the size of a penny.

1732 Audiences coming to watch a show at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, would simply pay on the door for admission to the theatre without being issued a ticket, and there was no guarantee of a seat. This was common practice for London theatres at the time.

1755 Theatre Managers began to issue pre-paid tickets – or ‘checks’ – for performances, enabling them to control more successfully the numbers of people in the theatre and, as importantly, to know how much money they were making each evening. These early ‘checks’ were circular metal tokens, usually made of brass or bronze.

1868 Audience members could now buy subscribers’ tickets, which reserved particular seats on a set day or days of each week. To meet this need a new style of reusable tokens was introduced. Tokens made of bone, either circular or oval in shape, were issued by the theatre. One side showed the name of the theatre and the name of the subscriber, while the other showed the year, the evenings subscribed to and the seat number. Each token was signed by the Box Office Manager.

Late 1800s Paper tickets gradually came into use, and the familiar paper tickets with a perforated counterfoil or ‘stub’ were developed around this time.

Early 1900s Paper tickets were becoming more ornate, with stubs being adorned with intricate borders and coloured ink.

1940s Sports games in the US spurred the creation of inventive ticket design, with tickets to baseball games being produced in the shape of baseballs, and event catcher’s mitts.

1960s and 70s Ticket stubs for some football games and concerts become works of art in their own right, and are often highly sought after by collectors.

2000 Tessitura (the ticketing system used by The Old Vic) is released. Affectionately known as ‘Tess’, it is an ‘enterprise application’ used by performing arts and cultural organisations to manage their activities in ticketing, fundraising, customer relationship management, and marketing.

2017 The Old Vic launches e-tickets in an effort to go green and reduce the amount of paper used for ticketing. All physical tickets still issued by the theatre are now printed on recyclable ticket stock.

Help us be greener in 2018 and opt for e-tickets – here’s the Lorax to show you just how easy it is: