Collecting Casino ChipsJanuary 28, 2018
Collecting casino chips is a fun and exciting hobby filled with the history of casino gambling. Many collectors got their start in the hobby when they took a chip or two home after playing casino blackjack or craps for the first time.
Because casinos and casino chips (or checks, cheques) have been around for over 100 years, there are many older chips that are collectible. However, the most valuable chips today are those from early Las Vegas casinos. Rarity and popularity dominate the reasons certain chips are more valuable than others, with favorite casinos like the Las Vegas Sands, Flamingo, Dunes and Desert Inn holding top honors.
Casino chip collecting became increasingly popular during the 1980’s, as evidenced by the sale of chips through Bill Borland’s Worldwide Casino Exchange Newsletter. Each issue included a casino story and dozens of old chips for sale.
Likewise, Al Moe’s Casino and Gaming Chips magazine ran for several years during the mid 1980’s and attracted hundreds of subscribers. Each issue featured stories and pictures from old Nevada casinos and included photos of old, collectible chips. Archie Black, a collector from Atlantic City, submitted articles about New Jersey casinos.
Black established the Casino Chip and Gaming Tokens Collectors Club (CC>CC) in 1988 in response to the continuing evolution and popularity of chip collecting. Members receive a quarterly magazine about chips and casino, and the CC>CC sponsors an annual show in Las Vegas to celebrate the hobby.
There have been many manufacturers of chips over the years, but Bud Jones, Christy and Jones, TK Specialty, Langworthy and Mason were some of the early sellers. Chipco joined the fray in 1990 and produced chips with colorful artwork that helped spur the hobby on. Each chip maker used specific mold designs such as horse heads by Langworthy or horseshoes by TK Specialty.
The early history of molds and designs were heavily researched and chronicled by Howdy and Kregg Herz, and their contributions to the hobby are seen in all chip collecting reference materials.
Many collectors care little about the condition of their chips and are just happy to have a chip from many casinos. As such, there are plenty of chips available from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas and Atlantic City to Biloxi to sell for just five or ten dollars apiece. Other collectors want their chips to be graded, especially if some of their chips are rare. In 2008, a retiree from Missouri put a $1 chip from the Showboat Vegas acquired during a trip to Las Vegas in 1960 up for auction on eBay. Because it was one of only three known chips of this type to exist there was quite a bidding war.
When the fighting was done, the single $1 chip sold for a remarkable $28,988.88. Other chips have commanded even higher price tags. Because of the popularity and value of casino chips, there are now two price guides used in the hobby: The Chip Rack and The Official US Casino Chip Price Guide. Both are excellent references, but pricey.