Casino Chips….What’s Up With Them?

“The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius.” 

Ever wonder about the the poker chip? …..I have.    Here are a few questions that crossed my mind:

1) How were chips ever used in casinos?  When gambling became widespread in the 18th century, one difficulty was that people who gambled had different types of coins or valuables for wagering. To solve this problem some gambling venues offered gamblers substitutes like pieces of ivory, bones or clay. In the USA, the humble origins of the modern day familiar casino chips were born out of necessity. The game of poker first developed in the mid 1800’s along the Mississippi and other saloons and bars throughout the West.

2) Were chips forged as fake in the early days? Yes. Gamblers began to forge substitutes. As a result, gambling establishments began to brand their substitutes, the only surviving relic of which is the large plate (check) with a printed value. The problem continued, so casinos responded in the same old way – each casino created specially designed, hard-to-replicate chips that were unique to their venue. Chips became standardized in size, but the materials used for them, such as clay or expensive ivory, still varied widely.

3) What are today’s chips made of? Manufacturers now use high-pressure techniques combined with a mix of composite to produce chips. To hinder forgery the casinos even include a microchip in their chips

4) Can I use one Casino’s chips in another casino? Sometimes, but it’s always best to cash in before you leave. If the casino is owned by the same company, the chips might work at multiple properties. In Las Vegas, it’s common to see casino chips with the name of two different casinos printed on them – one on either side is the standard. Obviously, you’ll want to check with the pit boss or poker chip cashier first, just to make sure.

Casino chip collecting became increasingly popular during the 1980s, as evidenced by the sale of chips through several casino and collecting newsletters. Bill Borland’s Worldwide Casino Exchange (early 1980s) had a casino story each issue and dozens of old chips for sale. There are many different ways to collect casino chips. Because of the amount of chips available and the increasing price of some, collectors have begun to specialize. A collector might choose to collect every chip from a certain casino or one from every Las Vegas casino.

As for me, I like to collect pens – yes, casino pens. But that’s probably best saved for a future post.

That’s all for now.



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