So You Want To Start A Collection?!
Great! Another chipper on the scene!! And believe me, there's plenty of chips & tokens to go around. The hobby is just warming up and you are getting in "while the gettin's good". Read on and learn how to get started, where the "finds" are and some tips to guide you along the way. The links on this page will help you contact other collectors & find places to obtain chips.
Getting started is relatively easy. If you are within close proximity to a casino, pay them a visit. Walk over to the cage (cashiers area) and if it's not busy, talk to the teller. Relate that you collect chips(or tokens) and would like to see what's available in let's say $1 chips. Some casino's issue commemorative chips and limited editions (usually $5 chips). Perhaps you are interested in those too. Offer up a friendly smile, and the teller will be happy to help you find some uncirculated chips in the denominations you prefer. At the Aladdin, the teller found an obsolete chip and I walked out with two generations of their $1 chip.
Don't live near a casino? No sweat! You're already at the next source, the net. There are virtually hundreds of chippers (chip collecting enthusiasts) with web sites. They range from basic sites (like mine) to elaborate lay-outs with scans for each chip they want to buy, sell or trade. As with any transaction in building your collection, be careful. Make sure you know exactly what you're getting.
The net also has some auction sites that offer you the opportunity to electronically bid for a desired chip. It is possible to walk away with a coveted item for a song. How? The seller sets a low starting bid price and the expected bidding war does not materialize. I have received some excellent chips at well below their estimated value.
Antique and collectible shops are hit & miss. Let your fingers do the walking and call around. I have found some incredible deals at these shops. Once, I paid two dollars for a chip that had an estimated value of seventy-five. The shop simply didn't know of it's worth. Even now, with the hobby booming, alot of these shops haven't a clue to gaming related items and their escalating value.
I have found that garage and yard sales yield hidden treasures as well. If I don't see any chips amid the clutter, I mention to the sellers that I am interested in chips. On two occaisions, they went inside and returned with chips. A buck or two later and I'm a happy man! Additionally, check the newspaper for estate sales. They all have phone numbers in the ads, it only takes a call to hit paydirt.
One of the great sources available is your family and friends. Uncle Joe's got a few chips stowed away in an old cigar box...have you told him you are collecting? Get the word out! While working in Chicago, a co-worker walked in one day and handed me three chips. I looked up in shock and he stated that he overheard me talking about chips a few days prior.
Okay, you know where to get the goods. It's time to learn something about them. You need to know everything from their history to molds, mint marks or rarity. Sitting next to me are "Looking at Casino Chips and Tokens: A guide to technical terms" by Donald Spencer & "Antique Gambling Chips" by Dale Seymour. I picked them up at the public library. There are many other quality publications available to guide you along the way. A great guide to casino collectible related books can be found at "Chequers" web site. Click on "Chequepoint" and read "The Professors" column. Michael Knapp provides a well balanced review of chip and token related publications. While you're there, take time to read the columns of all the experts. A wealth of information is awaiting you from individuals widely respected in the hobby.
Some people collect Silver Strikes (silver tokens), others standard issue tokens. Some collect chips from all over the world or just from Atlantic City. I mainly collect Nevada chips. Regardless of what your fancy is, I strongly suggest you find a price guide. These guides offer a wealth of crucial information. For example, I have "The Chip Rack: A price guide to the Casino Chips and Checks of Nevada". This guide deals ONLY with chips & checks from Nevada. However, it has over 10,000 chips & checks listed with descriptions, estimated values and many other points of reference. I cannot sensibly collect Nevada chips without it. It is to me what the Wall Street Journal is to stock market investers.
Last but not least, get to know other collectors. The aforementioned web sites have some really good people behind them. Pose a question and I am sure most will answer it or steer you in the direction of someone who can. There are also clubs that you can join. One of these is the "Casino Chips & Gaming Tokens Collectors Club (The CC & GTCC). They hold an annual convention (including an auction, trading sessions & exhibit/dealers area). They also offer a quarterly news magazine, have a great web site and members can use their well stocked library.
So get out there and start testing the waters! A truly enjoyable & rewarding hobby is only a link away! Let me be the first to extend my hand in friendship. Be seeing you...