Do casino chips go to heaven?
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As a rule, small objects represent zilch unless they are made out of costly materials, such as gold or diamonds. In spite of this, there are a few tiny items that, with added value, they can buy you the whole world, and what not. They are called “casino chips”.
The history of casino chips
Looking back in time
It is rather hard to pick an exact date for when the gambling industry set into motion. The Ancient Greeks, the Romans and every society has spoken about entertainment and games, but there is no mention about the illegality of these. Until 1638 – when Ridotto became the first legalised European gambling house (Venice, Italy).
More than 200 years after their legalisation, gambling houses operated with any small valuable object you can think of. Jagged gold pieces, nuggets, gold dust, coins made of bone, wood, paper.
That one great idea
Everything worked out just fine when, suddenly, a few companies started brainstorming on a great idea: finding one symbol for the casino games, and give it value. This way, it will become recognizable by all the players around the world.
1000 token designs were created between 1880 – 1930, mostly in white, red, yellow and blue, but that wasn't a rule. Then, these standardised items begun to be easily forged, so branding was needed. Personalised tokens.
Experience helped developing chips with a certain weight and texture, making them harder to counterfeit than the American dollar. The majority of chips are made of clay and other composites, and in Las Vegas, we can find ceramic ones also.
Poker versus Casino
Now, before anything else, we must highlight the difference between the poker and the casino chips. Because there is one. Poker tokens are used mainly for private play, being much more common, with almost no value and denominations, but with animal representations painted on them. Plastic made, one pack consists of 200 chips (red, white, blue).
Casino chips, on the other hand, have the same status as money do: the state and the city they belong to and and their value are written on them; they are destroyed when removed from circulation, cancelled or over-stamped. Typically, they weigh less than 10g.
Values and importance
The market price
Generally, we cannot talk about a standard scheme value when it comes to chips. They are all different. You can find chips worth $0.50 and others worth $5000. Most of the American states have laws concerning gambling, and some of them even require betting houses to use a certain colour or size for the tokens, but all of them must have a unique combination of identification spots (printed or molded onto the chip).
$5 000 denominations are rarely seen by the general public. These are to be played in the “high limit rooms”, and not on the main floor where such amounts would be too high.
The biggest value added to an oversized chip was of $10 million, in Las Vegas, among others labelled with $5 million, $1 million and $100 000.
What's to come
The death of chips
Even though various regulations try to stop frauds constantly – since 1987, it is very difficult to control the gambling world. For example, one cannot cash out without proving that the casino chips were earned by gambling. However, casino owners must consult a specialised board if they want to destroy their chips.
More often, the Gaming Partners International is the one who has the final word. Expired chips are crushed into dust by a tumbler, in the presence of gaming regulators who must run an audit.
Collectors = saviors
Same as any item, casino chips become more valuable as time passes by. Vintage objects are rare and often come with a story attached, so they gain importance, money-wise – which means profit for the connoisseur, for the collectors. In one word: marketability.
Just a couple of years ago, $1 chip was sold with $30 000 by a collector who advertised the token on eBay. Another worth-to-mention example is the story of Mike Spinetti, who owns a warehouse filled with $15 million rare chips. Many of them were fished from the bottom of numerous lakes or ripped out of concrete. Yes, that's how specialised houses got rid of them.
After all, casino chips can become a simple souvenir that you've won using your skills and personal superstitions. Of course, you shouldn't keep a $1 000 still valid chip. Being a collector's priceless piece or dust in the air are much more probable to happen to these tiny objects that worth so much only when in use.
Bright future ahead
Although you can find multiple studies regarding the history of poker chips and debates around when and where did they come from, experts are a bit skeptic concerning their transformation. The online world might have a strong influence upon our life, and it might “corrupt” the physical things into becoming electronic ones, but casinos don't really agree.
Playing a game on the internet will require you to use digital chips, but when in a gambling house, punters will want to see what are they playing with. The technology and the anti-fraud mechanisms they develop is one thing, totally weeding out chips is quite another.