Know your chips gentlemen

The evolution of casino chips as seen throughout the development of the gambling industry, is an integrated mixture of  practicality and aesthetics. By visiting the many online suppliers of these chips, and viewing their collections, it is possible to see how the leading casinos made their mark on the gaming world and how the equipment for gambling, even down to the most basic unit of a simple chip has had to undergo a process of development in order to survive.

The very first units of value used in games around the mid 19th century were things like gold nuggets or dust, which makes absolute sense considering that poker in particular was a game that flourished during the frontier period. Gold was eventually replaced by chips which, like coins for monetary units, were easier to manage than the weight of  an individual nugget. Materials like ivory, bone, wood and a concoction of clay and shellac were commonly used. At that early stage in the industry all the chips were likely to have been made by the saloon or casino themselves having no real suppliers yet leading the way.

The downside of this process creating simple hand-made chips was that the level of decoration in the design was too low quality, making it extremely easy for players to sneak in their own chips. It became plain to the management of these establishments that a manufacturer was needed to create an more individual design, through embossing, engraving, or providing some form of decoration on the chip in order to protect the house against the dreaded ‘ringing-in’. This was the beginning of the US Playing Card Co. in Cincinatti, one of the first companies to create individual chips, made to order with hand carved details. The body of the chip eventually became the clay composition that was most popular in the 1890’s through to the 1950’s and soon there were thousands of different designs in a range of colours.

Nowadays chip suppliers are mostly dealing in plastics, our societies material of choice for its durability and weight, and are injection moulded. Chips are made for customers all over the world both privately for home entertainment and the leading casinos in a huge variety of designs. However a new business has arisen worldwide, partly because of the new global accessibility that the internet networking has created and that is in chip collecting.

People all over the world are going mad for casino chips and with a system like eBay in place where people can buy and sell with the click of their mouse, it makes these little pieces of gambling history accessible to anyone. The chips can be dated back to the times of their use through the design around the edge which also reveals the manufacturer and particularly through the inlay which often features the casino logo. Because of the limited chips available from the early times in gambling history when a casino was just a few tables in a small restaurant, chips dated to pre-1940’s can be worth huge sums of money. The record to date for the sale of a casino chip was set in 2004 when a Sands Hotel $5 chip went for a whopping $33,000! Just goes to show that the tools of gambling as well as the gambling itself can make your fortune.

The internet is a great way to do your research into the manufacturer and suppliers of these valuable little pieces of art. You never know what that chip you have tucked away in your desk drawer might be worth one day.