Are Old Lottery Tickets Worth Anything

Playing the lottery is a beloved pastime for millions. Who hasn’t dreamed about what they’d do if they won big? We eagerly await those drawing results, only to feel disappointment most of the time when our numbers don’t match up.

Before you crumple up those losing lottery tickets in frustration and toss them straight into the trash though, you may want to pause and reconsider. It turns out those seemingly worthless slips of paper could provide more value than you ever expected.

Keep reading to discover the truth about whether old lottery tickets are actually worth holding onto. We’ll explore surprising ways you can make money from tickets when lady luck doesn’t strike on the first try.

Double Check Old Tickets – You Could Have a Forgotten Winner

The number one rule before throwing out old lottery tickets is to double check them, no matter how sure you seem that they were losers. Shockingly, around $2 billion in lottery prize money goes unclaimed every year, according to reports.

It’s often smaller secondary prizes that winners fail to realize they hit. When you don’t see the jackpot numbers match, your first instinct may be to assume the ticket is worthless. But look closer – you could overlook matching just a few numbers that score you a couple hundred or thousand dollars.

Every ticket comes with an expiration date too, usually 6 months to 1 year depending on your state. Check official state lottery websites to confirm dates. Winning tickets become null past the expiration, so don’t accidentally let a prize slip through your fingers.

Set reminders to prompt you to recheck thoroughly before hitting the expiry. Also search for lottery apps that can scan and track results for you. Some can even capture ticket images and run automatic checks.

Enter Losing Tickets into Second Chance Lottery Drawings

Here’s an exciting concept you may never have realized. When luck doesn’t strike on the first try, many states provide a “second chance” to win with lottery games.

43 states offer varieties of second chance drawings that allow you to enter non-winning tickets into random prize giveaways. These provide extra opportunities beyond the standard lotto.

Sometimes second chances involve separate drawings just for losing tickets where you get entered to win other prizes like vacations and cars. Other times, non-winners let you play point-collecting games to redeem rewards.

Visit your state’s official lottery website for specifics on types of second chance games and rules on entering. Many require establishing an online account to submit losing ticket numbers. Make sure to check promotional dates, as each game will have a start and end date printed.

While the prize amounts may not reach record jackpots, second chance contests award plenty of exciting perks – trucks, bonus cash, once-in-a-lifetime trips and more! Not bad for a “losing” ticket you nearly threw out.

What Exactly Are Second Chance Lotteries and How Do They Work?

For those new to the concept, let’s do a quick second chance lottery overview:

Second chance drawings give lottery ticket holders another shot at winnings after losing the main lotto game. States organize them both as special contests exclusively for non-winners as well as point/reward systems allowing players to build up to prize redemptions over time.

You’ll generally need to enter your tickets onto the state’s lottery website by registering an online account. Important rules to check are:

  • Eligible games – Some states only accept certain scratch-off or draw game tickets
  • Entry method – Online entry forms, mail-in tickets, etc.
  • Entry limits – Most states cap the number of tickets per month
  • Promotional dates – Drawing dates, prize redemption deadlines

If your ticket gets drawn and you win, don’t worry about claiming procedures. States contact winners directly by phone and mail, walking you through next steps. Just be absolutely sure to closely follow instructions to officially accept required forms and payments to secure your prizes.

While we all hope to score those multi-million dollar jackpots, second chance contests make it possible to win big without needing mega luck. In fact, your odds improve the more often you play.

Sell Non-Winning Tickets to Eager Collectors

If second chance lottery isn’t of interest, did you realize you can actually sell lottery tickets – even if they didn’t win? Turns out there’s a thriving niche of collectors seeking lottery memorabilia, especially vintage tickets.

Lottery enthusiasts pay decent sums to buy up unused, losing, and winning tickets alike to expand collections. A winning Powerball slip went for $162 on eBay. Losing scratch-offs commonly sell individually for $1 to $15. Full unused ticket rolls have sold for up to $200.

Sites like eBay provide platforms to easily list and sell to hungry collectors. You can also trade directly with other lottery devotees online. It’s surprisingly simple turning worthless tickets into pure profit this way.

Repurpose Tickets into Arts, Crafts or Bookmarks

Beyond making money, those discarded losing tickets sitting around could unlock creative potential. Try incorporating them into arts and crafts projects.

Some clever ways lottery lovers have upcycled tickets:

  • Collages & Decoupage Art – Cut up designs, layer onto cards or canvases
  • 3D Sculptures – Fold into shapes, build sculptures
  • Home Décor – Decorate picture frames, vases
  • Jewelry – Affix pieces onto necklace pendants
  • Gift Boxes & Cards – Use full tickets on packaging
  • Bookmarks – Cut strips to fit in books
  • Origami Crafts – Fold tickets into birds, flowers
  • Games & Activities for Kids – Invent prize games with them

Artists like Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom have built entire exhibits from lottery tickets, including life-size playhouses and cars. Raid your ticket pile and get those creative juices energized!

Use for Tax Purposes When You Win Down the Road

Tucking away a stash of losing lottery tickets might just pay off big time later if you win a major lottery prize. How? You can use old tickets to offset lottery taxes and lower how much you pay.

Here’s a scenario to understand how it works:

Let’s imagine you win a $5,000 Powerball prize living in Arizona. Using a Powerball tax calculator, you’ll owe about $2,835 in combined federal and Arizona state taxes on the windfall.

However, you’ve retained six months worth of past lotto and scratch-off tickets from playing regularly. You spent about $500 on losing tickets over that period. Under gambling tax law, you can deduct losses up to the amount of your total gambling winnings when filing taxes.

So claiming that $500 in past ticket costs against your $5,000 prize lowers it to $4,500 taxable winnings. This in turn reduces your overall taxes owed by about $128 in savings.

While each state has specific lottery tax rules on losses, the concept can provide big help easing tax bills whenever you eventually score bigger lottery wins. Just save old tickets as proof of losses claimed.

Be Sure to Check Expiration Dates Before Tossing Tickets

We’ve stressed the importance of double checking old lottery tickets before trashing them. An equally vital tip is to verify the expiration date printed on each ticket.

Powerball and Mega Millions tickets hold a 180 day expiry after the drawing date. State specific games can range from 90 days up to 1 year typically. The date indicates your last day to redeem and claim any prizes won.

If not claimed on time, the state gets to keep your winnings for themselves and invalidate your ticket. Poof – just like that potential fortunes vanish!

Don’t accidentally forfeit jackpots because you forgot to check dates before cleaning out old tickets. Flag expiries on your calendar and set custom alerts if needed. Stay vigilant so hard luck turning into fortunes doesn’t literally expire and slip from your fingers.

Around $2 Billion in Winnings Go Unclaimed Every Year

That staggering $2 billion statistic we cited earlier represents the value of lottery prizes that go uncollected annually. With winning tickets not turned in and results not double checked properly, fortunes end up squandered.

How does so much money go unclaimed? Common scenarios according to state lottery officials:

  • Players don’t realize they hit smaller secondary prizes rather than just looking for the jackpot numbers to match.
  • Winners simply forget to even check if their tickets won and mistakenly assume they lost.
  • Tickets get misplaced over time, whether in piles of paperwork or clothes pockets. By the time they resurface, expiration dates may have already passed.
  • Some opt not to come forward to publicly claim winnings for privacy reasons. Remaining anonymous depends on state laws.

Regardless the reasons, with the volume of lottery activity nationwide, mountains of unclaimed dollars inevitably accumulate. While we can’t control others overlooking winnings, make sure you don’t fall into that same trap. Stay vigilant tracking tickets bought for drawings and promptly review numbers selected when results air.

State Rules Vary on Unclaimed Prize Money

When scratch-offs, Powerball, Mega Millions and other state drawing prizes aren’t claimed before expiry, where does all that money ultimately end up? Rules for redistributing vary across different states.

Some states like Pennsylvania and Missouri legally mandate unclaimed lottery funds get channeled into education and specific state programs. Other jurisdictions may plug amounts directly into future contest prize pools or state tax funds. There’s no universal protocol.

Players essentially forfeit winnings over to the state when not redeeming on time. It then becomes available for officials to reallocate by their guidelines. Make sure you avoid adding to unclaimed totals by keeping careful track of ticket dates and verifying draws!

Keep Tickets in a Safe Place Until You Are Certain

Our guidance would not be complete without this critical reminder – be sure to keep lottery tickets stored securely until you have zero chance of redeeming wins!

Far too commonly, players trash tickets that actually contained overlooked winnings. Out of sight, out of mind. When cleaning or organizing, they assume tickets were checked thoroughly after a drawing and contain no value if no matches were seen.

Save yourself future anguish by locking away or clearly marking tickets needing further review. That includes verifying no secondary prizes hit and upcoming expiries haven’t passed. Only when 100% certain should old tickets face the garbage or shredding bin.

Top storage tips:

  • Place tickets into Ziploc bags clearly labeled by game, drawing date and review status
  • Snap photos of tickets for records and easy reference
  • Log key details (date, numbers played) about purchases in notebooks
  • Designate special locked, fireproof containers for ticket storage

A bit of extra diligence preserves your shot at rediscovering newfound wealth and avoids easily avoidable mistakes!

What To Do If You End Up Winning in Second Chance

While the odds may be longer in second chance versus main lotteries, it’s still possible for lucky players to have tickets drawn. When good fortune strikes:

  • Carefully review official prize claim procedures provided by your state’s lottery commission. Rules vary on claiming timeframes, forms to submit and more. Closely follow all instructions to ensure you receive winnings properly.
  • Double check any special conditions attached to prizes. For example, certain high value rewards may mandate taking payment installments over many years rather than lump sums.
  • Remember state and federal taxes apply to value of prizes over $600, reducing final payouts by up to 30% typically.
  • If given choice on prizes, think hard about preferences matching your lifestyle. Opting for fancy cars or luxury vacations requiring ongoing expenses might not suit you over cash.

While second chance offerings feature better odds than mega jackpots, don’t underestimate likelihood of scoring sizable rewards eventually. Prudent players take measures to make sure no check, luxury vehicle keys or first class plane tickets go unredeemed!


Who would have guessed that crumpled up, tossed aside lottery tickets could offer ongoing value and hidden potential even without obvious winning numbers? As we’ve uncovered, second chances, selling to enthusiasts, repurposing and more create possibilities galore if lady luck doesn’t cooperate initially.

Beyond the tips here, limited only by imagination are ways to generate lottery wins, cash or creative outlets from seeming losers. Rather than hastily discarding, take a moment first to recheck, reenter and unlock redemptive opportunities. One overlooked ticket could transform into life-changing fortunes down the road.

So next time you buy lottery tickets and the results spark disappointment, don’t lose hope. Possibilities still await with the right dose of luck and preparation!

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