Finding buried treasure chips
September 05, 2017 3:11 AM
by Sheldon Smith
A fascinating area of the casino memorabilia hobby is the discovery of buried chips or tokens, also called “dig chips” (they were dug up). Over the years, many casinos have disposed of unwanted/unneeded chips and tokens in amazingly different ways – some have been buried, others were “drowned!”
Although their manner of disposal may be different, they have one thing in common: they were found in unexpected locations long after their supposed disposal. Their discovery has proven to be a tantalizing window into the world of casinos and their resources.
Regulations of the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board (Section 12.060 – Use of chips and tokens) do not specify, to the best of my knowledge, exactly how chips and tokens are to be destroyed in the case of a casino closure or change in ownership. However, the regulations are very clear – the chips are to be destroyed. Certainly, some have not been destroyed as once thought and originally intended.
Among the known examples of buried casino chips/tokens are:
Pop’s Oasis, Jean, Nevada: These chips were only discovered after the Nevada Landing Casino was torn down. It was well-known the casino was built on the location formerly occupied by Pop’s Oasis. However, upon close inspection of the demolition site, collectors discovered Pop’s chips had been buried in the concrete support columns of Nevada Landing!
Confused? Here’s the chronology: Circa 1988 down comes Pop’s; in 1989 up goes Nevada Landing; in 2007 down comes Nevada Landing and – surprise! – Pop’s buried chips are discovered.
Although collectors knew the two casinos shared the same location, no one knew some of Pop’s chips were buried there during construction of Nevada Landing.
Sands Casino, Las Vegas: Howard Hughes owned several casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, including the Sands, which had a series of chips that carried the initials H.N.O. (Hughes Nevada Operation). These chips were believed to exist in limited quantities – until a large number were discovered in concrete when the New Frontier casino was demolished in November 2007.
Many of the buried chips were damaged, broken or had lost some of their original color. As with Pop’s, the Sands chips were buried in concrete in the foundation of another casino.
Playboy Casino, Atlantic City: This is perhaps one of the most fascinating “dig” stories. The casino operated from 1981 to 1984. When it closed, to comply with New Jersey Casino Control Commission regulations, the owners sent the chips to the Green Duck Corporation (GDC) in Hernando, Mississippi for destruction. But instead of destroying them, GDC buried them on its property!
When GDC closed, a community center was to be built in its place. As construction workers were removing a layer of concrete, guess what was underneath! According to two sources: 30,000 to 100,000 Playboy chips! The concrete itself apparently protected many of the coin-in-center chips, as the centers were made of stainless steel and the chips were a composite material that included ceramic compounds, keeping many of them in decent shape!
Travelodge Casino, Carson City, Nevada: Back in the early 1980’s when these chips were to be destroyed, they too were buried. Records kept by collectors indicated there were only $5 chips. Yet, in the dig they found not only $5 chips but also $25 and $100 chips.
Records indicate the casino was only open for about a year then became the Mother Lode. Both casinos were owned by Nevada’s then-Senator Paul Laxalt.
Those familiar with the dig estimate 20,000 to 30,000 chips were unearthed – none higher than $100 or lower than $5. The quantity was so vast the construction crew used a Bobcat front loader to dig into the sand pile and collect the chips.
Here is a tidbit to go with the above stories: Apparently, a few casinos did not bury their chips. Instead, they dumped or “drowned” them in Lake Mead. Note the loss of color in the chip shown here, and no, they did not bury them in airtight capsules.
Until next month, go out and find those chips!