I’ve been cleaning out the closets – opening boxes and sifting through a lot of old papers. Having collected casino items for thirty years now, you can imagine that I’ve met a lot of people in the hobby. Some of them I met at collector shows, like the one that the chip collectors club CC>CC puts on. Others through my ads in Coin World and Numismatic News in the early 1980s.
I was living in Sparks, NV, and trading with a few local fellows when I got a letter from a guy in New York. We traded a couple chips, and then we exchanged phone numbers. Amazingly, the next week this dude with a heavy New York accent called and told me that he was going to be in town. Well, it seemed a bit strange, but I gave him my address and sure enough, he showed up.
The night he arrived, there was a loud knock on the door, and I was greeted by a tall fellow with a bit of a crazed look on his face (yeah, your typical chip collector). He was very friendly, but I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. We talked, and I showed him a few racks of trader chips and he picked out a big handful (we had no price guides, no idea about scarcity or worth – we just collected, and it was great).
Now my new friend, Bruce Landau, kept talking while looking at the chips he wanted, and then he fished into his briefcase and came out with two stacks to match the one stack he had picked, and said, alright – lets trade your one stack for my two stacks. Done deal.
He was generous, funny, and even more of a chip fanatic than I was. Bruce worked for Bogen photo (Vice President of Sales & Marketing) and had a show going in Las Vegas, but he flew the 450 miles to Sparks & Reno to see me (and I imagine Howdy Herz and a few others). He made me feel special, and not so silly for collecting chips.
One time Bruce called and said he was dropping by my shop and he had something special for me. I figured he found a great chip, but no, it was a baseball card. I was putting together a 1965 Topps set, and was stuck on a few cards for months, and finally was down to a single card, and Bruce found it in New York and brought it to me.
The card was a Topps Giants Rookies, with Masanori Murakami, and had proved impossible for me to find. This was before the advent of eBay and today’s internet, so it was quite a find for me. That’s the kind of guy Bruce was, always thinking of others.
We saw each other at chip shows, and he dropped by my house on a regular basis for twenty years – a good friend. I found some pictures and his business card and a couple letters with some items I saved to trade him while I was cleaning. We never got to make the last trade because he passed away a while back.
A lot of the joy of collecting went with him, and I miss the big guy. When he visited, he liked to tease my daughter and tell her he knew me before she was born. She now has a daughter of her own.
Life moves on and I still collect, but I haven’t been to a chip show for a couple of years. Guess I need to get out more.
Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe.