What makes a casino collectible valuable?
July 03, 2018 3:01 AM
by Sheldon Smith
Before I go into what makes a casino collectible truly valuable, I’d like to let you know the 30th anniversary/26th annual show of the Casino Collectibles Association was a smashing success. Our registration folks pinned the number at around 2,400 this year, an all-time record, and attendees got a great show! Hope to see MORE of you at next year’s show, June 20-22, 2019!
Now, what makes a casino collectible valuable? There are number of considerations:
First and foremost, the origin of the collectible. WHERE did the item originate: casino, card room, bar, illegal club? Next, WHEN was the item made and/or used? Here, the older, the better. Items from demolished casinos (those that are “obsolete”) are usually better than those from casinos still operating.
Also, HOW the casino is remembered is important; the more notorious the better! This generalization applies to many now-defunct casinos with interesting and notable histories, either because of their founders or their location or their clientele. Some examples are the Sands, Dunes, Boulder Club and Stardust.
Second, and most obvious: what kind of item is it? The standard is the casino chip and the fewer that exist, the better! A mystery often encountered is what happened to all the rest of the same chips? Based on records from chip manufacturers, we can learn how many chips were originally ordered by each casino. When we consider the casino originally had 5,000 made but only one or two are currently known to exist, the logical question is, where did the rest go? Were they lost, destroyed or “put away” for the future?
When a chip is valued at a higher rate because of scarcity, some collectors wait for the shoe to drop with a new discovery of a hoard of those chips, thereby reducing the value of what we have. Occasionally a stash of previously unknown chips does surface, much to the collector’s dismay.
Third, the condition of the item is also important. How does the item look? What is the condition of the item? Obviously, the better the condition the higher the value for the collectible. However, even some items in well-used condition (or worse!) are much sought after as that may be the collector’s only chance to own a piece of that casino’s history.
Fourth, for chips and tokens, the denomination is important too. How much was its original value? For whatever reason – too expensive to buy outright, weren’t available where most gamblers played, higher security at the higher limit gaming areas, etc. – the higher denominations were few and far between and relatively unknown (or owned) by us collectors.
To summarize: the older the item, the better the condition, the more notable, historical or interesting the casino, and the rarer, the better. Everything else in the collectors’ world is in second place as to value but not in terms of aesthetics.
In actuality, the matchbooks, postcards and napkins are often more attractive, more informative and, frankly, more interesting than the casino chip from the same casino. BUT not in terms of value!
The two chips I have shown here have actual recorded sales that will astound you. Rarely has anything in the casino collectible world come close.
The Golden Goose $5 casino chip (above) sold for $75,000 right in front of my eyes at the National Convention about six years ago. A Showboat $1 casino chip (see online) sold for $26,000 ten years ago. Truthfully, the values of some items have declined. But, many will still command a higher price than almost anything else.
Other online pictures show a gorgeous Horseshoe matchbook, which sells for only $10; an informative Royal postcard (sells for $3) and a nice Golden Nugget napkin (sells for $4).
Next month, let’s look at Casino Playing Cards.
GOLDEN GOOSE PHOTO: The museum of Gaming History Chipguide (MoGH)
SHOWBOAT PHOTO: The Museum of Gaming History Chipguide (MoGH)
HORSESHOE PHOTO: Sheldon Smith
ROYAL PHOTO: Sheldon Smith
GOLDEN NUGGET PHOTO: Sheldon Smith