TITO took down all the casino tokens
February 13, 2018 3:00 AM
by Sheldon Smith
Bear with me, as we need to read a little about the history of tokens before we can discuss where they went. Tokens have been used for gaming for approximately 150 years. The earliest were somewhat disguised in their usage and frequently only indicated, “Good for Trade.”
Those early tokens were also much smaller than those we have seen in recent years. They were primarily used in early slot machines in the latter part of the 19th century.
With the advent of significant gambling activities in Nevada and elsewhere these tokens fell into oblivion and were replaced, at least out here in the “wild, wild west,” with silver dollars. (See photo at right.) However, with the increase in the price of silver in recent years, silver dollars disappeared, too!
To discourage people from walking out of the casino with the silver dollars as collectibles, at least one casino owner had his employees deface thousands of his silver dollars. Unfortunately, instead of folks carrying away the silver tokens for their collectability, folks now started taking them for the melt-value of their silver content.
The increase in the price of silver resulted in silver dollars becoming too expensive for the “house.” So, casinos began issuing non-silver tokens, the kind we are familiar with today, although even those are in ever-diminishing circulation.
These tokens were creatively designed and commercially manufactured and many are works of art. (See photos left and below.) The Casino Chip and Gaming Token Collectors Club, d/b/a The Casino Collectibles Association, has traditionally awarded honors to the Token of the Year, and a fierce competition among casinos was created.
But, the quest for cutting costs for casinos led to another innovation. Casinos soon determined they could print out a piece of paper and save all the costs of designing and manufacturing tokens, so the use of those tokens dropped off the cliff.
The TITO (ticket in, ticket out) has now replaced almost entirely the gorgeous and previously desirable collectible tokens.
Because the casinos stopped making and offering new tokens, the older tokens began to lose their collectible appeal as the “source dried up.” However, promotional (a/k/a advertising) tokens still have some limited use and appeal, and these will be discussed in a future column.
There are, of course, exceptions. You may still find a few casinos here and there that use tokens the size of silver dollars; but that is a rare casino.
Please note: Silver Strikes are not considered tokens and they will be the topic of our next column. They, too, have an interesting story.