Poker Chips Go Through a Major Transformation

What did the first casino back in Venice in 1626 do without poker chips? It is reported that the players often used small pieces of gold, silver, or coins to place their bet. Sometimes paper money was used. However, the games had no standardization. As a result of this eventually, it brought about the ever-famous casino chip or a poker chip.

More than two hundred years after the first-known casino was opened, companies finally started to make poker chips, each of equal size. They used a compression mold technique, and the chips were produced from 100 percent clay. These chips are all ancestors of those chips we use today in poker games.


After playing poker for a while, people realized that the chips were fragile, resulting in them easily breaking. If the player handled them a bit roughly, they would break apart. This was a result of them being made from clay. This dilemma continued until the beginning of the 1950s.

Other companies started producing the chips. They added different materials to the clay, such as chalk and sand. This is when the chip we know today came into being.

Today the companies manufacturing poker chips have their own recipe. This remains a trade secret which each company keeps close to its chest.

When mid-1980 came around, the ceramic casino chip was introduced. These became very popular. This is because they allow graphics and lettering on the full surface of the chip as opposed to just on the inlay.

During the last 150 years, the casino chip has transformed from a crude, easy to forget chip, made of miscellaneous materials, to the present chips we use today. Aside from the materials in today's chip they also offer advanced security features such as radio frequency identification and UV markings. The UV markings make a chip visible under a black light. Most likely, the casino chip will see additional changes in the future.

During the 20th and 21st centuries, chip collecting became a hobby for many people, just like coin collecting. Today collectors and sellers comb through thrift stores and other possible locations, looking for poker chip sets or single chips that might be of value. Buyers attend trade shows and conventions looking to buy these collectibles.

Buyers mostly look for the older versions of poker chips as well as chips originating in casinos that are no longer in existence. The popularity of poker chip collecting has become so popular that a company named Potter & Potter Auctions conducts an auction each spring featuring vintage and collectible casino memorabilia.

When buyers appraise a set, they generally evaluate the condition of the chest the chips are in. They also look to make sure every chip is available. Missing chips cause the set to be less valuable. The chips are also evaluated to make certain they are not cracked, chipped, or partially broken. Naturally, the buyer is interested to see if the chips have engravings, or originated at a popular location. The buyer is also interested in knowing the age of the set.

Buyers look for older versions of chips. These chips were used in casinos that are no longer in business. The sellers also search for antique chips used decades ago. The real treasures are those having symbols as well as names from underground games and casinos. A seller might have a rare chip. The value can be tens of thousands of dollars. In 2014 the Casino Club Collectors convention sold a $5 chip from the former Golden Goose casino in Las Vegas. The chip went for $75,000. Maybe you have some such a chip locked away with your memorabilia.

Lukas Mollberg

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