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Chip Collecting Hobby Stacks Up As A Winner

9 August 2000

Looking for an unusual millennium collectible?

How about one casino chip from each set struck for the Millennium, Part I?

"If you had one chip from each millennium issue, it would have a face value of $10,602.50," says Marty Kaplan, who along with Neal Silverman operates the Chequers chip collectors Web site, www.chequers.com. "And a lot of casinos will be producing chips for the next event as the debate continues over which year really starts the millennium."

The sheer number of millennium issues is the latest indication that chip collecting has arrived in hobby circles. It means that casinos are taking notice of collectors - and noticing that they can use the interest in chips to boost profits.

"Why do you think casinos produce commemorative chips?" Kaplan asks. "It's not so that they can look pretty and bring a smile to the face of a player."

No, casinos want the chips in the hands of collectors. It costs far less than face value to produce a chip, so every time someone walks away from the table with a new chip for the collection, the casino makes a profit.

Collectors don't mind. The hobby is burgeoning. The 11-year-old Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club has grown in the last three years from around 2,000 members to between 4,000 and 5,000. That doesn't count the thousands who simply collect a few chips off the tables without belonging to an organization. Others buy and sell chips online through electronic auction houses such as eBay.

"The last five items I picked up were on eBay, and four of them were from people who aren't members of the club," Kaplan says.

One of the best and easiest places to exchange information, learn about the hobby and contact other collectors is Chequers. There, collectors will find an electronic magazine, a column detailing chip histories, a directory with e-mail addresses of more than 700 collectors and much more.

"We've been promoting the chip collecting hobby for five years and now we're making waves," Silverman says. "The hobby is growing and growing."

As it grows, more and more casinos cater to collectors with commemorative issues. A large commemorative release might be 2,000 chips with an average release of 1,000. Some are as small as 100 or 150 chips and some limited editions even carry serial numbers. Manufacturers even produce special commemoratives for collectors' conventions.

One casino active in releasing commemorative editions is the Tropicana in Las Vegas. That's where the Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club had its annual convention in July this year.

Chips don't have to be commemorative to be collectible. A collector might as easily decide to try to pick up chips from every casino on the Strip as try to collect boxing commemoratives from the MGM Grand or rock stars' pictures from the Hard Rock Casino.

As with any collectible, scarcity increases value to collectors. Sometimes that scarcity is produced in unusual ways, such as when the Riviera in Las Vegas released chips depicting three porn stars.

"They weren't on the chips in pornographic poses," Kaplan says. "They were clothed. But the Nevada Gaming Commission decided this was not the way in which they wanted to promote Las Vegas. They ordered the chips to be pulled, but a couple of hundred sets got out. Sets of three $5 chips were going for $175 to $225 two weeks after they were released."

Even chips with no face value become collectible. Such was the case in a Las Vegas poker tournament in which non-redeemable chips were being used. Entrants were playing for points rather than for cash, with prizes awarded on the basis of points. At the end of each tournament round, chips were counted and scores tallied. No chips were supposed to leave the table.

What one supervisor didn't realize was that a player, probably out of force of habit, had used one of the tournament chips to tip a cocktail waitress. When they counted up the chips at the end of the tournament, the casino was one short.

"The chip has no true value outside the collectors' market, but it went at auction for $1,500," Kaplan says.

Before he was deeply involved in the hobby, Kaplan once picked up a chip from a gaming table in Aruba. He didn't think much of it, but years later he found a catalog depicting chips, and found his wasn't in it.

"I showed (the authors) my chip, and it turned out it had never been documented before."

Want to learn more about collectible chips? Then check out Chequers.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski