Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gaming Chips/Markers

I have been collecting casino chips for 20 years.
If you say that really fast it won't make me feel quite so old.
I love the mystique associated with the older ones. Today I acquired the Boulder Club chip shown below. It's not a particularly expensive chip (around $20) but I think it is a classic example of an Old Vegas chip. The design is simple yet classy. Todays chips with multi colored graphics don't hold a candle to this beauty.

Imagine Fremont Street 58 years ago when this chip was in play...........

Boulder Club

118 E. Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV

Circa 1949

Through the years gaming markers/chips have been made from various materials. The two shown below are some type of animal bone which was stained with pigment and then hand etched. The off-white color being natural bone. Most bone chips were produced during the 19th century

Perhaps the most beautiful markers ever made are mother-of-pearl counters.

Dale Seymour, in his book titled Antique Gambling Chips says:

Easily the most beautiful of game counters are those intricately carved from
mother-of-pearl in China in the early 1800's. These counters were made in
various shapes such as ovals, rectangles, circles, squares and fish
shapes. Many of the sets of chips are incredible works of art in
miniature. A set of 140 chips must have required hundreds of person-hours
of work. Often a set of chips was custom-made for a European customer,
depicting the customer's initials or even a coat of arms.

The quality of the engraving varies, but most chips show scenes of Chinese
gardens. The details on some of the finer chips can only be appreciated
when viewed through a 25X magnifying glass. In some sets, every
carving on the 100 plus chips shows a different scene of two to three
characters. There is speculation that a set of chips may have depicted a
story in the carver's imagination.

Some elaborate borders appear to have been cut out with a fret saw.
Most of these chips were probably made to be sold in Europe for use in the games
of Pope Joan, loo, ombre and quadrille.

It has just been in recent years that the full value of these chips has been
realized. The more elaborately carved, thicker chips sell for
$50-$90. This is especially true of chips that contain an identifiable
coat of arms. Mother-of-pearl game counters are frequently sold mounted as
necklaces at the finer antique shows.

Most of the sets of carved mother-of-pearl counters purchages around 1835
were bought by wealthy European families. This material was probably
chosed for its beauty. However, later in the 19th century and early into
the 20th century, some high-class private casinos probably chose mother-of-pearl
because it is extremely difficult to counterfeit.

The three counters shown below (front and back of the same three)are from my
collection. Since these were hand engraved no two are exactly alike. You
have to trust me when I tell you that a scan doesn't do justice to
their true

If you have any interest in collecting gaming chips or perhaps joining the Casino Chips and Gaming Tokens Collectors Club please send me an email. I'll be more than happy to provide any information that I can.


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