2010 Chip Convention on the way to Las Vegas

The 2010 edition of the CC&GTCC convention hits Las Vegas in just a few weeks. This year’s event is being held at the South Point Casino. Conventioneers will begin arriving as early as the 18th, but the main event, the show in the Grand Ballroom, opens to the public on June 24th at 10:00 AM

In the early 1980s, Bill Borland started a small newsletter to feature the casino chips he was selling. I followed suit in 1984 with the National Registry and then continued with Casino and Gaming Chips Magazine in 1986. Archie Black added articles to my offerings and in 1987, he started the Casino Chips and Gaming Token Collectors Club.

Early collectors like Phil Jensen, Bruce Landau, myself, and Dale Seymour, we hitting flea markets, antique store and casinos alike to find old and interesting chips. Seymour followed his collecting bug and published the book Antique Gambling Chips.

Seymour’s book was followed by Howard and Kregg Herz’s work, A Collectors Guide to Nevada Gaming Checks and Chips. As the curator for Harvey’s Wagon Wheel at Lake Tahoe, Herz established the largest collection of individual casino chips in the world and found a niche for his efforts in the book penned by he and his wife.

About the same time, Allan Myers, Ernest Wheelden, and Michael Knapp put out a price guide to the casino chips and checks of Nevada. Their work was titled The Chip Rack and included hundreds of pages of chip varieties, casino starting dates, and a value code for known chips. The book is routinely updated to keep up with an ever-expanding line of casino chips and new finds.

Individual chips are made by a variety of chip manufacturers, but some of the older varieties from out of business suppliers are in great demand. Inlaid gambling chips (Crest and Seal-type) manufactured by the U.S. Playing Card Company are a favorite of collectors.

Robert Eisenstadt has devoted a lifetime to collecting and cataloging old chips, and his web site features photos of his collection. Inlaid chips sell from just a few dollars to thousands for rare chips from favorite old Las Vegas casinos clubs like the Dunes, the Flamingo, and the Great Provider.

Because the hobby has blossomed and new price guides like The Official US Casino Chip Price Guide (By James Campiglia and Steve Wells) have hit the market, collecting continues to be popular – and prices have risen to amazing levels.

According to Anthony Curtis, the man behind the Las Vegas Advisor, a record price for a $1 denomination chip was realized after retiree Sandy Marbs listed a single chip on eBay that she found at the bottom of her jewelry box.

The chip, a souvenir from a trip to Las Vegas in 1960, was a rare Showboat Las Vegas issue; one of only three known to exist. Marbs started the listing at $2.25 and watched in amazement as the bidding took off. When the dust settled and the emails to stop the auction early and make a deal ended, the auction ended with a final price of $28,988.88

I guess that $1 investment paid off pretty well.

I hope I see many of you at this year’s convention and don’t forget, I’ll be doing a little PowerPoint presentation with lots of pictures from my book: The Roots of Reno. The lecture starts at 9:00 AM on Friday, June 25. See you there!

Thanks for reading – Al W Moe


1985s Bill Borland Newsletter

A few of you may vaguely remember this item – a 1985 issue of Bill Borland’s World Wide Casino Exchange Newsletter that featured a story on Harold’s Club. Bill started a company he called Star Time, Inc. from his offices in Las Vegas and began purchasing casino dice, chips, and other memorabilia in the late 1970s.

He and his best girl, Starr Warrick, put out a semi-regular flyer with new chips they had come across, and they weren’t dealing in a handful of chips, no, they bought tens of thousands of chips, often getting all denominations from closed casinos at just a nickel each.

As their business grew, Bill took to selling racks of chips (such as a rack of $5 coin-inlay’s from the Rendezvous Casino in Vegas for $79). At the time, I was dealing in small lots, purchasing most of my chips from ads I ran in local newspapers around Reno and Sparks.

When I was offered a box of 2500 chips from Zimba’s in Reno, I figured I would have enough traders to last a lifetime. So, I called Bill and asked about making a deal to trade for some of his least popular chips, figuring I would off about a thousand and be set.

However, Bill’s way of doing business was to drive the kind of bargain where he was getting three or even four chips for every chip he was trading. Eventually, I sold about 2000 of the chips to a friend in Florida for his home poker games. To my knowledge, in over 20 years they haven’t surfaced as a “new” find of collectibles. Someday, they will.

As for Bill’s “Newsletter,” he periodically sent out others, but I don’t recall a real timetable, although it was listed as a “bimonthly.” Phil Jensen was the Contributing Editor, and may have provided the stories, such as the one about Harolds Club in the edition above.

What say you, Phil, was there any time table? Earlier issues had photos of Harrah’s in Reno, and from Las Vegas were covers with the Gold Strike Inn, Diamond Jim’s Nevada Club, and the Flamingo.

Whether Bill Borland was timely or not, he provided a fun little newsletter that featured his gaming items and stimulated growth in the chip collecting hobby, and like other chip collectors and writers such as Jim Gillette, really helped promote the fun of casino history.

I suppose a simple “Thanks” is due.


Not One-of-a-kind, but Rare

So, you have some one-of-a-kind chips? So do I. Well, not exactly, well, no, I don’t. However, I do have a few that have just a few cousins kicking around in drawers and collections.

One of them is the chip on the left. This is an over-sized variety 42 mm and has “SPEED POKER ALL-IN” on the rim.

This colorful chip is from the Poker Dome televised championship series circa 2006. I know this because it is the last chip I had left when I busted out of the game.

Mansion Poker put together this championship, by allowing players from all over the world to compete in online tournaments. I started with a $5 buy-in tournament and finished in the top ten, which got me an entry into the $100 buy-in tournament. In that tournament, only the winner got a seat at the Poker Dome.

The best part of the tournament structure was that Mansion gave the entry to the Poker Dome as a freebie, and players got to keep their tournament winnings. I pocketed about $3500 and the entry, and while my flight (with my wife) wasn’t from across the ocean, we still enjoyed the free airfare to Las Vegas.

Mansion had a limo available for use, and we were put up for a few days in a suite at Caesar’s Palace. They were also nice enough to pay for our meals, and to top it off, they gave me $500 in casino chips to play with. Good people.

The Poker Dome was built upstairs at a theater complex on Fremont Street, and the day of the tournament I arrived several hours before the filming was to start so all the contestants could learn the rules, get fitted for blood- pressure meters, and do some practice. We had a great time, and they supplied lunch, snacks, and drinks. Well, non-alcoholic drinks.

When it got close to time for filming, the Speed Poker crew got us ready, and that included makeup. I don’t know how you ladies put that stuff on every day. That was tough, but not as tough as the lights………..jeez those things were bright. I thought I would have permanent damage, I could just see myself on a street corner with my little cup of chips, err, pencils.

As for the tournament, each of the six contestants started with 50,000 in chips, and play continued until one player had all 300,000. I used my special ALL-IN chip to signify a hand I thought would win (A-9) – it did not.

My wife and I sat in the audience and watched the last couple players battle it out, and Zack Williamson eventually won. Then we got moved back to Caesar’s for a very nice meal in Nero’s restaurant. Since it was only about 9 PM, my wife suggested we play a little poker, so off to the poker room we went.

There was a tournament starting at 11 PM, and although I was tired, I love my wife, and she wanted to play, so …………….we both entered. She got bumped out about 1 AM, and I was still alive with chips at 5 AM when we got down to the final table, and who do you think was on this table?

That’s right, Zack, with his $25,000 check from the Poker Dome and another trip in a month to fight towards a million dollar first prize. At 6 AM, Zack and the remaining three of us agreed to split the prize money in Caesar’s tournament four ways, and although Zack had about half the chips, we split evenly – he’s a gentleman.

As luck would have it, my wife also played on Mansion, and she came in second-place two weeks later in a tournament and qualified as an alternate, so we headed back to Vegas. Although she didn’t get to play in the Poker Dome, we did get all the perks. What a great time we had.

There is no more Poker Dome, no more speed poker, and no more Mansion for me since they no longer allow US citizens to play. I do have this cool chip though, and even if it isn’t one-of-a-kind, I still like it.

There are more posts to come, I’m not ALL-IN. What have you got?

Thanks for reading – Al W. Moe


Old Friends

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&GTCC 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.

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.

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